Monday, December 28, 2020

Review: The High Crown Chronicles by Jodi Gallegos

After all of the wonderful celebrating with family and, somehow, getting some clean-up done (I'm not done on that front, though), I found time to sit back and simply dive into a rich fantasy world. I ran across this series around mid-/end of November and loved the sound of it... and the cover. 
The first book came out in September, and I was able to pick up the second this last week (it came out on December 1st.) Oh, and the first book is currently FREE on, don't miss out on that!

Anyway, I read both of these books in one the grunts and mumbles of my husband...but since he didn't help with the dishes, he didn't complain too much.  If you love fantasy (but no magic really), royal plots, intrigue, secrets, danger, and are ready to meet a heroine who is strong but not 'kick-butt',  then this one might be what you're looking for.

The High Crown Chronicles, Book One
by Jodi Gallegos
YA Fantasy
310 pages

When a crown is at stake, blood will be shed…

The High Crown Chronicles is cinematic storytelling at its best. With stunning imagery, dynamic characters, and a slow-burn romance, Jodi Gallegos has built a fantastical world. Coupled with a strong female heroine who’s both relatable and fierce, this seamlessly layered plot pours the foundation for an epic fantasy series that readers will devour before asking for more.

Malory is bound by blood to ensure the High Crown is returned to her kingdom—be it the blood that runs through her veins or the blood spilled at her feet.

The eldest heir of the kingdom of Devlishire, Malory is destined to be the first reigning queen in a hundred years, though she’d prefer to spend her days sparring in the courtyard or reading tales of the long-forgotten gods rather than studying languages and royal lineage. But an upset in the balance of power between the Unified Kingdoms is about to disrupt peace in the land and promote unquenchable greed amongst its rulers.

A jealous younger brother—and a salacious rumor—leaves Malory as a pawn in her father’s plot to overthrow the new ruling king. She’s forced to participate or risk the life of her best friend Esmond, a knight in the King’s Guard. Betrayed by her family, sent away from her home, and denied her birthright, Malory will navigate the courts of her new kingdom to protect it against any who threaten it—even her. Her journey will reawaken the warrior inside herself, and the gods who have lain dormant for a hundred years.

The High Crown Chronicles is a young adult fantasy that embraces the spirit of betrayal, deception, and political intrigue that is at the core of Philippa Gregory novels, with the dark vengeance of George R.R. Martin. With heart-stopping action, relatable characters, and impeccable writing, the first novel in The High Crown Chronicles by Jodi Gallegos is sure to leave readers hungry for more.



Is this one worth a read? In short—yes! It's packed with court intrigue, evil plots, deadly secrets...upon secrets...upon secrets, a bit of romance, tons of action, and it's never clear who can be trusted. In other words, it's one of the reads which keeps the reader in the pages until the very end.

Malory is the first born in the kingdom of Devlishire and destined to be the Queen. Her knowledge and wisdom as well as her sword skills (which does raise eyebrows) are known throughout the seven kingdoms. When the High King of the seven kingdom alliance dies unexpectedly, her father's interest in regaining the position for himself and his heirs becomes his main goal. Combined with her younger brother's sudden interest in the throne—her throne, she's beginning to wonder if her position as future queen is threatened. What starts as a seed of doubt soon grows into something much larger than she ever suspected...or can guess. And so the web of secrets and lies begins.

I enjoyed this one from the very first page. The world building is very well done and draws into the kingdom and the lives of the royals as if the castle truly existed. Small details make the scenes vivid but are woven in masterfully so as not to ever make the tale drag. It sets the stage for all of the excitement to come, and there's plenty of that.

Malory has everything a great queen needs and comes across as a very self-assured young woman...but she has her self-doubts, too. And it's these doubts and the several mistakes she makes, which make her very easy to like and cheer for. She has a lot to go up against and makes mostly understandable choices and decisions along the way. Even if they aren't always good ones. 

The plot in this one weaves back and forth and up and down and all over. Add in the multiple subplots, which give depth to the other characters, too, and it's really an amazing layering. No one is to be trusted, but that doesn't mean they're selfish or evil. It's hard to know where loyalties lie, why they lie where they do, and what the future might hold. Add the constant tension of an unknown danger, and it's definitely a fast-paced, exciting read.

