Book Review: Crown Of Vengeance
I recently finished the book “Crown Of Vengeance” by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. This novel, published in Kindle and Hardcover formats on Novemebr 13, 2012, is a precursor to the already published trilogies “Obsidian Mountain” and “Enduring Flame” by the same authors. It is the first in a new trilogy “Dragon Prophecy” and offers the history of the elven heroine Vieliessar Farcarinon, who is referred to in the first three trilogies as a legendary queen. This volume traces the early life of Vieliessar as she rises from being held as a servant after the defeat and death of her parents to a powerful mage to the high king of the warring elvish people. It also sets up the origins of the conflict between Light and Dark which is the backdrop for all of the books in this particular series.
One of the problems with reading a prequel is that you know, in some sense, how the story will work out. Before I even begin the book I know that Vieliessar will come to rule over all of her people, because I read the other books and they tell me so. The interest of a prequel rests on two things: how cleverly the author can tell the story and how engaging the author can make the main character and her relationships with characters in the tale who might not be part of the legend. By those criteria, this book does an adequate but not outstanding job. Vieliessar seems to triumph mostly through fate, which she herself recognizes and reflects upon. Throughout the story she is told that what she is doing is impossible, and she has to keep coming up with ways to manage it. She does this by breaking the artificial rules of her society, relying on her own powerful magical ability, and through her opponent’s stupidity. It is mildly entertaining but not astonishingly clever.
The characters in this book were also lukewarm. Vieliessar is an admirable but depressing figure. She has no real enthusiasm or enjoyment for what she is doing but instead has desperation born of the conviction that if she doesn’t succeed everything and everyone she cares about is doomed. She feels her isolation from others keenly but has trouble reaching across it to make friends and ultimately is very alone. Other characters are somewhat unidimensional, even Runecalendular, Vieliessar’s destined soulmate and also her chief enemy. Their conflict should be gripping and heart rending but after a while it becomes rather dull. The extremely long and difficult names don’t help as it can be difficult to track characters across the book. For example, at one point we learn that Vieliessar’s mother figure died of untreated pneumonia (through the machinations of an enemy, of course) but it took me several pages to recall who that character was and why she was important. The emotional impact was distinctly lessened.
Overall, this book manages to be interesting but not utterly captivating. If you read the other books in the series and enjoyed them then this one is worth the read. If you are a serious Mercedes Lackey fan then this book is worth picking up. If you are looking for an interesting fantasy that won’t keep you up all night when you have to work the next day, this is a good book to choose. I will definitely buy the next books in the series, since there are still some unanswered questions dangling out there, but I don't think this will become a favorite.