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Dragon Spirits #1

The Iron Crown

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Fenn’s first and only memory is finding himself in the middle of a forest, face to face with a dragon spirit mocking him, all knowledge gone apart from his own name.

Lost and confused, his only hope for answers is Calidra—a woman living on the edge of the world with her partner. Forced to return home when her father dies, Calidra has put off facing her estranged mother for seven years, and she begrudgingly helps Fenn, forging papers for him so he can avoid the Queen’s Inquisitors.

But her mother is the least of her worries when they discover an ancient enemy is rising again. It should be impossible with the Iron Crown in power—and Fenn is terrified he might unwittingly be playing a part in the war’s resurgence.

Surrounded by vengeful spirits and powerful magic, Fenn’s desperate attempt to find his way home might well alter the fate of Tassar, and every power in it.

A new high fantasy series bursts into life with the DRAGON SPIRITS who reign supreme in the magic-drenched world of Tassar.

Finalist in SPFBO7

568 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 28, 2021

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About the author

L.L. MacRae

7 books345 followers
Hello fellow book dragon! Thank you for visiting my author page. :)

My name is Lauren, I'm a fantasy author of character-driven stories and epic adventure. My books usually contain dragons, bucket-loads of magic, and are typically fun and hopeful.

I have a degree in Psychology and a fascination with MBTI (I'm an INFJ!). I'm a petrol head and thalassophile, and adore castles, sunshine, and dragons. I've always lost myself in fantasy worlds, and it's been an incredible achievement to publish my own.

If you send a friend request and we don't have any similar interests or books in common, I'll probably decline. Feel free to follow me, though.

Signed copies of The Iron Crown are now available from The Broken Binding book shop! https://www.thebrokenbinding.co.uk/pr...

Check out my website for signed paperbacks, exclusive bookswag, and to find out more about my writing world: www.llmacrae.com

Check out my Patreon for early access, behind-the-scenes content, and an exclusive story about phoenixes in a blighted world: https://www.patreon.com/llmacrae

I've previously published under the name L.L. McNeil (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show...)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 145 reviews
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 5 books412 followers
November 14, 2022
My complete review is published at Grimdark Magazine.

The Iron Crown by L.L. MacRae is Book 1 in the Dragon Spirits series and a finalist in Mark Lawrence’s 7th Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO7). In this epic, character-driven novel, MacRae excels at gradually revealing layers of gray morality hidden beneath the surface of what initially seems like a traditional high fantasy.

The Iron Crown is told from the perspective of four principal characters. The novel opens with Fenn, who awakens from an almost too-real nightmare to find his memories gone and his body washed up on the remote Isle of Salt. Fenn is found by Calidra and her partner, Jisyel, who nurture him back to health despite Calidra’s apprehension. We learn that Fenn’s amnesia is the result of being touched by the Myr, an ancient magical enemy who have returned to wreak destruction on the Realm of Tassar.

Can the seemingly innocent Fenn be trusted if he has been cursed by the shadowy Myr and requires their help to restore his memories?

Calidra is a natural pessimist who sees the worst in others. She has been estranged from her noble family for several years but has finally decided to return home for her father’s funeral. Calidra’s hostility toward others is a diluted version of the vitriol exhibited by her mother. But Calidra’s temper is softened by her loving, supportive relationship with Jisyel. The relationship between these two young women is one of the highlights of the book.

The remaining point-of-view characters are Torsten, the master inquisitor who will go to any length to suppress talk of the Myr, and Apollo, a thief who has been pardoned for his past crimes but might not have actually performed his required penance. The Iron Crown also features an outstanding cast of supporting characters, including Selys, a priestess with possibly competing loyalties, and Varlot, a former soldier and current drunken gambler, who has committed unspeakable acts of violence in his past life. Throughout the novel, L.L. MacRae carefully weaves the threads of gray morality with each of these characters, which darken as the story progresses.

The Myr are a well-crafted enemy, shrouded in enough mystery to maintain a satisfying level of intrigue throughout the book. They had supposedly been defeated five years prior to the events of The Iron Crown, but their shadowy forms have returned. Fenn discovers that he is one of many Myr-touched souls, whose amnesia is followed by severe physical pain and an untimely death.

The Iron Crown is a showcase for L.L. MacRae’s outstanding worldbuilding. I especially love it when fantasy authors allow their characters to explore the full world, seeing the different terrains and traveling across various countries. An early scene where Calidra flies atop a griffin over her homeland of Bragalia nearly took my breath away with its beautiful imagery.

The griffins in The Iron Crown are not mere beasts: they are hyperintelligent talking creatures who induce awe in people who witness them. The Iron Crown also features dragons aplenty, or dragon spirits, to be more precise. The dragon spirits form organically in the presence of forests, bodies of water, etc., with the goal of protecting their natural realms. Their powers are channeled through the humans who bond with them, creating a symbiotic relationship. The most powerful of the dragon spirits is Toriaken, the spirit of iron, who is bonded to Queen Surayo and is the power behind the Iron Crown. Toriaken appears in breathtaking fashion as a veritable mountain of iron.

MacRae’s writing is fantastic throughout the 563 pages of The Iron Crown. Her pacing is generally good, although the plot is a bit slow in the first part of the book. MacRae introduces new characters and elements of worldbuilding in a natural and accessible fashion. Despite the vastness of the world that she has created, I never felt overwhelmed by the rate at which information was being provided. Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in the Realm of Tassar and the bonds that I developed with this compelling cast of characters. I look forward to following up with Book 2 of the series, The Shadow Gate.
Profile Image for Library of a Viking.
156 reviews2,402 followers
May 2, 2022

MacRae was kind enough to send me a signed copy of The Iron Crown a year ago, and the book has just been sitting on my shelf for way too long. I finally got in the mood for it and picked it up, and all I can say is...WOW. I definitely should have picked up this book earlier because this was a fantastic read!

The Iron Crown is set in the Realm of Tassar, which has had peace for five years. However, suddenly people with no memories, called Lost Souls, start showing up everywhere across the land. Moreover, there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Myr are about to come back with a vengeance. The Iron Crown follows Fenn as he wakes up, lost and confused and with no memories. As Fenn tries to figure out where and who he is, he meets Calidra. Suddenly, Calidra and Fenn are thrust into an adventure which will change everything.

There are so many aspects of this book that worked so well for me! Firstly, MacRae’s writing is accessible and flows well, making this a fast-paced read. This book is over 550+ pages, but it did not feel long! The pace is fantastic, and MacRae does a phenomenal job continuously introducing new characters, plot elements and the world, which made me feel so immersed in this story!

I also have to talk about MacRae’s take on dragons! MacRae has crafted a world where the dragons are spirits or Gods who can provide blessings and curses. For example, The Iron Crown (the queen) is blessed by a spirit dragon which has granted her a vast amount of power and strength. I have never seen the blend of spirits and dragons in a fantasy book before, which felt unique and fresh.

Moreover, MacRae has crafted some incredibly compelling characters. I loved getting to know Fenn, Calidra, Jisyel and Apollo, who have different backgrounds and motivations. Most of the characters in this story are complex, and some are morally grey. Consequently, The Iron Crown has one of my favourite tropes – found family!

However, there I have some very minor criticisms. Firstly, the ending felt a bit undeserved. It felt a bit convenient how some characters ended up meeting again and how some of the plotlines got intertwined. Considering how big this world is, it didn’t feel that realistic how these characters ended up meeting. Secondly, I wished that we got more insights into this world. It feels like there is so much more to learn and explore in this world. Hopefully, MacRae will flesh out the world even more in book 2. Consequently, this story is very character-driven. If you are a reader who prefers having the plot at the forefront, then you won’t find it here.

You can also read a prequel novella, The Citrine Key, for free on MacRae’s website. Having read both the novella and The Iron Crown, I would suggest reading the novella first. However, you can read the novella whenever you like.

It is difficult to give this book a star rating. If only considering my enjoyment of reading this book, it would be a solid 5 /5, but my more objective rating would probably be 4.5. No matter what, please pick up this book. The Iron Crown is a riveting, epic fantasy story with dragons and compelling characters. The Iron Crown is a hidden gem that deserves so much more love! I can’t wait for the sequel!

