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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 21 March 2014
Last year I was quite taken with Herald of the Storm, the first book in the Steelhaven trilogy, so I was very much looking forward to this second instalment called The Shattered Crown. I liked the setting, the tone of the first novel, and the fact that there were many different flavours of type of story in the book. On the other hand I had some difficulties with the pacing and some of the characters. I was hoping that Ford would improve on the points I found lacking and keep everything I liked. And he did, mostly.

While in the previous book the seven viewpoint characters each had their own story arc for the most part, which only overlapped some of the time, the events of said book have conspired to clump the viewpoints together in fewer storylines. This clustering of the different viewpoints created a clearer movement in the plot, allowing the pace to pick up more and the narrative feel less jumpy; even if we are head-hopping, we don't hop storylines as often, so it seems more of a continuous whole. The story arcs are now mainly divided between the palace, the Greencoats, the Tower of Magisters and the underworld of Steelhaven. There is one significant viewpoint added, which is that of Regulus, former chief of the Sho'tana, a Southern mountain tribe. His is the outsider's view and an interesting extension of our view of the world Ford's created and of Steelhaven.

The characters I had some trouble with last time, mostly were better in this book, but unfortunately there is also a character that became decidedly less enjoyable than last time. Whereas I thought Rag and River could have been easily been omitted from the previous book, this time around Rag was vital and I loved her story line. River, however, is still seemingly peripheral to the story, which really makes me wonder what his role will be next book. The character that really disappointed me though was Waylian. While I still enjoyed his storyline, I found him a little too "Why me?" at times, which became wearing. The way Merrick and Kaira's story developed was really enjoyable and given an interesting twist, especially when they form a close rapport with Janessa. I liked the questions of duty and loyalty their storyline posed, while still having some of the funniest dialogues in the story. Janessa fulfilled her potential this time around by grabbing her destiny by the horns and wrestling it in the direction she wants it to take. That isn't to say she necessarily succeeds, but she felt more active and in control in The Shattered Crown, even if she keeps swinging between competent ruler and uncertain adolescent. I loved the rapport Janessa develops with Kaira and the way she decides to swing her own sword literally. Nobul storyline is fantastic, and reveals his very dark and mysterious past. He also forms the link between the Sho'tana and the rest of Steelhaven in a way that was quite compelling.

We see far more palace intrigue this time between Janessa, Merrick, and Kaira and their storyline. I liked the different guard divisions and their rivalries, the Skyhelm Sentinels, who provide the monarch's personal guard, and the Order of the Blood Knights, who are elite fighters. The legendary Wyvern Guard were kick-ass and I can't wait to see what happens with their story in the next book. The setting is once again firmly focused on the city of Steelhaven, though we catch more glimpses of the rest of the world and learn more about the different countries and the world's history through Nobul and Regulus' stories.

One question I was left with is who is Gelredida? Why isn't she one of the council when she's obviously quite powerful and she bullies them around anyway? And what about Amon Tugha, who and more importantly what is he, beyond the leader of Steelhaven's enemy? Is he a magic user too? There's much to be answered in the next book, not least whether there will be a city of Steelhaven at the end of it. The Shattered Crown is a strong second entry in the Steelhaven series and I can't wait for the conclusion of the tale.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A fantasy novel. Second in a trilogy. That began with Herald of the Storm (Steelhaven: Book One) (Steelhaven 1) All about the city of Steelhaven, which faces threats both military based and internal.

This volume runs for three hundred and ninety one pages. It's divided into fifty four chapters. Plus a prologue and an epilogue. The lack of anything much in the way of exposition as to what went before means it's not a good jumping on point. So new readers should start with book one.

Those who have read that, read on.

As with said first book, this one contains strong language and some very brutal moments of violence.

When we left the story at the end of book one, River and Waylian both had missions. Merrick and Kaira had new roles. As did Rag. Nobul was still with the Greencoats. Janessa has to face up to new responsibilities.

Once again, the story focuses on the group of viewpoint characters that were introduced at the start of the series, with a different one the subject of each chapter.

Although

[mild spoiler]

one of them barely features. And one is added to their ranks. Regulus, a warrior of the Zatani people from the south of the realm. Who has brought a group of warriors with him on a quest for great honour. The first couple of chapters to feature Regulus could seem like clichéd noble warrior savage moments, but there's one gloriously evocative bit of scenery in his first chapter. And then when you realise where his storyline might go he starts to grab.

Meanwhile, as the threat of invasion draws ever closer and turmoil grips the city, it's leaders face stark choices for he fight ahead. Many potential allies present themselves.

