The Starless Crown is the first book in a new high fantasy series by James Rollins. Released 4th Jan 2022 by Macmillan, it's 560 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.
This is a very well written epic adventure featuring a group of misfits from wildly disparate backgrounds, thrust together in a desperate attempt to prevent the destruction of their world and all life on it. It's full of complex magic and a well built up background system and peopled by genuinely three dimensional characters who live and breathe. Rollins is a masterful writer and having turned his pen back to writing fantasy (he discusses this in the introductory author's foreword) it's apparent that he still has a flair with the genre.
This is a *dense* novel. It's got a lot of gravitas. Although there is a lot of action (and pathos, and some humor along the way), it reads like what it is: a deeply written first volume in an epic high fantasy series. It moves slowly and comprehensively, building up layer by layer. There are foreshadowings and doom-laden nightmares aplenty, evil cultish magician necro-priests, ancient artifacts, prophecies, a magical blind foundling baby, and all the good ingredients one would expect from solid "doorstop" fantasies.
Sensitive readers should be aware that there are some quite graphic depictions of violence and murder. The evil necro-priest cultists especially are quite evil and necro-ish. There's a death early on in the book which was quite explicit and made me briefly consider whether I should continue or not, but I'm glad I did.
This one will likely be a great fit for fans of Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss. It's absolutely not derivative, there are a lot of fascinating and worthy originalities which I'm quite looking forward to exploring, but it does definitely have the same sense of scope and endless horizons which both of the aforementioned authors are well known for.
The unabridged audiobook version has a run-time of 22 hours and 5 minutes and is capably narrated by Nicola Barber, with an appearance by the author himself. The sound and recording quality and production values are high throughout.
Four stars. I'm looking forward to finding out what comes next.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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