... the story that James Rollins was born to write ... a full-blown epic fantasy novel ... a work of speculative fiction of the highest order ... Rollins shows off his limitless imagination with so many juicy and amazing people, places and things that it would be a crime to spoil any of it. There is much to savor in The Starless Crown. It feels like a novel that wants to be read in one sitting, even though the total page count approaches 600.
The plot, at times, felt like a RPG adventure, with the monstrous attacks, the importance of magical objects, but a really well-written, imaginative, and gripping adventure. Hint, I liked that element of the novel! I found a lot to like in The Starless Crown. I immediately fell in love with the immersive, appropriately detailed world-building, found the characters to be empathetic and fascinating, and found the plotting to mostly be breakneck. There were some slower patches of the novel that brought down things a bit, but those were few and far between. What I appreciated the most, though, was how much Rollins’s love for Epic Fantasy came through in the entirety of the novel. I got a sense he was having fun, and sometimes the best thing a writer can ... a bold, audacious, and fantastic way for James Rollins to carve a path back into Epic Fantasy. The novel and world hit all of the buttons for me, from an Epic Fantasy perspective. Though I wouldn’t say it is a fully Grimdark novel/world, it would definitely appeal to readers who enjoy Grimdark Fantasy. Highly recommended.
It’s a dutifully full-dress thing ... it assembles a varied fellowship; it brims with lore; it serves up a series of MacGuffins (including one on the very last page); it promises sequels. And it raises questions ... The point-of-view shifts are smoothly, convincingly done, and all the tricks Rollins learned from years of writing thrillers keep the plot moving briskly along even in what very much feels like a ground-clearing first volume. But that brings up the questions again, the foremost being: is this a triumphant return or a quasi-pastiche, or a bit of both? There’s certainly an uneven quality to the narrative tone, which runs from slangy thriller-speak...to almost a parody of the cod-medieval lingo that was bird-imprinted on the entire genre by JRR Tolkien ... Or could it be that none of this is really uneven at all? Could the contrast of dialogue styles be an intentional gambit to shake up the conventions so honored by Terry Brooks and company? Could all those familiar archetypes be clubbed together here in order to produce a comfortingly welcoming atmosphere for genre junkies, just like all the exotic locations and central-casting jet-set scientists in those airport thrillers? Could the book’s fairly flat narrative arc be designed to hook readers for an assembly-line of future volumes? Mayhap, dear reader. Mayhap.