A special thanks to L. L. MacRae for sending me a physical copy!

Thanks to my Patreons Erin, Blake, Mel and DentTheArtair.
Profile Image for Nicole.
732 reviews1,838 followers
October 29, 2021
3.5 stars

I read this book as a judge for the SPFBO7. This review reflects my personal opinion only.

The Iron Crown is the first book in a self-published fantasy trilogy called the Dragon Spirits. It was also my favorite book in the books assigned to our team, it was obvious how much work McRae put into writing this book and it showed. I wish her the best in her writing career because she has a solid writing style.

The story is set in a world where dragon spirits enjoy great powers in their domains. They are attached to a specific place/items/etc. like lakes, iron, and forests. They often have a priesthood and they can curse or bless people. Five years ago, a terrible war broke but the queen of the Iron Crown was able to defeat the evil creatures, the Myr, and promised her people peace and prosperity for long years. However, in this book, we discover soon enough that the threat of the Myr is looming again on the horizon and they aren’t gone for good. People who have lost their memory -the “lost souls”- are turning up all around the continent and more bizarre things are happening.

The book is divided into three parts and each chapter is told from a character’s PoV. We follow several characters through the book:
➺ Fenn: he’s a lost soul who finds himself in the Isle of Salt. He’s determined to find out his identity and restore his memories no matter what’s the cost.
➺ Calidra: she’s the second main character. She’s forced to leave her home for several years now, the Isle of Salt, to attend her father’s funeral in Bagalia. She’s reserved and doesn’t trust anyone but would do anything to her partner -Jisyel.
➺ Torsten: an inquisitor for the Iron Crown, he’s cruel and hiding his own secrets. He tortures people in ways even the queen wouldn’t approve of. He’s also very self-righteous with personal motivations. Gladly, we only had chapters from his perspective in the first part.
➺ Apollo: probably my favorite character, his chapters were the most interesting characterisation-wise. He’s an ex-thief who put his old life behind to start a family whom he deeply loved. However, little does he know the cost of his freedom. We meet in him in part 2 and the story automatically improved once he was introduced.

Three other characters get considerable page time as well:
Jisyel: Calidra’s partner. She’s kind and in a lot of ways the opposite of Calidra. She’s been cursed by a dragon spirit and cannot feel anything physical such as pain, smell, taste or touch, or even cold or hot weather. She can get injured and not know because of this curse.
Varlot, a war veteran who spends his life now drinking. One of my least favorite characters.
A priestess who joins them in this journey (she’s one of the better so I won’t say more about her).

I usually avoid rewriting summaries because Goodreads’ are always better than mine but I am always truthful in my reviews so I’ll outright say it. Based on the premise, this book isn’t something I would’ve read if it wasn’t for the SPFBO. It just didn’t appeal to me. And while I enjoyed this book and certainly don’t regret reading it, I have to say. If the book doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you’ll rate it 3 stars at best. To really like this book, the premise with dragon spirits and lost souls and all that needs to be appealing to you.

There was a lot of traveling in this book so it was nice to have maps (definitely a plus for the book). I can see why some might consider it as an adventure because, in many ways, it is. We got to discover with Fenn different places in Etrovia (the continent). Another strength of the book is that we never had this info-dumping. More information about the world was revealed as the plot progressed. It was also partially thanks to Fenn’s loss of memory. We learned about the world with him. The writing was good with a few typos that can be fixed with another edit. But all in, this book is well-written for a self-published book.

I started this book towards the end of August and I had to stop reading it repeatedly since I had more urgent books to read (or welp, books I’m feeling more like reading). It took me over a month to read and my main problem was with the first part. The story dragged, while stuff happened, they were not interesting. I wasn’t interested in the story nor in what was happening to our MCs. I stopped at every chapter before Torsten’s PoV because disliked him immensely and couldn’t remotely care about his whereabouts. I do realise they were important to the story and luckily, he didn’t have any more chapters after Part 1 but I still struggled reading that part.

Other than the pace, I didn’t connect with the characters nor was able to relate to them. I didn’t feel a depth to their characterization and Calidra/Jisyel appeared to me often as character tropes. I also couldn’t understand Fenn’s motives especially towards the end. While I am trying to keep this review spoiler-free, this point annoyed enough to mention it.

While the present world-building was explained well enough, I wish we learned more about the ancient history of the world. Also, if we had more of Apollo. He was the best character in the book, honestly. Another thing I can criticize in this book is that there were no shocking revelations nor strong plot twists. I always expect this genre to deliver a strong climax by the end and while here certainly a lot more happened in the third Part, I wanted to be surprised. It also left me curious enough to want to know what will happen in the second book but I doubt I’ll be reading it.

I don’t want to sound too harsh but I believe my experience reading this book would’ve improved immensely if I found the premise intriguing, as I’ve mentioned. That’s why I do recommend you read it before starting this book. I still enjoyed reading the book, part 3 the most, except for Fenn’s final chapter or two (when he got on my nerves). I rated it 3.5 stars is because I know how difficult it is to self-publish a book and yet deliver such good quality. I wish MacRae the best of luck in her writing career, she has the talent.

Profile Image for Vaishali • [V.L. Book Reviews] .
274 reviews172 followers
January 8, 2022
R A T I N G: 3.5 stars to The Iron Crown ★ ★ ★

If she didn't know any better, she'd have thought they were hills or mountains. They were dark, shadow-like, and growing as they came closer. They were coming from the south, lit up by the slowly rising sun, and it was in this flash of yellow-orange light that Calidra could tell the shapes were not features of some distant landscape. They were creatures. Living creatures of pure magic.'

In other places across the world, gold, silver, and gemstones would lavishly decorate the rooms and corridors in a blatant display of wealth. Here, iron ruled. It was everywhere, from the swords the soldiers carried, to ornamental trinkets dotted in every room. Each and every place could be imbued with Toriaken's strength in a heartbeat. While some people might see the grey of iron as bland, even distasteful, they were walking down the literal jaws of the dragon.

L.L. MacRae's The Iron Crown, series debut to the Dragon Spirits series cuts across that age old exploit of adventurous misadventure on a scale that only be characterised as epic and chronicled as expansive. It's big. It's vast. It's talented. And shifted away from a traditional telling, MacRae freshens up this character driven peregrination with a fantastical spritz that gives presence to the ethereal dragon. The chilling darkness of an invading enemy against the fire-breathing champions of Tassar is what The Iron Crown sets the scene for. With talking creatures and sharp lifeforms, an amnesiac with the weight of deciding how his finite time is spent, uncertainty pressing on his chaperones’ steps, a footslog that casts across land, life and sea, scrapes with an enemy and a returning darkness prime this roomy landscape.

A diverse selection of characters inhabit the broad territory of Tassar, and firstly introduced is one of the biggest curiosities. The story finds fumbling Fenn with nothing to his memory but his name. Without even a history to his name, no memory to his mind. What is a man without his memory, can he be trusted, should he be trusted, is he a casualty of something much bigger, an underdog like his fellow lost souls, or somebody to rightly hold suspicion against? Without certainty we can claim that the world is a labyrinthine warren without reference and recall, and without knowing his place within it, Fenn is as unenlightened as a newborn fawn. With very few options but to follow, he puts his faith in an assortment of people who'd rather avoid him than help him out of his situation. A 'lost soul' he is indeed, only one who longs to be found.

And while vulnerability is known to endear, Calidra Vantonen is quicker to suggest doubt and assume suspicion than to believe in the unassuming, which remains unchanged when she discovers a soaked, sodden on-the-verge-of-collapse Fenn. While Fenn's journey is easily the most unknown, a letter from her remaining family takes Calidra from a removed island to a home she never dreamed of returning to. Years apart and leagues apart, Calidra hopes to rebuild bridges burned by her mother's cold fire, a childhood spent under her formidable thumb. Sober, emotionally hidden, seemingly self-serving and none too trusting, this trek home opens Calidra up to a lavish past of control and burnt, still-burning feelings where we see a different side to a girl who'd have palmed off a lost soul without thrice a thought.

