This book was reviewed via Book and the Bear Blog Tours
Second in Webb’s Legends of Ansu series, The Shattered Crown follows Corin an Fol, mercenary for hire, is traveling home, ready to drown himself in well-earned drink. When his horse plays lame, Corin decides to stop by the forge of a friend, in hopes of drink and rest for his horse. What Corin finds is a robbery in progress. He flashes into action, taking out one robber and incapacitating the other two. When the blacksmith, knocked out but not dead, comes to, he hangs one remaining robber, and would have done with the second. Corin counsels mercy, for its just a lad. Grudgingly, the smith agrees. Corin pays for his mercy when the youth runs off with the money taken from the family, and these won’t be the only consequences. Corin continues on his way, where he meets an acquaintance with a suggestion of work.
Meanwhile, Ariane, only lately queen after her father’s untimely death, is having ‘royal’ or ‘goddess’ dreams, coinciding with news of the High King’s death. In Ariane’s dreams, people try to steal the High King’s crown, the Tekara, but only succeed in shattering it. Still, that was enough to break its power, and without the magic of the Tekara darkness is taking hold of the lands again. Ariane’s high priest Dazaleon interprets the royal dreams to mean that Ariane needs to travel north, to the Goddess’ Oracle. Despite arguments to do otherwise by her Champion, and other advisors, Ariane heeds Dazaleon’s wisdom because Caswallon, once of the High King’s court, is the one behind his death, and Caswallon is a sorcerer. Magic is needed to best magic. They set out, and Corin joins them, though not without wariness. After all, what proper warrior wants to get snarled up in magic and prophesy, and all that goes with it, especially snarled up in it with headstrong royalty?
This was an enjoyable read, though longer than I expected. It should be noted that, while it is the second Legends of Ansu book, it is not necessary to have read the previous book to enjoy this one. It is a stand-alone. I loved Corin’s character. He may be a mercenary but he has a good heart, and you see that all the way in the beginning, when he was willing to spare the boy’s life rather than let him hang too. He was a killer for pay, not because he revealed in it, but because he was a kick-ass warrior with a snarky attitude. Ariane was a strong, and headstrong, woman, but I didn’t particularly care for either her or her hot-headed Champion Roman. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but they rubbed me the wrong way. I liked Yail and Tamersane more. These two had a certain suaveness that contrasted nicely with the equally likable, though coarser Corin.
This story as a whole made me think of Celtic lore. It bugged me to no end why the name Caswallon felt so familiar. It’s because that’s the name of the ‘usurper king’ in Manawyddan’s tale in the Welsh Mabinogion. That’s also why Corin’s full name felt familiar too. My far distant cousin follows old Welsh custom, and signs his name Warryn ap Gruffyn. Britain had High Kings once, with lesser kings ruling smaller territories. Dazaleon can hardly be thought of as anything other than a Druid, and the dominant deity of the land is a goddess, Elanion. Even the name Ansu is reminiscent of Anu. I think these things were among the most appealing to me. I do not come across Celtic inspired fantasy as often as that influenced by Greco-Roman or Christian history and myth. As an aside, I really liked the cover art!