While the tension makes this an engaging read, I also appreciate how Malory fit into the royal ladder. She's a girl, and no matter what her heritage might be or who she is to wed, she still can't break free of society's order to things. She fights well but takes more than a back seat in that regard, since princesses and queens don't wield swords. Her education has given her knowledge and her actions are often accepted by others as being wise, and yet, she's held at a distance in the court...and she doesn't even complain because she's aware of her standing. In other words, I appreciate how the author kept a certain amount of reality to everything and didn't make Malory an instant, kick-butt heroine. It makes her likable, slides into the reality of a traditional, royal court, and makes her all the more easy to cheer for until the end. 

But the story doesn't end on the last page. Malory's journey is only beginning, and it promises to be so much more.

by Jodi Gallegos
Clean Teen Publishing
YA Fantasy
281 pages

While the war between the kingdoms grows, the long-forgotten gods are beginning to take notice. And one of them has been waiting for this moment for a very long time…

Malory has survived betrayal, an assassination attempt, and the Battle of Allondale. But months later, with the Unified Kingdoms at war, she is a queen in name only. All she rules is in ruins and her enemies won’t stop until she and Jamis are dead and their lands claimed.

Hidden deep in the forested Argralands, Malory—along with Jamis, Kennard, Katherine, Josef, and Isobel—has been systematically raiding the resources of Roarke and his allies. As Malory and Jamis work to bolster their troops so they can finally conquer their enemies, a new threat emerges that leaves all the kingdoms at risk. But ever-shifting alliances and a broken unification leave Malory questioning loyalties—even among those closest to her. Can Malory build her armies before a devastating loss brings her to the brink of her own ruin?

Queen of the Ruins picks up seamlessly where The High Crown Chronicles left off and draws the reader more deeply into this world of stunning imagery, dynamic characters, and shifting political alliances. A blend of dark, vengeful tone and deeply emotional moments will draw readers through this action-packed novel and leave their hearts thundering until the final page.


Pivoting in a slightly different direction and with even more secrets and action then the first novel , this book opens up the doors to an entirely new threat and tons of excitement.

Malory is the High Queen, but the treason and lies run deeper than she ever expected. Now, on the run with her High King at her side and their thrones destroyed, both vow to stop the evil plots of the greedy kingdoms, bring unity and peace back to the seven kingdoms, and execute revenge for those who died. They are outnumbered but have the people of the forest on their side. Together with five new friends, they war against their enemies, attacking where they can. It's not only brutal, but their chances of success aren't guaranteed. Malory finds herself not only winding through past secrets, trying to figure out who to trust, and how to fit into her new life, but hears whispers inside her head, which hint that there's more at play. 

I was eager to get my hands on this one after completing the first book in the series. And it didn't disappoint. Malory is stronger and forced to take more control of her life, but yet, she needs to work with others. Instead of acting as a queen, her new allies and friends need to be treated as equals despite their backgrounds. But this isn't the greatest challenge she faces, by any means. Secrets of her past are beginning to come to light, and with each one, the lies her life have been built on unfold. It's a horribly difficult web and while some things are easy to guess, others come out of the blue. It kept me on my toes until the very end.

Still, this book also takes a slightly different turn than the first book did. Malory hears voices in her head, and it soon becomes clear that the kings and kingdoms aren't the only war being fought. The forgotten gods and goddesses are involved and might be pulling the strings for their own purposes. But what these are is anyone's guess, and whether or not she can trust any of them, is even more doubtful. Malory is being sucked into a new position and her character is growing right along with it. The settings change to rougher ones outdoors, and the physical dangers are clearer than they were in book one. There's much more action, and a darker tone to the tale.

The romance takes a super interesting twist in this second book. While it's strong and sweet, there's a surprise which throws everything upside down. It well that it's hard not to like Malory even more, and adore her hero. For those romantics out there, this one does require tissues because it might draw a few tears and leave some heart-ache. Also, it's impossible to tell where the author is heading on this front. I have some suspicions, but there's also reason to believe that my thoughts are completely off base. So, thumbs up on this front, since I have no idea where things are headed but can't wait to find out.

Summed up... I wish I didn't have to wait until this next summer to see what will happen next. The war is upping in stakes and danger, and it will be interesting to see where it will all go from here. Especially since there promises to be more dangerous and unknown actors at play.

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