As Fenn is convinced of nothing but his memory loss, Calidra is convinced of little else but her found family and love for her brighter opposite, Jisyel. Near or apart, they’re never far from the other’s mind. But not even a day later do this threesome travel to the mainland are they embroiled in a spate of certain dangers, with Fenn garnering the attention of the Master Inquisitor as that first step introduces them to a world of growing darkness. Lost souls are being secured for interrogation by the Iron Crown, chilling shadow creatures are terrorising mainlanders and beliefs that Tassar's bygone enemy is ascending. From the initial intimately contained character aims, as each of the central cast push their way through the problems that plague them, so does the plot snowball into something much bigger.

For Calidra, that's facing what's left of her estranged family. For Jisyel it's the hope of reversing a curse. For Fenn, it's the determination and desperation of recovering what was taken from him. And while this begins as little more than a vague hodgepodge of interpersonal possibly’s, MacRae's world is a steadily opened up bloom but one that ripples at the edges with a swirling smog, and not once did I feel flooded with an influx of information. The author tactfully takes us on a long trek, supplying us with need to know details as questioned and encountered with the coming developments. There's certainly a lot going on. From the plot, the subplots, the political maneuverings, the layered society, the growing cast, their might, movements and motivations stirs up a rolling and spacious sweep. The size is considerably ‘Maas’ (the only similarity, just to mention), but even with a solid 550+ pages of pure fantasy, I felt comfortably unbothered without feeling full to bursting with a scope crammed full with a fool's treasure.

From the callous Master Inquisitor Torsten with a fiendish touch who weaponises his authority, desires the upper hand with all that unsettles him, and punishes with perhaps the repressed complex of someone who was once dominated; his level-headed colleague Nadja, who, while duty-bound to her Queen has a more humanised reasonability that puts her apart from her Inquisitor ilk. The temperamental, war-ravaged Varlot who fell from his rank as the Porsenthian General and sorries over his losses like man with nowhere to go; interesting Apollo, a marked criminal turned family man who is far from blameless in the Crown’s eyes, his quiet, respectable life upturned as he's forced towards the centre of the conflict and Selys, a calm controlled and mission-focussed priestess with a rogue edge. The ensemble is eclectic, and while not every character is allotted a POV, it’s the multiple perspective approach that’s nothing short of complimentary to a sweeping high fantasy that spans Tassar’s empire.

Then we have other characters such as Furyn Vantonen, a flush Lady of the Manor who drove Calidra away and saw her as little more than a potential inheritor of their land and title, guilty of class bigotry despite once living within the lower echelons of society; Jisyel, Calidra's lover, quick to look up and spin positivity into any situation. And then we have Queen Surayo, The Iron conqueror, who’s role in this story is a bit more obscure, just as her powers are. Even with Fenn at the biggest disadvantage, little sense of where to go except to follow on the heels of his travelling companions, even as he gingerly develops a determinism that encourages a desire to see him thrive and discover his history, the author manages to excellently maintain a healthy and lingering suspicion of everybody. Whether tainted or unpolluted, we never quite know who’s intent might bend, or where their desires might take them.

The uncomplicated prose and straightforward storytelling smoothly compliments the style of exploratory and remedying escapade, one which steadily scans the horizon and the landscape, as curiosity and mystery circle as a mist. From expansions of land, large bodies of sea, travelling through shifting weather and changing locale, fresh off the sea from Ballowtown to places and palaces and beyond, to unfamiliar landmarks that mark the great, grand dragon spirits of Tassar, the odyssey eats up a solid chunk of the land. And if I'm not mistaken delivers a setting not even fully travelled. Admittedly, I’ve read a total of one book that explores any style of dragon lore but the image that conceptualises MacRae’s dragon spirits is brilliantly inspired.

I often likened these shifting, shrinking and rising reptilian deities born from land, element and life to ethereal mother hens who safeguard their respective territories. Where the Myr are icy hauntings and cold death, the dragon spirits are unforgiving protectors of their natural element, even as they are the very thing they protect, the voice of their element, not disparate from that which they protect. The magic is interesting. Like ethereal echoes, with and without form, they certainly are the guardians of Tassar, even as they toil away with its people. The author plays with the idea of this mythical, larger than life life-form and grants them the role of the supreme, revered and feared. From the enfeebled spirit of Miroth to the powerful Toriaken, idolised enough that his Queen’s palace is an honorific shrine to her iron ally, the spirits were perhaps the most fascinating part of the story. Since the author has entitled her series after them, they must be elemental in what will most likely follow an escalating war.

As soon as a I received my ARC copy of The Iron Crown, I planned to squirrel away some time late into the year to sit down and dip my toes into the work of an author that I’ve long since been curious about. I’d heard encouraging things about this series starter so I Immediately donned my hopeful hat. Aside from repeated character thoughts and drawn out sentiments, a lack of depth where depth was needed, with some misspellings scattered throughout, technically speaking, there’s little I could fault about this fantasy novel. My struggle with this read stemmed chiefly from a feelings perspective because I really struggled to form a connection with what I was reading. It took me a solid third of the book before I felt some level of traction or interest in the quest of the main characters. I had genuine doubts that I’d find the connection I was looking for. As curious as I was, I realised that this was perhaps a book that I wouldn't have selected had it not happened upon me in the form of a request. As talented as it is, I struggled with a lack of appeal.

Fantasy was the genre that turned me from an unassuming heathen to a true and tested book lover so I’m always delighted to see what the Indie published community has to offer when I’m not shoulders-deep into my next romance. Despite taking me a long while to find some interest between the pages, I did gradually find myself wanting to know more and more about Fenn and what would become of him. If not superbly reeled in from the offset, and despite not feeling particularly attached to any one character, I observed and overlooked more than I felt bound by a keen interest. But as mentioned, the writing is wonderfully reader friendly and yet the unburdened prose stretches the senses with every new place, person and creature to see. Action scenes are something of a seventh heaven for me so I was happy to see some small skirmishes padded into story that lead up to a few bigger battle scenes. They introduce the Myr as much as they bring the advancing chaos into focus. Very exciting!

I’d describe the plot as an overarching curiosity rather than a minefield of surprises. The Iron Crown doesn’t just wear a gorgeous cover, It holds within a fantasy with classic textures and original strokes. It’s a crossing of the unknown in a world believed to have safely done away with their ancient enemy. Fenn gradually, and through effort and danger, learns about the empire, the Crown and the world of Tassar. Fenn, Calidra, Varlot, Jisyel and Selys; a genial, merry band of travelling companions they are not, always hovering on precipice of something happening to them, a remark away from falling apart as they embark on a hopeful footslog through Tassar’s mainland. The answers aren’t simple, darkness is flooding, darker times are beginning to once again lord over Tassar, steadily brewing in a cauldron well on its way to erupting. This first installment steadily stretched its limbs with grace, creativity and lucid prose. Fantasy lovers will enjoy the thick plot, the quizzical setting and the awaiting answers.

A BIG thank you to the author for sending over a copy of The Iron Crown in exchange for an honest review!

C O N T E N T_W A R N I N G: Describes gory injuries. Violence. Mentions torture/sometimes describes it. A few f bombs.


Visit my blog for more reviews: V.L. Book Reviews
T W I T T E R: @TheVicarious1
I N S T A G R A M: @Vicarious.Hearts

Profile Image for Hamad.
1,012 reviews1,333 followers
October 30, 2021
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me

Read this as a guest judge (With FanFiAddict) for SPFBO 7.

Since the cat is out of the bag now, I read this one for SPFBO 7 and it is one of our semi-finalists for the competition. However, this is my personal review and my rating and does not reflect the final competition rating!

I was seeing the book getting some attention before the competition started and so I was excited when I got to read it too. I initially thought it was the author’s debut but apparently MacRae has many other books under another pen name! I initially thought the cover was good but when I saw the cover of The Citrine Key, I had more appreciation for this cover as they follow the same theme and complement each other!

The writing is very smooth and easy to follow, It shows that the author has experience and it was the reason which made me dig around to see if it was really a debut or not. The book is thick -568 Pages according to GR- but I did not feel that while reading because it was an enjoyable read. The story is told through multiple POVs but uses the third person POV which was a good choice as it prevented mixing the voices of the characters together! Also a small detail I liked was the title of the chapters, I love when authors do that.

