Crown of Stars: Stunning in scale and complexity

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Kate Elliott Crown of StarsCROWN OF STARS by Kate Elliott

CROWN OF STARS is well-thought out and obviously well-planned. It’s epic in scope and it’s got a lot of texture. There are many complex characters who we follow in parallel, as in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Some of them are very likeable, and there are some really excellent villains (e.g., Hugh). Kate Elliott’s creatures are imaginative and enjoyable, and I especially liked the way they interact with the humans. Ms. Elliott uses a lot of description and intricate world-building and therefore her plot moves very slowly (again, similar to WOT).

The writing was inconsistent throughout the series. Sometimes it seems brilliant, but at other times I’d think “why did she tell me that?” or “this could be moving a little faster.” It’s often wordy. Her editor could have almost arbitrarily taken out a third of the sentences with no ill effect. Sometimes she over-explains what a character is feeling or his/her motivation when it would have been better to let the dialogue or action speak for the character. Sometimes she tells me something too many times (e.g., “but his voice always sounds like that”). I wonder if the inconsistency is due to different editing processes, because it’s not like that in all the books, and even some individual books are internally inconsistent. I thought the fourth book, especially, was not well edited.

The pace of these novels is so slow that I found my self bogged down in the middle of book 5 with not much desire to go on, so I decided to quit. I struggled with that decision because I really did want to find out what happened to the characters, but it was taking me too long to get there and the writing style wasn’t exciting enough to make up for the crawling pace.

Overall, these books entertained me for a while. The plot was interesting and the characterization was particularly notable, but it eventually got too slow.

~Kat Hooper


book review Kate Elliott Crown of StarsAn epic fantasy loosely based on our own medieval time period, its convoluted plot and subplots, myriad of important characters, and innovative take on elves have made Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars an enjoyable read.

The series takes the reader into a medieval setting turned on its head. Women rule, except in the case of kings, and are leaders in the church. God is both male and female, and women are seen as equal partners in all types of endeavors. It’s a truly egalitarian medieval period. Magic exists, although in many ways it is dependent on the laws of physics, astronomy, and astronomy’s distant cousin astrology. Magic is a science gained through knowledge and study, and limited to a very select few.

The story is primarily about the return of an elf-like race that, unlike the usual conceptions, was very warlike and evil (for the most part). These had been banished millennia ago by magic, but in a curious reaction, the banish land (along with its evil elf inhabitants) must return. Liath and Sanglant, whose plot all others revolve around, were originally pawns in the war between humans and “The Lost Ones,” but have taken control of their own destinies and chosen paths opposite to the one others had originally intended for them.

Throughout the course of the series there are some principal characters whose subplots weave in and around each other and in so many different ways that at times it is difficult to remember which characters have met and which have not. Sanglant, Liath, Alain, Hanna, Anna, Ivar, Strongheart, and Antonia are the characters whose plots we follow most often. Additionally, at times we also follow Hugh, Secha, and others. Such a host of characters is sometimes difficult for the reader to keep straight. (In the last book of the series, there is a 5 or more page cast of characters.)

The complicated plots are the key problem in the series. The seven book saga gets so convoluted that at times it is difficult to keep it straight. Add to this that some names are reused occasionally by the author for different characters, and the confusion widens. The primary plot follows Sanglant and Liath through their travels and travails, but these are constantly intersected by the many subplots. Elliott does an amazing job of keeping them straight for the reader, but as with anything this complex at times the reader can be lost.

The series is lovingly wrought, and fascinating to read. Courtly intrigue as well as the plight of the common man has its place. There are religious heresies and magical effects. This makes for a great epic, stunning in its scale and complexity.

~FanLit thanks John Ottinger III from Grasping for the Wind for contributing this guest review.

Crown of Stars — (1997-2006) Publisher: In the kingdom of Wendar, strange and dreadful portents sweep across the land: old ruins appear whole under the light of the full moon; the shades of dead elves hunt in the deep forest; dark spirits walk abroad in daylight; a saint appears to the faithful; hummings rise from the stonecircles, called crowns, that stand in ancient places of power. The Lost Ones — elves known as the Aoi, who vanished from human sight centuries before — speak through fire to those few who can hear them. Civil war between King Henry and his sister Sabella threatens the kingdom, and barbarians — the inhuman Eika raiders who strike from the northern seas and the Quman horsemen, the “winged” riders, who raid from the east — loot and burn farms and villages. Into the midst of these troubles walk three young people: Sanglant, Liath, and Alain. Sanglant is a prince, bastard son of King Henry. Born and bred to become captain of the elite cavalry — the King’s Dragons — and to give his life to protect his father’s kingdom, he cannot know the terrible fate that awaits him. Liath is the child of sorcerers, trained as a mathematici, one who knows the secrets of the stars. But she and her father have been running for their lives for the past eight years, and soon that which hunts them is going to catch up. Alain is a fosterling, seeking the truth of his parentage. Only when he accepts his destiny will he learn the truth.

Kate Elliott Crown of Stars King's Dragon, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, Child of Flame, The Gathering Storm, In the Ruins, Crown of StarsKate Elliott Crown of Stars King's Dragon, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, Child of Flame, The Gathering Storm, In the Ruins, Crown of StarsKate Elliott Crown of Stars King's Dragon, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, Child of Flame, The Gathering Storm, In the Ruins, Crown of StarsKate Elliott Crown of Stars King's Dragon, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, Child of Flame, The Gathering Storm, In the Ruins, Crown of StarsKate Elliott Crown of Stars King's Dragon, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, Child of Flame, The Gathering Storm, In the Ruins, Crown of StarsKate Elliott Crown of Stars King's Dragon, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, Child of Flame, The Gathering Storm, In the Ruins, Crown of StarsKate Elliott Crown of Stars King's Dragon, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, Child of Flame, The Gathering Storm, In the Ruins, Crown of Stars


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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JOHN OTTINGER III, a guest contributor to FanLit, runs the Science Fiction / Fantasy blog Grasping for the Wind. His reviews, interviews, and articles have appeared in Publisher’s Weekly, The Fix, Sacramento Book Review, Flashing Swords, Stephen Hunt’s SFCrowsnest, Thaumatrope, and at Tor.com.

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