Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Of Princes and Poisons by Brianna Joy Crump

Today's read might strike some of you as familiar. I reviewed the first book in the series, Of Cages and Crowns (here), several days ago. This smudges my amazing habit of grabbing books willy-nilly from a series. I already have book two up today thanks to the quick release dates between these novels...which is also nice, since the first one ended on a cliff-hanger.

I have high expectations for this one after reading the first novel, which usually isn't a good thing. Second novels in a trilogy tend to suffer...not always but often. Middle blues? Unsure plot twists? Characters lost somewhere in between? Well, I'm hitting this one with very positive vibes and hope it keeps pace with the first book.

So, off we go!

The Culled Crown, #2
by Brianna Joy Crump
Wattpad Books
Young Adult Fantasy
546 pages

JUNE 18th!!!

Once there were ten.

Ten goddess-touched girls were born. Each was blessed―or cursed―with a unique power that set them apart. As part of an ancient ritual called the Culling, they were supposed to fight to the death in the arena until only one survived. That girl would marry the prince and ascend to the throne. Now only four girls remain.

Power in her blood.

Monroe Benson is one of the lucky ones. With fire at her fingertips, she survived the arena and the intrigues of the palace. Now she’s turned her back on her destiny, choosing to throw in her lot with the rebellion seeking to overturn the Erydian rulers. Monroe has never wanted the throne. She knows that her future lies elsewhere, but first she’ll have to convince the rebels to believe her.

A traitorous heart.

Monroe thought Cohen was one of the few good things about the Culling. She believed that he would have made a good ruler, but that doesn’t mean that she wanted to sit beside him on the throne. And now, she finds herself drawn to a rebel leader. A man with secrets of his own. In the end, Monroe will have to trust in more than her power or even her heart if she’s to forge her own path and find her freedom.


Nothing is as it was before, leaving room for unknown dangers, growing mistrust, and intrigue beneath the intrigue.

After killing the King and Queen, Monroe and her 'friends' from the Culling find themselves with the rebels. Not only were the promises of an open armed invitation null and void, all of them find themselves teetering on a thin line just off of execution. A new fight for survival begins, one which is very different than the Trials. Wounds, inside and out, are tough to heal, especially when the difference between friends and foe is blurred all over again. Monroe's a constant breath's distance from death, and this time, her powers are the last thing that can save her.

First off, yay to having the second book releasing so quickly after book one! Not only does that keep disappointment after the first ending at bay, but the story is still fresh and anticipation high. So, extra kudos on that front.

This book doesn't start off where the last one ended...not exactly. (But this does need to be read as a series, since each book builds off the last.) We find Monroe captured by the rebels, separated from her group, in bad circumstances. While grabbing, I did stop reading twice to see if and where I'd missed part of the story. Instead, the happenings between the escape from the palace to Monroe's beginning in the prison occur in flashbacks over the next chapters. I'm not a huge fan of that approach.

Anyway, this book takes many surprising twists and turns, and flips everything on its head. It does a great job diving into the area of dealing with trauma and re-orientation. This was especially well done with the other two goddess-touched girls and Uri, and added quite a bit of character depth. Monroe's brother also returns, which adds a touch more on the sibling front. Monroe doesn't show much growth during this second book (unfortunately), since her head is busy more with the romance side of things and melding into the new circumstances. The action was notched down, too, thanks to the increased romance and building of a couple new characters. Instead, the threat from the palace and the growing war runs more in the background with a few high-tension moments tossed in here and there to remind that there's still a huge danger to deal with...although this does increase toward the end.

This book mostly hovers around Monroe's attempt to reorientate herself in the rebel camp and mentally deal with what she's gone through so far. Relationships formed during the Trial, both bad and good, are re-molded, and this takes time. The heaviest hitting of these is the one with Cohen as he slides into the background, at first, and a new character fills in the space to create the rift. The switching of gears is refreshing, in some ways, but unfortunately, not quite convincing to the reasons behind it, leaving the romance end with a slight sense of being off-balance. This also makes the end of this read hit a little weird, on that end. Monroe herself is more clumsy in this read, and while still to root for,  doesn't come across with the same lovely strength as before.

There were many unexpected moments, exciting aspects, and grabbing twists, and it will be interesting to see how everything ties together in the last book. Because the third one in this series has the potential to be very good.

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