There are many characters in the book and as mentioned above we move between them. Fenn awakes on an island not remembering anything and is quickly provided help by Calidra and Jisyel. I think it was smart using the memory loss trope to explain the world to the readers. Calidra has problems of her own specially when it comes to her family, her father dies at the beginning of the book, her sister has disappeared many years ago and her relation with her mother is not the best which makes her character understandable, I mean she’s still a good person and we can see that all the time but let’s say that her circumstances made her a tough person! Jisyel is kind of the opposite because she is very trusting and always see the good in people. She is cursed by one of the dragons and doesn’t have feelings which was intersting! We also have the POV of the Inquisitor Torsten who works for the queen and is kind of morally grey! I really enjoyed his chapters. Apollo is introduced later but he also was one of my favorite characters.

I should also say that this book has Dragons!! And the funny thing is that they were there and they were unique and very intriguing. They are like Gods/ Spirits each in charge of something different and they can both bless or curse people. After many big titles with Dragons in their titles and covers failed to deliver the dragons, I thought this was a very nice surprise as I thought it would be the same here.

The world-building and magic systems were interesting too, I think they have potential and we haven’t seen the best part of them yet but it is only book one so I hope the rest of the series does meet these expectations. The pacing is best at the end because it was addicting and hard to put down! My only criticism is that somewhere in the middle, I thought the story slowed down and I was just a tiny bit starting to get bored but that was soon fixed and the story took off again!

Summary: I really enjoyed the story and more than once I thought the author made smart choices! The writing is professional and smooth, the characters were three dimensional and I did care about them. The world-building and magic both have potential and the pacing is mostly good. For the criticism part, I wanted a faster pacing somewhere in the middle and I had some higher expectations of some parts! Overall, a very satisfying read and deserves a solid 4 stars rating!
Profile Image for Michael.
268 reviews75 followers
April 29, 2022
I think after reading the novella (The Citrine Key) this series has great potential. This book enlarges on those events and introduces us to the author's world of The Iron Crown.

It has some light LGTBQ+ stuff.

If I was being picky I would say that the main characters felt rather younger than they were actually being portrayed. All in all though I thought this was a very promising start to a series and I look forward to reading more of her work.

The paperback is available in signed bookplate format from The Broken Binding £9.99 for those of you who collect paperbacks.

Profile Image for Esmay Rosalyne.
802 reviews
August 24, 2022
After seeing this book *everywhere* on my radar, I took it as a sign that I just had to pick it up. And oh boy, am I glad I did, because this was a great read and a really promising start to a new epic series.

The Iron Crown is a multiple POV epic fantasy set in the Realm of Tassar. This is a world dominated by powerful spirits, more specifically DRAGON spirits, who rule over seas, forests, islands or even raw materials such as iron.
The world has been at peace for 5 years under the rule of the Iron Crown, but now suddenly people without their memories (called Lost Souls) have started appearing all across the realm and an old enemy seems to be rising again.

The set-up for this story is really intriguing and I was immediately hooked within the first couple of chapters.
The first person we meet is Fenn, who is one of the Lost Souls, meaning that he remembers absolutely nothing about himself or the world except his own name. I’m always a fan of the amnesia trope if it’s handled well (which it was here), because it adds so much intrigue to a story. And I also really liked seeing the world through Fenn’s eyes, because everything felt just as new and wondrous to him as it did to me, so it was fun to explore the world along with him.
Fenn very quickly crosses paths with two of our other main characters, Calidra and her partner Jisyel. And what a delight those two were! While they are essentially polar opposites, they are absolutely one of the best and most supportive romantic couples I have read about in a long while. Give me all the queer joy!
We also get two additional POVs, one from Inquisitor Torsten (not a lovely guy, would not recommend crossing paths with him) and later on also Apollo Tamlin, the endearing thief who we met in the prequel novella The Citrine Key.

I really appreciated that all of these characters were complex and had their own internal struggles to deal with. MacRae really plays around with the concept of (gray) morality in this series and that’s something I always really enjoy.
Also, I would actually describe this as more of a character-driven story than anything else. It’s not the overarching plot involving the fate of the world that is the main focus here, but rather it's the personal journeys of these characters that drive the story forward. And I’m really impressed with how all their little ‘side quests’, if you will, ended up tying back into the main plot of the novel. It was so cool to slowly see everything unravel and click into place.

Now, all that said, I normally really enjoy such intimate and character-driven stories, but I personally didn’t quite connect to the characters on the level that I would’ve liked to. I only really latched onto Apollo, but he doesn’t enter the scene until Part Two.
However, these characters were perfectly enjoyable to follow and character connection is a very subjective thing anyway, so take my experience with a grain of salt!
Also, I did really like seeing the connections build between our main characters. It doesn’t take long for most of our characters to cross paths, which resulted in some wonderful found family vibes; something I’m always a big fan of!

The world itself is also absolutely amazing and entrancing. The concept of the dragon spirits is just so cool and really kept me glued to the page. I really liked that the world isn’t just an interesting background/setting for the story, but instead the magic and worldbuilding actually directly impact the plot and our characters. Everything was woven together so masterfully and I kept being surprised by the wonders of this world.
Also, MacRae not only delivers on the promise of dragons, but she also gives us talking griffins… like, what more could you ask for?
The only minor quibble I had is that while this world is extremely big and vast, yet our characters keep conveniently reuniting at exactly the right times, despite travelling all over the world.
That said, I was still along for the ride and it didn’t end up hindering my enjoyment all that much. Some of the reunions were actually quite touching and moved me more than I was expecting, so that was lovely.

All in all, I am very impressed by this first instalment in the Dragon Spirits series and I am eager to see what’s coming next.
MacRae’s writing is just a delight to read, so I will 100% be checking out more by her while I wait for book 2 in this series to be released.
Highly recommend this compelling adventure, I had an absolute blast!
Profile Image for Olivia.
709 reviews120 followers
June 1, 2021
I was lucky enough to read an advanced review copy of The Iron Crown, but I already bought the ebook because The Iron Crown is just THAT good. And of course, my review is honest.

The Iron Crown is the first book in a new epic fantasy series where the world, Tassar, is inhabited by powerful Dragon spirits. Some are mischievous, some are more powerful than others, some are not what I would call pleasant, others are benevolent. They can both bless and curse the humans in their domains.

The ancient evil looming at the edges of the empire isn't quite as ancient as in other epic fantasy novels. The war with the Myr ended five years ago, and now they're once again on the rise.

MacRae's writing is fantastic. She has a strong and distinct voice and the ability to seamlessly weave her world-building into action in order to avoid info dumps. Her world is rich, filled with neat little details, which show the author's vast imagination.

My favourite bits were Apollo (he's such a likeable character, I just want to keep him safe from all harm, my poor little ex-thief) and the relationship between Calidra and her partner, Jisyel.

As a lesbian who grew up in the early 90's, back when we seemingly didn't exist, at least not in popular entertainment, I never learned to seek out books with gay characters, but I love, love, love, whenever I find one by accident. While Calidra is seemingly the stronger one of the pair, Jisyel is there to support her whenever Calidra needs it the most (and vice versa). Supportive relationships always make my heart soar.

One of the prominent tropes in MacRae's books is the 'found family' one, which I adore. People who band together, help each other, trust each other and try their best is the kind of hopeful and positive content that I like to read.

I can't wait to dive deeper into this world and get to know these characters even better. If you're a fan of epic fantasy, and especially if you're a fan of dragons, give this one a go. I bet you won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
May 26, 2021
*I was sent this for free by the author in exchange for an honest review*

This is an epic fantasy series opener to what promises to be an intriguing world. The world is dominated by spirits, they are Dragon spirits and they rule over areas and materials such as lakes, seas, islands, iron and more. These spirits are powerful and they occasionally bless or curse the humans of the world. We follow various key spirits through their priests and priestesses, and also various humans who get mixed up in their whims.

There is also a lingering shadow over the world of the Myr, a race who terrorised and tortured many of the human inhabitants for the last age and who were suppressed and conquered by the current ruler, the Iron Queen. However, although 5 years of peace have come and gone it seems the Myr are once more on the rise and when people start to turn up with no memories of who they are and strange beings start to attack rumours spread.