But who can Janessa trust?

This is as character driven as book one. And if you're reading this then you doubtless gave that volume five stars as well. So this is more of the same. And thus just as good. Steadily, all the storylines move along very nicely. Once again, the viewpoint characters do interact, often in ways you won't see coming.

There are some big surprises to be had. Some excellent developments. And once again, by the end all the characters are in a different place to where they were before. Unsure of where things will now lead them.

There are clearly a few surprises yet to come as well.

The prose is quality and there are a few little bits of description which really stand out in the way they add detail.

Every character does tend to have moments of that stern inner voice talking to them - in italics - which could get a bit overused as a writing device. But that's the only minor complaint about an excellent read which is just as good as book one was.

I look forward very much to book three.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 23 March 2014
I am afraid that volume 2 of the series did not work well for me, and was not as good as the first instalment, which itself was reasonably good but not original. The main item in favour of this book is the fast pace of the plot.

Even there, however, this is somewhat artificial, with the author managing to write some 391 pages without showing us once the fearsome invaders from the North who are expected any day but keep coming all through the book. This is a bit of a wasted opportunity and a pity. It also makes the story a bit inconsistent. By the end of Herald of the Storm, the northern invaders have vanquished. The king had been killed and his army shattered. Throughout this book, however, you get the distinct impression that the kingdom’s forces, while retreating to the capital, are still trying to stop the enemy, or at least fighting rear-guard actions. So, shattered or not so shattered? While this feature could have been intended to as a way to create suspense, the author has relied on it too much and it just did not work for me.

Another background feature that was largely missing was the defence of the capital city. I was expecting scenes of the walls and fortifications being repaired or strengthened. Convoys of supplies brought in by sea and land. The citizen militia would undergo hasty and summary weapon training. There is very little or even none of all that, with the story being mostly about the city’s criminal underworld (the Guild). Even the mercenaries who have supposedly flocked to the capital in search of employment are a rather pitiful lot and total just three companies and little over a hundred fighters altogether. In other words, certainly not enough to make a difference against the forty thousand enemies that are expected to besiege it. One hardly even sees why there should be any, given that the book keeps insisting that the city is doomed.

Apart from holes in the plot, and a plot that almost exclusively focuses on the interior enemies on the kingdom, there is also a bit of a problem with the characters. None are very original, from the young dissolute noble who has a big complex with overbearing daddy, to the young fat magician who keeps despising himself, to the fearless female bodyguard, full of self-righteousness. Then there is the veteran warrior who is a bit of a berserker, the young inexperienced queen and the super-assassin, her lover, who seems to come out straight from “Assassin Creed”. None of these characters are entirely credible and they are even annoying at times, especially those that tend to be self-conscious, self-centred and self-pitying. One point of note is the introduction of a handful of “beast warriors” who happen to be “goodies” but have trouble in getting their credentials recognised, largely because of their rather unsettling appearance.

There are a number of good scenes, with the prologue being one of them. There is plenty of action and quite a bit of interesting magic as well, to keep the reader of her/his toes. However, all of this felt artificial because, by the end of the book, nothing has fundamentally changed. The city is still just about to be besieged, with the northern invaders having (at last!) arrived. A few characters (one goodie and two or three baddies) have been killed off or killed each other, and that is about it. Two stars for a rather un-original filler.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I did really enjoy this book much more then the first entry in the trilogy [Herald Of The Storm] and was kept interested throughout thanks to he faster pacing, that I will happily buy the concluding entry into the trilogy myself rather then rely on Vine.

