The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson

Rating 5.0/10
Became bogged down by exposition

The Crimson Queen by Alec Hudson is a work of epic fantasy published in 2016, reminiscent of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, David Eddings and Patrick Rothfuss. It is an entry into the 2018 Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off and the champion of Fantasy Book Critic.

I’ll come straight to the point: This book did not work for me. At first it did but by the time I had made it to half way through I simply no longer wanted to continue, and I will explain my reasons in just a moment. But I want to make it clear from the offset that just because The Crimson Queen was not my cup of tea I still feel that it will be read and enjoyed by many others. The reading experience is subjective and this is why it is important to read as many different reviews as possible.

Before I get to the main body of the review here’s the synopsis, which sets the scene nicely:

Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord. The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.

And so the story begins, and we find ourselves in familiar, comfortable territory. We meet Keilan, a young man out fishing with his father. But Keilan has special powers and adventure awaits...

As I began reading this book I immediately warmed to the author’s writing style, his good use of vocabulary (without being overly flowery) and I was impressed with the pace and descriptiveness of the narrative. I was confident that I had found a book I was going to enjoy. The first chapter did a stirling job of introducing characters, giving them life and a history, opening up the land for further investigation. But its crowning glory was how, as a reader, I warmed to the lead (even his father deserved much empathy) and how, as the chapter nears its end, the author threw the hook which snagged my mind and made we want to read more about these people and discover what exactly it was Keilan had encountered in the deep waters while travelling outside his body. And who exactly was his mother?

So how come, after such a wonderful start, did things go so wrong for me? Well, events transpire and Keilan must leave his home and village. He finds himself within a fellowship on a quest and I was enjoying it all. The first warning bell that rang was when the story path lead to events that closely matched the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings, right down to the finding of mithril-type armour. But I’ve read and enjoyed many authors who are influenced by Tolkien and this was not an insurmountable obstacle. But my real issue with the book was that after a while the story stopped moving along and we met character after character who recounted monologue after monologue regarding the world’s history. I don’t mind this in general, The Name of the Wind employs this style often and is one of my favourite books, but I was increasingly finding that I needed the story to move forward again, so I could learn more about the characters I already knew and cared about. As page after page after page told me things I was not ready to be interested in I simply put the book down and decided I no longer wanted to be in that world any more.

I guess a summary of everything above would be to say that I felt the story became bogged down by exposition. For me characterisation is everything and while initially it was good it became lost in the mists of remembrances and legends.

However, as I said at the beginning of this review, my experience is likely different to many others and a look at the Goodreads page shows it has many, many admirers. It’s just a shame that this wasn’t a book for me.

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