We follow a group of characters, but the main ones included:
Fenn - a lost soul who can't recall anything about himself of how he was cursed by the Myr. He's awoken on an island with a dragon looming over him and he has no idea where he's from or who he is but he's rescued by some of the island's inhabitants.
Jisyel - one of the island's inhabitants who rescued Fenn and a caring but cursed human. She hasn't got the ability to feel which makes her vulnerable to physical injury, but she is trusting, loving and goes out of her way to help Fenn and others around her.
Calidra - lover for Jisyel although much less trusting. She had a harsh upbringing and is estranged from her family, but when news of her father's death comes to the island she's duty-bound to return and see her family again, along with accompanying Jisyel and Fenn to find out about his memories.
We also have an ex inquisitor and a priestess who join the party a little later.

Overall, the plot of this was a bit predictable at times, but I enjoyed the world and seeing the adventurers on their journey. They are determined to find out what is going on in the world and to help where possible, and it soon becomes clear their own small missions feed into the wider conflicts of the world.

I liked the magic and fact that the dragon spirits are a big part of the plot. It reminded me at times of the way Rachel Aaron does the DFZ books she writes, as there's also spirits bound to cities and more in those, but this feels more epic whilst that is more urban.

I would have liked a bit more time to get to know the characters a bit more personally. I feel as though a lot of them we see glimpses of their deeper personality, but I wanted to really feel like they were real and I didn't quite get that from this book, although I think as the series goes on they will build more and more.

In the end, a good story which kept me interested and excited throughout, even if it was a little bit lighter on the characterisation and the plot had some predictable elements. Certainly still a story I believe many would enjoy and a series I intend to continue with when the next comes out. 4*s
Profile Image for Daniel Jackson.
Author 2 books369 followers
October 21, 2021
I enjoyed this fantasy novel a lot. L.L. MacRae has created a fascinating world, and I was very intrigued by the concept of the dragon spirits and the Myr. The story features a likeable cast of characters, and I enjoyed following the development of the relationships between those characters as the tale unfolds. The plot is interesting, with a hint of mystery, and is told at a steady (rather than fast) pace.

Finally, L.L. MacRae writes with a very easy-to-read and clear prose, and this made the book a pleasure to read (I finished it in just over a week). I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of fantasy.

Profile Image for Andrews WizardlyReads.
186 reviews326 followers
February 27, 2022
What can I saw other than I loved this book! It really felt like a warm fantasy hug. The Iron Crown is a fantasy book that’s biggest strength is it’s characters.

All the characters Fenn, Apollo, Calidra, and Jisyel are so well written. They felt like real people that I was going on a journey with. By the end of the book I felt like I knew them.

Fenns characterization could have easily gone over the line but doesn’t. His circumstances could easily made him a poor me sort of character but instead he chooses to struggle and fight!

Calidra and Jisyel have easily one of the best relationships I have read!!!!! I LOVED IT. They are so different In personality, but they rely on each other and love with so much fervor. It was great getting to experience that level of devotion for someone else. 10/10 for me in the relationship department

I also loved the nature/ spirt magic with dragons aspect of this story. Was a lot of fun to interact with the dragons and the griffins. Yet again TOP marks 10/10

I cannot wait to see what the next book has In store. We still have mysteries to unravel and adversaries to overcome and of course an antagonist or two to humiliate.

The only con I had with this story is I wish I had read the Citrine Key novella first. Which is of course my fault lol.
Profile Image for Yvonne (The Coycaterpillar Reads).
686 reviews214 followers
August 6, 2021
The Iron crown is an ethereal vision of adventure and female badassery. Fenn has been cursed by the Myr. He can’t remember anything; He has no memories of where he’s come from, no memories of friends or family and he doesn’t know if he’s been put on this earth to do good or bad. The story takes off at such a pace I was quickly lacing up my Nikes and racing for the finish line.

“The Dragons are the guardians of tessar, spirits of life of guidance and protection. Without them we are nothing.”

The formula that the author concocted in order to produce this was both unique and special. MacRae knew the compounds that went into writing a spectacular fantasy, however she decided to rip up that rule book and write something that was altogether different, mystifying and getting involved in that story left the reader open mouthed and scatter brained. The author drew me in with her hypnotising narrative and the familiar landscape was suddenly turned into a snake infested pit.

The Iron Crown is primarily a story about family, political dalliances and trust. It is the first book in an epic new fantasy series that surrounds the world of Tassar and the mythical dragon spirits that inhabit there. I love this ingenious idea where some were mischievous, some were highly intelligent and some didn’t have good intentions at all. They have the ability to bless or curse. Can a dragon spirit bless Fenn and allow him to remember where he came from?

Story contains 3 POV’s, primarily from Fenn, Calidra and Apollo. The lesbian relationship between Calidra and Jisyel was  portrayed with tact and compassion. Calidra is the sensible one. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and longs for a relationship with her family. She is a sceptic borne from the hurt that she has experienced. Jisyel Is the easy going, live your life for the moment kind of girl. She is Calidra’s anchor.

Apollo is my favourite character. Call it charisma or maybe it’s just the mother in me wanting to keep him safe from all harm. An ex-thief with a roguish charm.

The Iron Crown and its characters are threatened by the uprising of the Myr. Thought to have been defeated five years ago and a peace treaty instilled by the queen, how is it possible that they could have regained their power so quickly?

The author held me captive, she threw me into the boot of her car and wouldn’t let me go until the end. Pure unadulterated magnetism. If you want a fresh take on fantasy then put this to the top of your TBR now. Go in with no inhibitions, no preconceived ideas and forget the rules. It will bend societal themes and it will leave you feeling empowered and wrought with emotion.

 The Iron Crown is a beguiling and dark tale with a mind-blowing narrative that makes you forget your own name.  It explores the darkest of emotions and translates into a magical joyride.
Profile Image for Traveling Cloak.
276 reviews39 followers
May 28, 2021

The Iron Crown is the first installment in L.L. MacRae’s new Dragon Spirits Trilogy. It is dubbed as an epic adventure fantasy, a categorization with which I wholeheartedly agree.

I have been reading a lot of what I call “adventure fantasy” lately, which is not by design but by happenstance. I do not mind, though, as I have said that adventure fantasy is my favorite. I love a whimsical storyline and characters experiencing different topographical and peoples. Stop me if you have heard this before.

And that leads us to The Iron Crown, because that is what this book is: an adventure novel written in the style of epic fantasy. As I was reading and planning the review in my head (as one does) I originally was going to take umbrage with the “epic” tag, because when the story starts it reads much more like classical fantasy to me. The narrative seems very linear and somewhat basic-ish. But, listen: it grows. The story expands from following the one set of characters trying to solve a couple of problems to something more complex. Soon enough there are multiple narratives and storylines that that are weaving in and out of each other, characters pairing and unpairing in surprising ways, and many conflicts in need of resolution. Okay, sold. Epic fantasy it is.

I am not just rambling here (promise 🤞), I am trying to make a point; which is, if you are looking for the quick and dirty of the thing, here it is: The Iron Crown is an enjoyable epic adventure fantasy. Full stop.

It is not my intention to stop there, though, as there is so much more to say. I like the character set, mostly because they are very diverse in function, some being trope-y while others are much more original. Calidra is an exiled princess, earnest in personality and estranged from her family. Fenn is the wanderer with the lost memory. Torsten is the Inquisitor with a chip on his shoulder. Those characters carry a certain amount of trope, but there are many originals in the story, as well. Jisyel is Calidra’s partner and brings softness, levity, and hope to the group. There are magical dragon spirits and priestesses that are connected to them. Apollo is my favorite character, I think. I am not going to tell you much about him, but he is so interesting. The more I write about this book the more I think it may be character-driven, or at least 50/50 with the plot. The character set brings so much to this story, that it is really difficult to overlook.

Props to MacRae on the writing, as well. I think the pacing was really great. One of the things I look for, especially in longer books (this comes in at almost 600 pages) is for mini-climaxes while building up the main conflict, and it is clear MacRae is a pro at that aspect of story building. It really kept my interest along the way while main story arc was developing. I really liked the way the story ended, too. It left a ton of intrigue for the next book.

