Review: A Crown for Cold Silver

A Crown for Cold Silver
A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Thank you so much to Orbit Books via NetGalley for providing me a digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review**

I’d heard a lot of very different opinions of A CROWN FOR COLD SILVER before reading it. So while I didn’t go into it carte blanche, I didn’t exactly go into it with a clear vision either. Everything that I’d heard boiled down to the following statement: “You’re either going to love it, or you’re going to hate it.”
It’s a wonderful and rare opportunity when books this divisive appear on the market, especially in the fantasy genre.

And the verdict?

I liked it. I didn’t love it, but I certainly didn’t hate it.

A CROWN FOR COLD SILVER is a mercenary-fantasy novel that manages to not take itself too serious, despite its decidedly grim plot and world. So why did I find it so noticeably slow to slog through? I think the ultimate issue that there is a lot tackled in this novel — no, really, it’s a lot. Our mysterious pseudonymous author spares no detail about his/her rich world to the point that it becomes overwhelming. I would feel my brain start to slide away, at which point I had to force myself to focus back on the novel. Yes, this is a book that demands you pay attention; it demands you think.

The two major reasons for this are: 1) the phenomenal use of trope-inversion, and 2) a book/world that operates under a presumption of total gender equality. This is not something new to fiction (or fantasy) but I know I’ve never seen it so deliberately at the forefront of a novel — almost like A CROWN FOR COLD SILVER was a kind of literary experiment.

Trope-inversion is something I believe to have really started developing and maturing out of the back half of the 20th-century. I’ll spare everyone a mini-dissertation of my thoughts on that topic but note that trope-inversion is part of the core of one of the most famous fantasy stories around right now: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. So, again, A CROWN FOR COLD SILVER attacks something that isn’t necessarily new, but definitely tries to make it very deliberate that it is doing so.

Unfortunately, for me, that’s part of the area of the novel I didn’t necessarily enjoy.

In way, I think that the author actually attempted to do too much and overloaded the book. I’m sure that’s rich coming from me — given my love of the indulgent, opulent, and over-the-top — but here’s the thing: if you do try to tackle almost everything at once, you’re running the risk of losing your readers via disconnection to the story. Yes, it’s awe-inspiring to see the sea of cultures, languages, beliefs, et al…
…but after a while it’s just too much.

I like difficult books, especially in fantasy. But I also don’t like them to feel excessively long. I don’t like for them to hit me over the head with their — for lack of a better term — “gimmick.”
Yes, A CROWN FOR COLD SILVER is something unique. But it’s trying so, so hard to be unique that it just comes off as rather in your face.

For that reason, I can’t praise this book as the next big step in fantasy; I can’t call it the “next great thing.” But I can say that it is a(n at times) fun novel with witty dialogue and a pretty kickass older female protagonist.

Would I read a sequel? The jury’s still out.

View all my reviews

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