Rider of the Crown: Large and in charge

Rider of the Crown by Melissa McShane fantasy book reviewsRider of the Crown by Melissa McShane fantasy book reviewsRider of the Crown by Melissa McShane

Rider of the Crown (2015), the second book in Melissa McShane’s CROWN OF TREMONTANE fantasy series, is set a generation after the events in Servant of the Crown. The story initially shifts to a neighboring country to Tremontane, where the Kirkellan live, a fierce people who live a rustic life on the grassy plains and are known for their magnificent horses. Imogen is a young warrior of the Kirkellan, and a big and intelligent girl. As a talented leader of her tiermatha, a group of thirteen warriors who fight on horseback, and the daughter of the leader of her people, she expects to be named Warleader of the Kirkellan someday. But when Imogen’s mother, the matrian of the Kirkellan, enters into a peace treaty with the aggressive Ruskald nation, she has a more immediate role for Imogen: entering into a limited-term marriage of convenience with Hrovald, the Ruskalder king, to cement the treaty.

Unfortunately, this marriage of convenience isn’t the stepping stone to love that it generally is in fiction. Hrovald is a vicious and untrustworthy man, not to mention about thirty years older than Imogen, and Imogen knows the five years she needs to spend in his house in Ruskald will seem like an eternity. She agrees only because the need is so great, and only on condition that she can bring her beloved horse Victory and her entire tiermatha with her to Ruskald.

Life in the Ruskald capital city of Ranstjad turns out to be as miserable as Imogen had anticipated. Her relationship with Hrovald remains hostile, and he refuses to let Imogen practice her sword-fighting skills with her friends in the tiermatha. Then one day Hrovald announces he has a guest in their home: Princess Elspeth North, sister to King Jeffrey of Tremontane (who is the son of Anthony, a main character in Servant of the Crown). And ― such a pity! ― the winter weather will prevent Hrovald from returning Elspeth to her people.

As Imogen comes to understand Hrovald’s terrible plans for Elspeth, this realization sets her free of Hrovald and Ruskald. Events take Imogen and her friends to Tremontane, where Imogen will face new challenges in a country with technology, conveniences and customs far different from hers … and a man who will challenge her idea of who she is and what she will be in life.

The Crown of Tremontane by Melissa McShaneThe adventure and conflict ramp up and the romance takes a secondary role in Rider of the Crown, as compared to Servant of the Crown. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We see the larger world in this book, along with the difficulties of diplomacy between nations with drastically different cultures, and the influence a leader can have on his or her country, for good or ill. The plot felt like it was treading water for a while during Imogen’s unpleasant time in Ruskald, but once it ― and Imogen ― got moving again, the story was absorbing.

Imogen is a rarity in romantic fiction, a quite powerful and large young woman in both height and weight. She isn’t ashamed of her body in the least and is unoffended by the word “fat.” She can also take your head off with her sword or have her awesome warhorse stomp on you, so there’s that. Her romantic interest is an admirable man, although their romance never quite caught fire for me in the way the relationship did in Servant of the Crown. But I enjoyed seeing the world through Imogen’s sharp eyes as she travels to different countries and has experiences that she never before would have imagined.

Rider of the Crown deals with some interesting issues in connection with being willing to explore new avenues in finding out who you really are and what you might become, and the question of doing what you are best at as opposed to doing what you love best, and it deals with those issues in a thoughtful way.

Published in 2015. Imogen, warrior of the Kirkellan tribes, has never wanted to be anything else. But when the long war between the Kirkellan and the country of Ruskald ends, the terms of the peace treaty require Imogen to be married to the vicious King of Ruskald for five years. Confined to his freezing city, forbidden to fight, Imogen sees nothing but darkness in her future—until the arrival of Elspeth North, heir to the Crown of Tremontane, brings three countries to the brink of war and sets Imogen free. Now, sent to be the ambassador of her people to Tremontane, Imogen faces new challenges as she struggles to maintain her warrior’s identity in a world of glittering ballrooms and foreign customs. As a diplomat, Imogen discovers skills she never knew she had—as well as a forbidden attraction to the handsome and charismatic King Jeffrey North. But when war once again threatens not only Tremontane but her own people, Imogen must decide: is she the warrior, the diplomat—or something greater?

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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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