There were a couple of small-ish cons that I noticed. The first was Fenn’s character development. He wakes up in a strange place with no memory, and part of the plot is him trying to get it back. That part was mostly fine, I do wish there was more to it, though. I kind of thought there was not a lot of intrigue along the way, and the way it was handled by Fenn and everyone around him just felt repetitive. I also wish we had gotten more history of this world in the story. We get snippets here and there, but not enough to create the kind of depth I was looking for. That may be coming in the next couple of books, so that is something to look for. These issues were not big enough to me to affect my overall enjoyment of the story very much, though.

All in all, I really like this book. With a great set of characters and an intriguing journey with all kinds of mayhem along the way, The Iron Crown really sets the tone for the rest of the Dragon Spirits trilogy. I am excited to see where it goes.
Profile Image for Joel.
33 reviews
July 18, 2022
4.5 Stars

A fantastic classic fantasy story is kicking off what is sure to be an epic trilogy. The sign of a new favorite book is one you devour over a short period, much like a hungry dragon I kept having to have more!

The Iron Crown is a muli POV fantasy set in the world of Tassar where the dragons are actual manifestations of their environment in spirit form and are worshipped as gods. So there is a sea dragon, forest dragons, lake dragons, arctic dragons, and so on. These dragons have the power to bless their followers with strength and some magic or curse them if they see fit.

The story starts with Fenn who wakes up drowning in a bog and has lost all his memories. Pretty crap Monday there Fenn not gonna lie. He quickly meets up with two of our other main characters Calidra and Jisyel. Calidra has been estranged from her family for the last several years but has received news of her father's passing so she must return home for the funeral. Jisyel is her partner and has been cursed by a local spirit for the last few years to be unable to feel anything for some past transgression.

One of the biggest strengths of this novel for me was the characterization. I fell in love with the main cast throughout the novel, some of the most likable characters I have read in a story in a while! Other strong elements are the plot and the pacing. The story is an interesting return of an ancient threat somehow related to our main character, interwoven with great character moments, a fantastic sense of place and environment, and a history we don't get all the pieces of in book one.

Finally, on the critical side, there are several spelling errors in the novel, simple typos, and one or two grammar mistakes. I am not a grammar nazi or anything but it can take you out of a story momentarily when you come across such things. However, they weren't egregious enough to impact my enjoyment of the story.

I can tell a lot of love and effort went into this and I think the series has massive potential to be an all-time favorite. The world is interesting, the characters are fantastic and the writing is engrossing. If you love found family and the quest tropes in your fantasy this one will be a big winner for you, I loved it!
Profile Image for FantasyBookNerd.
288 reviews62 followers
December 28, 2021
Ever since reading L. L. MacRae's novella, The Citrine Key, The Iron Crown has been on my must-read list. So, when I received a message from L.L. MacRae asking if I would like to receive an advanced reading copy of this book to review, I could not move my thumbs fast enough to type the reply that I most definitely would.

Upon starting the book, I knew I was drawn in, right from the very first page and as I got further into the story, I did not want to leave it alone for a minute and would find myself disappearing in various parts of the house with my Kindle in hand, trying to see what would happen next, trying to fit in another page, or another chapter on the sly.

You can always tell a good book when you can't wait to pick it up or you find yourself thinking about what is going to happen next. And that was the case with The Iron Crown.

The book immediately throws us into the story, as we meet Fenn, struggling for his life in the middle of a bog. However, he has no recollection of how he got there and no memories of the time before the incident in the bog. As he struggles for his life, rescue comes from an unlikely source, the Dragon Spirit, Hassen, the Spirit of Salt Ash.

At the end of the encounter, the dragon leaves him alive because he finds him 'interesting'. He subsequently meets Jisyel, (who has been cursed by Hassen) and her partner, Calidra. They take pity on his wretched state and take Fenn back to Jisyel's home, an inn owned by her grandmother.
In the meantime, Calidra has received an invite to return home to attend the funeral of her estranged father. And here we have the springboard for the adventure that is to come.

There are so many things to like about this book. If you like the found family trope in fantasy, then this is a book for you. L. L. Macrae does this so well. However, what I found interesting in L.L. MacRae's use of the found family aspect was, as more characters join the party, travelling across Bragalia to attend the funeral of Calidra's father, the relationships become more and more fractious, and there is always the underlying tension that the party will fall apart. Initially, the party is comprised of Fenn, Jisyel and Calidra, but this expands to include Delays, a priest of the Dragon Spirit Neros, and Varlot, a former general in the Posenthian Army.

The book is filled with memorable characters. Fenn is the obvious one that drives the story, The mystery of who he is, why he has lost his memories and how he can be cured is the main driver of the story, and I think that one of the appealing things about him is that due to the fact that he has lost his memory and all the aspects of himself, he is a blank slate. He is almost childlike in his innocence and sees the good in people regardless.

Similarly, with Jisyel. She has an extremely positive personality, despite the affliction of being cursed by Hassen and this counteracts Calidra’s sometimes untrusting and negative view of the world. Varlot, is another matter. I am not quite sure what is going on there. He regularly disappears in the book. Usually visiting taverns and gambling dens, for which he seems to have an addiction to. However, he has reasons, and it is the reason for his behaviour that made him a character that I wanted to get to know more.

When you look at the characters, they each have endearing qualities, and the more that you get to know them, the more you come to realise that they are broken through events in their life, and it is these experiences that draw each of them together.

The book is written with multiple points of view, and in all honesty, I couldn’t pick out my favorites, from Fenn to Torsten (an inquisitor in the Iron Queen’s army, who I haven’t discussed, but is an equally intriguing character). About halfway through the book, we are reintroduced to Apollo from The Citrine Key. I really liked Apollo in that novella, and it was brilliant to see how he had progressed from the original story. It was kind of like meeting an old friend.

Now enough of the characters. What you want to know about are the dragons. The Dragons are a prominent feature of the story and go through the book deigning to give the people of Lassar their gift or their curse. I liked the dragons in this book as they seemed didn’t fall into the westernised version of Dragons as terrible flying lizards that terrorise the countryside, eating goats, horses and the odd stray child. To me they seemed to fit more of a Chinese mythological representation of dragons, in that they are more like localised spirits that are attached to either certain areas of land, sea or elements. And these facets give them their own personalities. They each have their own quirks to them. In some instances, they can be fearsome, or wise. At other times, they can be capricious and cruel.

Oh, and as a side note, besides Dragons other magical creatures populate the world. You also get a side helping of Griffins

The world-building is rich, and it is cleverly written, in that the world opens up with the story. Initially, it is small and contained as the story starts on the small Isle of Salt, but as the story unfolds, so does the world, to become massive.

Additionally, the magic system is similar. Whilst not initially overt, you get the feeling that there is more to it and by the end of the book this aspect opens out in a similar fashion to the world-building. You get the impression that there is something big happening behind the scenes, but you cannot put your finger on it. However, towards the end of the book, we get some tantalising glimpses of it.
Thinking about this book, I have lots of questions.

There seems to me that there is a lot of ambiguity in the story. One of these ambiguities is The Iron Queen herself. I mean, anyone that is called The Iron Queen isn’t going to Miss sweetness and light, but what is her deal? She seems to run the country with tyrannical zeal and yet everybody seems to trust her. And similarly, the Myr! Throughout the book, the people portray them as monsters. However, there are hints that other things are afoot and nothing is as it seems.

I tell you; this book quite plainly and simply has got its hooks into me and I cannot wait to see how the story progresses.

If you liked this review, I have wrote lots more on my blog Fantasy Book Nerd
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,310 reviews212 followers
March 7, 2022
The story begins with Fenn facing a dragon spirit that taunts him. He remembers nothing but his name. Confused, cursed, and unsure of what to do, he meets Calidra. She lives with her partner on the edge of the world and reluctantly agrees to help Fenn find answers.

The Iron Crown quickly drew me in - I liked its adventurous and upbeat tone. The characters are well-written and compelling, and the plot is engaging. Fenn quickly finds out that he may have a role in the resurgence of the Myr - an ancient race of spirits. He hears voices in his head, and his story is compelling and imaginative.