True; there are sometimes bog standard elements of the fantasy genre that occur in the plot, but the characters are strong enough that I don't mind. I also think the mix of fantasy, adventure and mystery elements in the plot are nicely balanced, and now I am eager to get to know the rest of the cast a bit more a we find out what happens next in the concluding trilogy entry.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Following on from his wonderful debut Herald of the Storm, Richard Ford continues his Steelhaven fantasy, with this, the second part of the series. This second volume is every bit as good as the first, opening with a murderous bang before continuing where the first book left off, picking up and running with every loose thread. The pace never slackens, the characters are beautifully crafted, wonderfully real. It ends nicely, satisfyingly, but with so much left unsaid, it has left me genuinely excited for the next book in this terrific series.
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VINE VOICEon 17 February 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Following on from the first of the trilogy “Herald Of The Storm” comes “The Shattered Crown “.
Steelhaven is soon to be besieged by a ravaging Khurta horde. The various occupants of the city have lot on their respective plates. But the danger is not only coming from outside the city’s towering walls. There is much to be wary of within Steelhaven itself.
Like the first novel in the trilogy “The Shattered Crown “has each chapter concentrate on a set of disparate characters that co-exist within the city. Certain characters inhabit the upper echelons of society while others inhabit the lower rungs , while others truly exist on the margins, members of secret cabals and religious cults.
Thus the queen of steel haven Janessa,s fate is tied in with her personal guards “The Sentinels” Merrick & Kaira along with a member of the secretive guild Rag , ex-soldier Nobul Jacks and the magister apprentice Waylian.
Again like the first novel in the tragedy There's nothing particularly original about Steelhaven itself, but as the entire novel is set in its murky streets, Ford has again managed to breathe life into something which could have become tedious quickly. Each of the characters are connected to Steelhaven in ways that go deeper than simply living there. By setting the entirety of the book in one city, Ford manages to tie the reader to its fate and invests it with a colour and personality that make it seem real. A couple of new charcters have been introduced while others have slipped into the background, but there is the promise of all their fates being resolved.
And like other contemporary fantasy writers like Joe Abercrombie Ford brings a vibrant contemporary edge to his writing with much breezy profanity ( anyone who quails at a fruity expletive better steer clear of Steelhaven ) and wince inducing violence.
For some reason I struggled to get into this second book but once I had once got my head around the , lets be honest , fairly simple central concept I thoroughly enjoyed “The Shattered Crown”. And it is all set up for an epic finale with the Khurta army massing on the dust ridden horizon.
I would not want to be there in person but I sure as hell want to find out what happens .
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VINE VOICEon 7 October 2015
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As the second in the series, this book really benefits from the situation and character introductions from the first book (which was laboured with one character, or one scene per chapter, so until around chapter 9 not-a-lot had happened). But this book starts with the flourish that the first part lacked, and straight away thrusts you into the turmoil of the kings death in battle.

Of course, when we had the first book last year, we had to wait for the story to evolve, and has the wait been worth it?... It certainly has! But I'm not dropping spoilers here, suffice to say the book delivered where I wanted it to.

Not since "Wheel of Time" have I had a high fantasy story make me track so many characters, but the plot fell together and the interweaving of the individual stories was very good, again chopped chapter by chapter so you were not thrown, except now at least the same place or people appeared one chapter to the next, rather than being as jumping as it was in the first book.

This is to be expected as the story starts to mature, and I think Mr Ford has made things march on perfectly here.
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VINE VOICEon 6 June 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having read Herald of the Storm earlier this year, I was hopeful that this book would be able to build on that solid start.

Once again, the author has managed to write something that is both engaging and enjoyable without necessarily simply resorting to genre cliches (although they are still here in number) Once again Ford has endeavoured to focus on character development to vaying degrees of success, and in so doing, removed the potential for token and generic characters whose main purpose is simply to further the plot.

His writing has also progressed, with a clear emphasis on description as a means to progress the storylines, as opposed to simply to show the depth of his vocabulary. Indeed, I think that Ford has managed to refine his writing to such an extent that this book feels nowhere nears as bloated as the first book, which is a welcome and much needed improvement.

These ensure that despite the descent into genre cliche, the book is still readable and definitely sets up what should be an interesting conclusion to the trilogy.
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VINE VOICEon 18 June 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Firstly, make sure you've read Book One (Herald of the Storm) or you will be totally lost.

Done? Ok. Well, rest assured Book Two resolves the cliffhangers from the first book, before ramping up the action quite considerably. Characters become more vividly drawn, the plot threads tighten and merge, before spinning off in unseen directions, motivations change, and blood flows. Plenty of blood. Meanwhile, the city of Steelhaven (the best character in the book) broods over all.

Ford is a good writer. Really good. The pacing of this book is better than the first, and the disparate storylines and viewpoints start to come together, sometimes in unexpected ways - it's a much easier book to follow, and all the better for it. I won't award 5 stars until I've read Book Three as I want to know that the promise building up in this book pays off in the next one, but suffice to say I WILL be picking up Book 3.
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on 1 October 2014
The second installment of a three or four installment series always seems to me to be the hardest. You need to build on the good premise and interesting character arcs developed in the first novel, expand the world building and bring in new elements all while setting up for the final chapter.

I'm pleased to say the Richard Ford has managed to most of those things very well. The action, complex characters and interesting conflagration of events are all here, just as his first novel. The author has interesting and funny internal monologues and some really top drawer dialogue.

Overall I think that 4.5* is fair, it is a great book in its own right but is just the merest distant short of the first novel but does set things up wonderfully for the next book.
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