Prince Zaki murdered his sister, the Queen, and framed her son in order to usurp the throne and surrender Caledan to her enemies.
Prince Soren is on the run, marked as a traitor, seeking allies and facing a dangerous quest, a quest that will determine whether he’ll reclaim the throne, avenge his mother and rule his kingdom free of oppressors: retrieve the crown of dragons, or die trying.
Lady Eve, Soren’s cousin, must choose between her father’s wishes and her own thirst to find her place, to explore her abilities and her kinship with a race that was considered the product of fiction.
Between violence, power bids, cunning enemies and bloodshed, the fate of Caledan depends on the success of a newly orphaned, inexperienced and grief-stricken young prince, and on an ancient pact that will bring to life creatures straight out of legends.
Meg Cowley’s first Caledan book is a typical YA fantasy; it features magic, war, treason, journeys in faraway lands, and – my personal favorite – dragons! Without burdening the reader with info-dump, the author weaves a solid world-building, subtle dynamics between nations and a magic system that has not yet been thoroughly explored, but its basic principles have been set out, thus enabling further elaboration. I had some issues with the narration, it felt rather dry; amidst descriptions and prolonged inner musings (which in a way affected the pacing) I wanted more vivacity, more spirit, but in general it was well-written, there were intriguing secondary characters, and the dragons, their lore and ties to the Caledan throne were definitely the scene-stealers.
The Tainted Crown is an engaging adventure that follows two unlikely heroes on even more unlikely quests. On one hand there is prince Soren, whose birthright is stolen and strives to rally forces in order to overthrow his traitorous uncle, and on the other hand there is his cousin, Eve, who grasps the opportunity to flee from her stifling life, a life controlled by her father, and discover her links to the Eldarkind, elf-like creatures who have lived hidden for so long that the world has forgotten their existence. It is a character driven story, which relies on the development of the two main heroes, and even though I would have preferred a little more focus on the political and magical aspect of the story, I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Personally, I found myself more invested in Soren’s chapters. Despite the dire situations, the frustration and the constant feeling of loss, with the help of Sir Edmund (who was a great mentor) he was levelheaded, and really wanted - and tried - his best for his people. He rose to the occasions, understood the price of sacrifices, and I came to like him a lot. Along his way he met some interesting people that added to the story, and made me all too eager to witness his return and ascension. As regards Eve, even though I was not so fond of her overconfidence and impulsiveness, I grudgingly understood her need to claim her place in the world, against everything her father taught her.
All in all, the Tainted Crown could use some polishing; however, it was a rather nice story, with the potential for further development. I wish Meg Cowley all the best in the competition and her future endeavors.