Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Of Cages and Crowns by Brianna Joy Crump

So, I'm super late getting today's post up because I wasn't sure I'd make it to this one in time. But I sat down...and stood...getting this one read in one go to make sure I can present it. And yes, at almost 500 pages, I did need a few hours for this one. And is it worth the read? Well...

The Culled Crown, #1
by Brianna Joy Crump
Wattpad Books
YA Fantasy
472 pages

JUNE 18th!!!

Destined to compete for the throne, Monroe Benson must fight nine girls for the right to rule. If she wins, she will be crowned queen. To lose is to die.

Monroe Benson is marked and goddess-touched, one of ten heirs to the Erydian throne. When the next Culling is announced, she has no choice but to prepare to fight for her life against nine other marked girls. When the competing heirs begin to drop dead outside of trials, Monroe must decide if her fire ability is enough to protect her from a new unseen enemy. Can she survive the Culling and take the throne, or should she kill the queen and dismantle the competition from the inside? In a palace of lies and power-hungry court members, Monroe must be careful who she trusts.



With aspects reminiscing of The Hunger Games and The Selection, this read dives into an exciting world, where magic and royalty mix with death and blood.

Monroe was born as a goddess-touched, meaning she might be one of the ten possible heirs to the throne. Like the other nine girls, she carries a magical ability, and is required to take part in a competition called the Culling to see who will marry the crowned prince to become the next queen. Gifted with the ability to command fire, Monroe's chances at winning aren't bad...if she wanted to compete. Not only is she uninterested in the throne, but she doesn't see any good in killing nine other girls to get there. In an attempt to keep her alive and away from the trials, her family has always claimed her as a son and have let her rarely be seen even in their small town on the outskirts of the kingdom. But the Culling has come, and the kingdom is in unrest thanks to starvation and a threatening war. While Monroe hopes to escape, fate has other plans...and it will take a miracle for her to survive. Not only are the other girls powerful and dangerous, but the palace harbors secrets more deadly than any of them.

While this read take a definite dystopian direction, the world holds some unique twists. There are armies with swords, palaces with secret passageways, magic, and ballrooms, which give a midieval, fantasy flair, but at the same time, there are cars (although only for the elite) and guns, which by no means make it 'modern' but add an odd embrace. The world building is never heavy but adds enough to set it up as the action takes over. It's a faster paced with plenty of fight scenes, more than a few deadly moments,  some gore, quite a bit of tension, and more than a little dark intrigue. 

The characters are easy to like or hate. Monroe and her friends are given depth and purpose. Their decisions are, for the most part, understandable, and the emotional moments hit enough to keep the pages turning. The enemies could use a bit more substance, but there are quite a few characters in this book, and their lack of background doesn't make the tale less entertaining. It's just a lighter, more entertaining read. There is romance, which was nicely paced, although it took over the plot more than needed, at times, as YA tends to do. But the pair is one to root for.

I did read this in one sitting, and while there were sections I found myself quick-skimming over (I'm an action girl and get bored quickly), never did I have the urge to lay it down. There are some open questions concerning the war and the Culling's purpose, which never were addressed, and there are other untied ends, which should be finding their answers in the upcoming books. This one does end on a 'to be continued' note, but book two's release isn't far off, so the wait is short. I am looking forward to diving into the second book because I do want to see what happens next.

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