Champion of the Crown: A battle royale for the throne

Champion of the Crown by Melissa McShane fantasy book reviewsChampion of the Crown by Melissa McShaneChampion of the Crown by Melissa McShane

The battle for the crown of Tremontane comes to a climax in Champion of the Crown (2018), the final book in Melissa McShane’s SAGA OF WILLOW NORTH fantasy trilogy. (Obligatory warning: here be spoilers for the prior books, Pretender to the Crown and Guardian of the Crown.) The first book focused on the escape from Tremontane of Willow North, her ex-fiancé Kerish of Eskandel, and eight-year-old Felix Valant, whose murderous (and magical) uncle Terence has usurped the throne of Tremontane, pursued by the new king’s mages and soldiers. The second book dealt with the tricky political negotiations for Eskandel’s support of Felix’s claim to the throne. Now Willow, Kerish and Felix are marching back into Tremontane, backed by an Eskandelic military escort as well as a ragtag group of Tremontane rebels and thieves.

Through it all, Willow has been pushed out of her comfort zone. Originally a highly skilled thief (helped immensely by her ability to magically “see” metal, even in total darkness or through walls), she’s developed into a talented leader and foreign diplomat. Now she’s forced to become a military leader as well, fighting Terence’s armies and Ascendant magical forces as well as negotiating with the Tremontane nobles to seek their support in an uprising against Terence.

It helps Willow that young Felix has made her a noble, which smooths her negotiations with the nobility, and that she and Kerish have patched up their differences and are now married, which has brought personal joy to her life. But Willow is carrying a secret in her heart, one she has shared with only a handful of other trusted people: Having decided that Felix will never be the type of king that Tremontane needs, she’s also looking for the right nobleman or woman to throw her and her group’s support behind as the new monarch. Then she plans to disappear into a life of obscurity with Kerish and Felix.The Saga of Willow North (3 Book Series) by Melissa McShane

Champion of the Crown is an exciting end to this series, building steadily from conflict to conflict as Willow and her group travel through Tremontane to its capital city of Aurilien, where everything will come to a climax. Their adventures and battles along the way are not only dramatic in and of themselves, but also contribute to the overall development of the plot and the growth of the characters. McShane draws interesting, multi-layered characters with complex motivations. I particularly enjoyed Willow’s maneuvering with Alric Quinn, the Count of Waxwold and one of the primary candidates for the throne of Tremontane … if he only weren’t so abrasive. (Interestingly, Alric is also the ancestor of Alison Quinn, the main character in Servant of the Crown, set some 400 years after this series.)

I still have major quibbles with Willow’s near-unilateral decision to take the crown away from Felix, for his own good and that of the country, but otherwise this novel and the entire series really came together in the end, hitting me right in the heart. Champion of the Crown is a well-crafted, exciting and emotional story and a satisfying way to wrap up this trilogy.

Published January 30, 2018. Willow North has safely brought the boy-King Felix out of Tremontane and secured the support of neighboring Eskandel in his bid to recover the Crown. Now she faces her greatest challenge yet: convincing the Counts and Barons of Tremontane to support Felix as he confronts his uncle, the pretender to the Crown. With Tremontane on the verge of civil war, success hinges on discovering true allies amid those who would take the Crown for themselves. But Willow’s true plan—to choose a new ruler for Tremontane and give Felix a chance at a happy life—hits a snag when it seems none of the potential candidates for the Crown are suitable. With her army racing to meet the pretender’s, time is running out. Willow will have to choose a King…and that choice will be one even she doesn’t expect.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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2 comments

  1. It’s so nice when the third book of a trilogy delivers and you get that feeling of satisfaction.

    • Definitely! The ending can make or break a series as well as a book. Although with a series at least you can generally pretend that the later books don’t exist, like I do with Dune.

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