Synopsis from Goodreads:
In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret…
For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic––and her life––is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever.
While I thought it had some bright spots, I was not a huge fan of The Crowns of Croswald. I feel like there was potential, but the book could’ve been better.
Let’s start with the characters: you’ve got Ivy, a sixteen-year old girl who loves reading and drawing (yay for bookworms!) and is an orphan. She’s not a particularly complex character, and neither is Helga, the stereotypical “orphan guardian,” or the Dark Queen, the villain of the story. We never find out her backstory or what made her become an evil lunatic. The most interesting character is the morally ambiguous principal, the Selector. Rimbrick, a dwarf who was Ivy’s only friend when she was working as a maid, wasn’t too bad. Other than that, you’ve got Ivy’s two friends from school, a girl who likes making clothes, and a love interest who is apparently very cute.
Ivy confused me a little—first of all, she doesn’t seem like she’s sixteen. I found that especially odd considering the book felt middle grade to me, so shouldn’t the character be a little younger? Also, I just don’t understand how she knows so much about magical society if she literally lived in a dungeon for her entire life. She didn’t see sunlight until she was sixteen years old. Sure, there are a few moments when Ivy is confused about something that’s going on, but I felt like she knew way too much about society and magical history. I guess her dwarf friend could have told her, but it seemed far-fetched.
Generally, I enjoyed the writing. The author has a way with words, and specific sentences were very well-written. It was more of the larger-scale things that I had a problem with, like all the info dumping (isn’t there a better way to find out about the setting?) and the pacing (it didn’t feel like a whole year). My main issue is that the reader is rarely inside of Ivy’s head. There’s a lot of telling rather than showing, and we aren’t shown how Ivy is feeling nine times out of ten.
The concept of this book is typical—a Harry Potter look-a-like: orphan finds out they can do magic after living with awful guardian, is sent to magic school, turns out to be “the chosen one,” must defeat the bad guy. They both even have the moving paintings. Now, I’m not saying there can only be one good magical school book, but if you’re gonna write a book that has a lot of similarities to HP, you have to write it well. There has to be some way in which the book deviates so it stands out.
While The Crowns of Croswald was not one of my favorites, I don’t want it to sound like it’s the most horrible book on the planet. I actually do think I would have enjoyed it a lot when I was in the 8-10 range during my Harry Potter phase. At that point, I think I would’ve liked reading a book that was similar to HP, and I wasn’t anywhere near as picky back then. This is a fun story full of fairies and people who turn into books, for instance, and I think a lot of middle grade readers who aren’t too particular and like Harry Potter would probably enjoy this book more than I did. For me, some of the problems outweighed the fun story and the cool setting.
How do you feel about Harry Potter look-a-likes? Do you find them annoying and cliché, or do you enjoy them? Have you read The Crowns of Croswald? Let’s chat in the comments!
The author provided me with a copy of this book. This did not in any way influence my review.