Calidra, on the other hand, prefers to run away from her problems. She's not the bravest character ever, but in the end, she faces her fears and learns what's important. There is also a retired thief, Apollo, and Torsten - the Queen's Master Inquisitor. I thought most of the characters, including the secondary ones, were well fleshed out.

The dynamics of the hero's journey have essential fantasy components that will be very familiar to genre readers: An unlikely hero emerges and, with the help of friends, navigates a world of epic battles, spirits, and magic. Beyond that, the author's commitment to her characters makes the book interesting. The central mystery surrounding spirits is also good. Why would they be interested in making deals with mortals, and what do they really want? Even if the fantasy elements seem a bit played out, the struggles, motivations, and emotions of McRae's characters enliven the story.

Although I enjoyed The Iron Crown, I had a few issues with it. First, it's a long book, and it feels long. The characters get from A to B and then to C, and I admit that not all of it was exciting. Second, McRae's writing style is quite detailed and wordy, and I firmly believe that a more concise style would improve the pacing of the book. Finally, I prefer books that trust readers to fill in the details and invite them to exercise their imagination. Iron Crown gives too much of everything, and such an approach doesn't always serve it. There are several scenes here that increase the word count but don't add much to the story.

All in all, though, The Iron Crown is a solid and adventurous story with lots of heart and passion. While not perfect, it provided me with solid entertainment. Well worth a shot.
Profile Image for Dominic.
177 reviews355 followers
March 28, 2022
* You can find my full video review here: https://youtu.be/5pp85xujOoM *

The Iron Crown by L.L. Macrae is a story set in a world where dragons are spirits, and this is a really interesting concept.

Dragon spirits will typically form where there’s a forest or a body of water or some such and they are like the gods and protectors of their realm.

They can also bless a person, giving them the equivalent of divine powers, which is another really interesting aspect.

The whole concept of the dragon spirits is one that really worked for me. I love dragons, and it’s nice to see a bit of a different take on them without taking away the essence of what a dragon actually is.

The ancient enemy, the Myr, have been beaten and exiled but there are signs of their return, against the terms of a peace treaty. There are also a number of lost souls turning with no memories, and who are being linked to the Myr.

Fenn is one such lost soul and he is helped by Calidra and Jisyel, who make a really interesting pair. Calidra is the daughter of a laird and her partner, Jisyel, has been cursed by a dragon spirit and can no longer feel, whether it’s pain, or hunger, or anything else physical.

These two young women are wary of Fenn and where one wants to palm him off on the Inquisitors and make him someone else’s problem, the other wants to help him find out who he was and what happened to him.

The book feels almost intimate in its storytelling, which works really well. You can see the impact of events on the characters, but you can also see the impact the characters can have on the wider world, which I really appreciate.

As for the story, I like the way that it slowly builds but you always can tell there’s more coming and when it comes, it does so with a bang. There are some really great and intense moments here and it all flows nicely.

This book is an early contender for my book of the year listing. It’s a really well-written tale with great worldbuilding and characters, and I highly recommend it to any lover of epic fantasy.
Profile Image for Patrick Ryan.
147 reviews34 followers
December 1, 2022
4.5 Stars - I listened to the audiobook and thought the narration was really well done.

I really enjoyed this book! Typically when I start a new series, it takes a little bit to get drawn into the world. That was not the case at all with The Iron Crown. Right from the get go, I was intrigued and needed to know more! Usually, it takes a great action scene or a lot of built up tension to get me to the "I can't put this book down" stage, but this book started off as one that I couldn't put down. The character work and world building was fantastic! Each character was uniquely themselves and stayed true to who they were throughout the book, and the world building was done in a way that kept me wanting more.

The one thing that kept this from being 5 stars is I would have liked more action scenes. There were a few times where potential action or battle scenes were either quickly ended or it "faded to black" and we returned to see the aftermath.

Overall, this is a read I highly recommend. Oh, and did I mention Dragons and Griffins?
Profile Image for Solseit.
312 reviews74 followers
May 7, 2023
Here is my review of this wonderful book! Truly, fantasy lovers should give this book a chance!

I had no expectations coming in this story. I liked the series title and that this is a woman writing fantasy. And how did this choice pay off!

This is a story that stars regular people going about their regular lives and taking care of their affairs. Needless to say, this becomes a much more complex (including world ending) story.
There are dragons. One of the original appeals for me. But they are also spirits, used in a peculiar way (nodding to the Shinto religion). There are enemies. Allegedly vanquished enemies.
There are greedy people. There are strong characters, there are understanding characters. And there is LGBTQ sprinkling here (well more than sprinkling; two of the main characters are in a loving - and beautiful - relationship).
So overall this book delivered so much more than I could expect.
Profile Image for Kerstin Rosero.
Author 3 books60 followers
January 13, 2022
The Iron Crown is a high-fantasy SPFBO finalist that that hits all the nostalgic notes while telling a fresh story with dragon spirits—some mischievous, some vengeful, but all oddly relatable—wayward adventurers who find themselves in different ways, and the power of banding together in bleak and trying times. It is a thick book, but I found myself flying through the pages faster than Calidra on Hailathyl (minus the travel hangover... though I suppose a book hangover would be comparable).

One of the major parts of the book is traveling from one place to another, and I enjoyed accompanying the characters on their individual journeys... but together, if that makes sense. It makes me feel like I'm part of an intense game of DnD, where characters—who under normal circumstances should absolutely not travel together—go on a quest, each bringing their strengths and personalities to the table to explore (and overcome challenges in) a complex and layered world that is also working against them.

The range of (personal) quests is also vast and, in my opinion, relatable. You have a character who is trying to figure out who he is in a society that has already made up its mind about him. A strong-willed woman who returns home after years of being estranged. Another character who just wants to eat pastries again. And a rugged, slightly mysterious character who takes (an at times unfair) advantage of his strength after a lifetime of having none. So you see, there will be one quest the reader could relate to, if not the pastries.

Some of the themes are dark, but there is a certain lightheartedness to it that makes me think of RPGs in the early 2000s, like Final Fantasy IX—or wait, Octopath Traveler (it even has shrines!)! I couldn't stop thinking of Torsten as Steiner, lol. The traveling we do reminds me a lot of this, like we were leveling up for the boss battle. I don't mind wandering from the main story a bit, as we get to meet a vast range of characters, from high priestesses to griffin riders, from Bragalians to Olmese warriors. This type of fantasy, where you can discover the world outside the protagonists' own, is my jam.

I did get a bit lost in the politics (which may be a general "me" thing... I don't even really get them in real life), because there are quite a few conflicts going on at the same time. But this didn't take away from my overall enjoyment, because I was more invested in character dynamics and conflict. Incidentally, I would like to start using "Insolent blaggard!" as an insult.

I really enjoyed The Iron Crown and look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Shadow Gate. It's a wonderful nod to traditional fantasy, but with a fresh voice and story.

A few key words to help you decide: multiple POV, dragons, amnesiac protagonist, in-book traveling, quest fantasy, high fantasy, sword and sorcery, fantasy series, LGBTQ+
Profile Image for Blaise.
307 reviews70 followers
September 2, 2022

I recieved an audio copy of this book from the author in exchange for a honest review. If ever there was a novel where I can say this is a tale of two halves, The Iron Crown takes the cake. The first half of this novel was interesting and compelling in some areas but I was not hooked until I got into part two of the book. The plot, character arcs, and the magic really started to take shape and I am very happy to have stayed with it. The anticipation for the sequel has me on the edge of my seat but lets get into the crux of this SPFBO #7 finalist.

Fenn is wandering through the woods with no memory of who he is or where he comes from. His only hope for answers comes in the forms of Calidra and Jisyel, two woman living on the Isle of salt but looking to return to the mainland. Calidra just learned that her father has passed away and begrudgingly agrees to take Fenn and Jisyel with her. Riddled throughout the land we encounter Dragon Spirits as they inhabit places such as forests, sea, and fire. Fenn is a lost boy trying to find his way in the world while Calidra is protective of Jisyel and thinks Fenn is hiding something from them. As you will soon discover, Fenn is cursed by the Myr, who have been banished from the land by the Iron Crown for the last 5 years. They are returning and causing havoc across the land because once you are touched by the Myr, death will soon follow.

