I really, really wanted to love Crown of Secrets by Melanie Cellier, but in the end I landed on an “I liked it fine” rating of 3 stars on Goodreads.

There are quite a few things I liked about the story:

  1. The premise of the book is an interesting one – Princess Verene, born without magical ability but whose mother is one of the most magically gifted people in history, goes to magic school in another country, in an attempt to find a way to “forge ties” and unite the enemy nations.
  2. The magic system is an interesting one. In order to work magic, the mages “compose” the spells, and use strips of parchment to work the magic. It was a very interesting way to not just have people whipping out wands or muttering latin-sounding spells.
  3. The characters are interesting, and the author didn’t try to slam 92 side characters into the story – it was easy to get to know the characters and what their end-games might be.
  4. There’s still potential here…

That said, there were some things I did NOT enjoy:

  1. (This might be my fault, but…) Because this is apparently a sequel series to The Spoken Mage series there was quite a bit of info-dumping that took place in this one. I understand the need, when you write a companion series, but given that I didn’t feel the same frustration when reading the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo I feel like there had to be a more graceful way to do it with Crown of Secrets.
  2. The main male character is set up through the first ⅔ of the book to be incredibly controlled and patient and then it’s like he throws that all out of the window in the last ⅓ of the book. I get that she intended to set up some conflict for the rest of the series, but it ended up feeling out-of-character.
  3. SHOW me what is happening, don’t tell me. There were so many times where a little bit of real-time exposition could have improved my reading experience, but instead we were handed some internal monologue from Verene, rather than us going through the events with her.

All-in-all, it was fine – but it was the characters that kept me engaged and not really the story. I will likely continue on to the second in the series to see if things pick up now that the world is pretty much built, but this one didn’t quite hit the points I was hoping for given how beautiful the cover is and how interesting the plot summary sounded.

What do you do when the first book of a series is a little disappointing? What’s your method of deciding whether or not to continue with a series when you’re underwhelmed with the first book? Let me know if the comments, below.

Image of old letter by Vintage RS on Stocksnap


  • That’s a drag. You mention Bardugo…I read the first Shadow and Bone book and didn’t continue. I don’t have specific critiques. But it didn’t draw me in enough to commit to the series.

    • Right – because even if a book isn’t hitting all of your buttons you may at least be interested enough to want to know what’s going to happen. I’m somewhere in the hazy land of “I kiiiind of want to know?” but not quite enough to go hunting for the 2nd book on this one.

      (Also – if you ever want to give Six of Crows a try I promise it doesn’t matter if you’ve read Shadow and Bone, and she doesn’t kill you with exposition about why you should have LOL)

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