Letters of Mass Construction

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

I like the sub-genre of grimdark fantasy. Right now I don’t think anyone is doing a better job of it than Joe Abercrombie. I had heard a lot of early positive things about A Crown for Cold Silver. I was looking forward to getting my hands on it and seeing how it compares. The good news is the book is quite enjoyable and introduces some really interesting twists to the genre. The bad news is that it starts a little slow and the author made some stylistic choices that were a little rough for me.

The story starts many years after Cobalt Zosia and her five villains have conquered the Crimson Empire only to be overthrown themselves. Cobalt Zosia is believed dead and the five villains have scattered around the empire to lick their wounds. The only problem is someone claiming to be Zosia is stirring up the shit again. The five villains begin the long trek to find this new Zosia and see who the hell she is and what the fuck she is up to.

I liked the basic plot. It wasn’t anything particularity new to the genre but it did have some nice twists. One of the best parts of the book is how Alex Marshall plays with gender. That alone was almost worth reading the book. I was also a huge fan of the devils and loved that people ate bugs as their drug of choice. The story starts slow, but about 100 pages in Marshall starts applying gentle pressure to the accelerator and the book begins to build to a giant battle where nothing turns out the way you think it might.

The world building is great in the novel. It was definitely a playground I want to return to. Despite its length, I felt there were a lot of little mysteries left lying around. I can’t wait to see where they go in the next book. Marshall can also write a fight scene but remember this is grimdark so heads will be flying and curse words will be spewed. One of the most surprising aspects of the book for me was how funny it was. There were plenty of laugh out loud moments nestled in between all that blood.

There were a few things that worked against the story but they were not book killers for me. The world building and introduction of the characters in the beginning of the book was a tiny bit slow. I think some of the characters could have been introduced later or some of the world could have been left a mystery. There were some interesting style choices in the writing also. Some of the language felt like it was plucked right out of the real world. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it felt a little awkward. It’s hard to describe. It just seemed to pop off the page and make me think about it. It was distracting but it didn’t happen often. I also felt a few of the characters were a little been there done that. Marshall was clearly trying to bring something new to the table, which I believe he succeeded at many times. So whenever I ran into a character that felt fantasy 101 I was a little put off.

The small things did not stop me from enjoying it though. I will gladly pick up the second book (especially since this one basically left off with a giant cliff hanger). While not as good as Abercrombie or Scott Lynch it was worth the read. Block out some time and dig into this monster. Bring some safety goggles though, it gets a little messy.

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This book was a review copy provided by Orbit Books.

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