The Crimson Crown is the final book in Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms quartet, following Princess Raisa of the Fells and Han Alister, a street-born wizard, as they try to secure Raisa's throne and Han's own future while keeping the Fells out of the grips of the "flatlanders" of another realm at war.
This was a stronger book than its predecessor, The Gray Wolf Throne. While not much happened in GWT, a lot happens in Crimson Crown. It has the political intrigue of GWT but also some things actually going on. Han is trying to claw his way up into the upper echelons of the wizarding world, in hopes that he'll be able to secure a place high enough to be a good match for Raisa--Naeming be damned. Raisa is trying to juggle her attraction to Han with a dozen other suitors who would make good political matches. And then there's the threat of an invading army, and a slew of wizards being murdered in the lower districts of Fellsmarch, and all the signs pointing to Han as the murderer.
Again, this book did feel like several things were just dropped. Amon, such a prominent character in the first two books, has basically been kicked to the wayside and has become a very, very minor character. The romance between Han and Raisa is there but not really prominent like it was in the second book. And the whole plot with the wizards being killed in the city--at first it seemed like it might be an intriguing subplot, but then it got pushed to the side in favor of other things, like fires and secret tunnels and hotsprings, and when it finally came back at the end of the book, it felt like something that had been very cobbled together. Considering that the former Gray Wolf Queens had warned of a betrayal (either earlier in this book or in the end of GWT; I read them back-to-back so I can't remember which one this tiny little thing happened in) I thought that the betrayer would be someone a little less obvious--I was really gunning for Speaker Jemson or even Magret for it, because GASP! That would have been so dramatic! As it was, this tie-up actually felt very anti-climactic and tacked-on after the actual climax of the story. It was kind of disappointing. Also strange was Mellony's involvement--she had been such a non-entity until now, and suddenly she was much more prominent. Considering how little of a relationship she and Raisa had, and how little Mellony had actually cared until this point, it was a little out of place.
That said, Raisa grew a lot as a character here, struggling with her own young age and relative immaturity while also trying to be a good queen of the Fells, to keep her country out of war, and to balance out against all of the forces arranged in opposition to her. Han also had some good growth from here, turning away from bitterness and hardening his resolve to get what he wants, but then vowing to let it go if that's what seems best for everyone. All of the story here focuses around Han and Raisa, even though they don't spend much time together. While I missed the romance and connection between them, other than few short encounters, I can appreciate that their separation allowed them to grow and mature separately and become their own people. That makes a lot of sense in the character development area, even though agggggh I wanted more romance!!!!
The world-building that I felt was absence in GWT also made a comeback in CC, mainly in the area of "what is going on with Hanalea and Gray Lady and the other mountains." The secret tunnels, and what was in there, and how it all came to be... I thought this all added a lot of dimension to the background of the world, and I liked how it came back. Dancer's growth as a magic user fit into this category, too; his merging of magics showed what was really possible in the old days before the Breaking, and what might be possible again.
This was a stronger book than GWT above all, but I still didn't like it as much as I did the first two books in the series. I think it's a pretty strong young adult fantasy series, though, and I might come back to it in the future.
3 stars out of 5.