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Reviewed by Aimee Carol Dixon for Readers' Favorite
Ending the war is one thing. Becoming queen is another affair entirely. Kitlyn and Oona have come a long way from the young women who successfully ended the war between Lucernia and Evermoor, but their fight is far from over. With the revelation of King Talomir's deception comes a crisis of faith among the people of Lucernia. Between that broken trust, the weakening belief in their god of truth and purity, and the shocking love their princess has for another woman that many still cannot accept, Lucernia is heading quickly for a costly reckoning. Following the advice of her advisors but also her heart, Kitlyn introduces few yet crucial changes to her kingdom upon her coronation. The acceptance of Tenebrea coupled with the successful completion of their marriage rites gain Kitlyn and Oona a much-needed reprieve and a great deal of acceptance from the people they now rule over. And just in time, as Kitlyn and Oona will have to rely upon all of their strength, wits, and magic to survive when a new threat emerges to prey upon the people of Lucernia and Evermoor alike. Led by Oona's faith to the Underholm, what Kitlyn and Oona discover in the dark recesses of the earth will expose secrets long hidden and show just how little the citizens of both kingdoms know about their past. The Cursed Crown, sequel to Matthew S. Cox's The Eldritch Heart, will leave fans guessing until the very end.
The pacing is superb, each event coming along according to its nature, making the entire novel something pleasantly organic. There is always a little concern when going into a sequel; are the characters going to feel the same, will the world be familiar, how much recapping is necessary for the next installment? All these fears and more are set aside within the first few pages of The Cursed Crown. The clear dichotomy of the two main characters holds true in the sequel and gives credence to both sides. Oona grieves for the man she knew as her father and holds Kitlyn’s suffering above all. Kitlyn feels nothing for the man she now knows as her father and finds anger the most ready emotion, but on the behalf of the people of Evermoor and Lucernia who were killed and betrayed by his greed-fueled actions rather than his actions against her personally.
Cox's skill in showcasing each woman's strengths as a queen and as a maturing young woman is paired poignantly with their struggles to return peace to their struggling kingdom, the flip between perspectives actually enhancing the story, with Oona and Kitlyn's very different personalities pulling out details the other wouldn't have if their chapters were switched. Characters old and new populate the unfurling world of The Cursed Crown, packed with the clever and often hilarious dialogue that made The Eldritch Heart so enjoyable. It isn't all political intrigue and games, however. The Cursed Crown tracks through some heavy topics, including suicide, pride, religious differences, and self-sacrifice. The end result is a novel I cannot recommend strongly enough.