There are two aspects of this book that really shined for me with the first being the Dragon Spirits themselves. They all have the ability to curse and bless anything and everything that passes through their domain. As we make our way through the story, we will slowly learn the intricacies of their magic and each one will be a big surpirse to all. The second aspects are my love for the secondary characters in this novel. We have the Inquisitor Torsten who is in service to the Iron Crown while trying to rid the world of the Myr threat. Then we have the thief Apollo. Given a signed pardon from the Iron Crown for services rendered but it turns out he may not have fullfilled his side of the bargain. I loved reading Apollo’s storyline and there is even a prequel novella written from Apollo’s POV. Finally we have the Myr themselves. Both mysterious and haunting with what their motives are, how they look, and how the people are affected by their curse. Oh, and did I forget to mention the talking gryphons! Majestical creatures who will play a big part in the war to come.

These are just some of the many things readers will enjoy from The Iron Crown. It is easy to see why this book was chosen as a finalist for SPFBO #7. The best is yet to come with L.L. MacRae and I am eagerly waiting for the release of the sequel novel on the horizon.

Profile Image for P.L. Stuart.
Author 3 books380 followers
February 26, 2022
Will we ever tire of dragons in fantasy? Nah, we love them!!! It seems to be the one magic creature that continues to be popular in fantasy, irrespective of the era. I was hankering for some dragons in my #FebruarySheWrote reads, where I will be reading exclusively female authors who use the pronouns she/her. So, that made "The Iron Crown", by L.L MacRae, "Dragon Spirits Book One", a logical choice to read this month. I must also say, the cover for the "Iron Crown" is simply phenomenal, a real eye-catcher!

"The Iron Crown", published in 2021, is the second book (proper) in "Dragon Spirits" by MacRae, with a prequel to the series, entitled "The Citrine Key", that was published in 2020. "The Iron Crown" is taking off in the fantasy world, as it is currently a Finalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO#7). One can bet that any book making the SPFBO finals is a special book. This holds true for "The Iron Crown".

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which in no way affected my review of the book, as part of www.beforewegoblog.com 's stop on the Escapist Tours  book tour for "The Iron Crown". Thanks to L.L. MacRae and Escapist Tours
https://linktr.ee/Escapist_Tours .

I also need to clarify that I am NOT reviewing this book as part of the SPFBO team - a separate and distinct team - that is reviewing and scoring the current finalists, including The Iron Crown. This review is strictly on a book I read for pleasure, and for the #FebruarySheWrote initiative.

The beginning of "The Iron Crown" was very intriguing. Set in the land of Tassar, the novel's first pages introduce the reader to a boy named Fenn. Fenn has found himself trapped in a bog. Besides worrying he might drown, Fenn has to cope with the fact that he has amnesia. Not just a mild case of forgetting. He doesn't know who he is, where he's from, how he got to the bog, or what his purpose in life is. 

While he's struggling with these circumstances, along comes damaged, talking vines, and a cantankerous dragon-spirit, to complicate things for Fenn even further. The dragon-spirit's name is Hasen, and he is the guardian spirit for the forest on the Isle of Salt. Fortunately for Fenn, as irascible as Hasen is, not only does Hasen heal the damaged vines, he also rescues Fenn from the bog, saving his life. 

But this meeting with Hasen is just the beginning of Fenn's journey. After encountering Calidra and Jisyel, who bring Hasen to the residence of Jisyel’s grandmother, the plot thickens. Soon, with his new loyal friends at his side, Fenn leaves the island for the mainland, in hopes of discovering his identity, and how he lost his memory.  

Eventually, Fenn learns that a deadly spirit, called the Myr, is responsible for the theft of his memories. The Myr threat, coming back to the land after a five-year absence, promises that war will return to Tassar. Fenn is considered "Myr-touched". The apparently sinister Myr, literally sucks the life out of the land, including the memories of those that encounter them, like Fenn. 

The Myr have ravaged the realm in the past, and corresponding magic, cunning, and bravery is needed to stop them. Enter the unlikely heroes in Fenn, Calidra, and Jisyel. The trio is joined in time by Delays, a high priest, who worships the Dragon Spirit Neros, and Varlot, who was once a millitary commander.  

These characters will embark on a quest where truths will be challenged, incredible dangers will be confronted, and ultimately Fenn will gain more insight into who he truly is. 

This fantastic book was also a COMPLETE book. Characters, worldbuilding, prose, plot, pacing, in "The Iron Crown", MacRae had these components firing on all cylinders. You know, for me, it always begins with the characters, and I have to admit I adored the characters in this novel. 
They were all slightly blemished in their own way, to some degree. But they were all very compelling. The mysterious Varlot seems to have a gambling addiction, Calidra is suspicious and grief-stricken, Fenn, of course, is tortured by his amnesia. 

My favourite perhaps was the eponymous Iron Queen herself. She definitely lives up to her moniker, ruling the land with a ruthless, fanatical edge, who deploys foreboding Inquisitors among her minions. Badass female rulers will always be a favourite for me, sinister or not. And the Iron Queen was definitely ominous, as ominous as the Myr, in my opinion, though she is looked to as the leader that people need to get them through the Myr crisis.   

The worldbuilding was superlative. Dragons who are spirits, bound to the elements, griffins, shadow creatures, the Myr (who may not necessarily be the great existential threat they initially appear to be), and a light, soft , yet vivid touch with the magical system were the sort of features I crave in fantasy. Give me that soft magic, all day, everyday!    

The prose was clear, crisp, tight, and at times, very beautiful. Paired with a pace in which things happen, quickly, while never feeling like things are rushed, MacRae really gripped me with her writing ability. 

"A sudden cold wind snaked through the trees, turning the damp air into freezing mist. The grass wilted away, shrinking down to the ground. Even the trees seemed to sag."

This book is what I tag as falling into the category of "tropes done right". When an author can take tried (or some believe tired) and true themes, and make them seem new and fresh, it's a triumph. MacRae definitely triumphs. There are the tropes of found family, apocalyptic threat that needs to be faced, reluctant heroes, and of course, DRAGONS! What's not to love? 

"The Iron Crown" was a delightful book, and I definitely enjoyed reading it. It is no doubt meritorious of its finalist berth in SPFBO. 

I will be looping back to pick up "The Citrine Key", and continuing the series when the next book, called "The Shadow Gate", which should surface sometime this year in 2022. MacRae is assuredly an author to watch.
Profile Image for Eddie.
221 reviews13 followers
February 25, 2023
Iron crown

I give this 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️’s

I felt like I took a journey with the author‘s friends. By the end of the book I felt like I knew them all pretty well, you never confuse characters they all held up well to what the story needed to where the outcome of the last word took them.

I also loved the magic with dragons. Was a lot of fun to interact with the dragons and the griffins.

What I did love about this book is the Dragon Spirits and the authors vision on dragons, which were in the Citrene Key, which made the reading special and her writing,she clearly has a knack for.
the world building is great and the scenery’s were captivating,

Apollo however, is my favorite since reading The Citrine Key I thought he was awesome in that story, while waiting for his arrival in this one it made the book better for me,
Profile Image for Damian .
79 reviews8 followers
March 15, 2023
The Iron Crown - L.L. MacRae

4 ⭐️

The Iron Crown is an epic, globe spanning, multi POV indie high fantasy set in the realm of Tassar. Tassar, formerly a land engulfed in war, is now stable in more peaceful times. However, an ancient enemy has arisen and has set its sights on the realm. That's not to mention amnesiacs known as the Lost Souls cropping up throughout the land; victims cursed by foul magic to lose their memories and die painful deaths. The story of The Iron Crown follows several POV characters, Fenn, one of the aforementioned amnesiacs, Calidra, the estranged daughter of a noble house, Torsten, the pompous and morally righteous head of The Iron Queen's Inquisitor force, and Apollo, a former thief with a dark past.

I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this book. It perfectly captures the essence of what is fantasy, though with its own unique twist. The story is just incredibly fun. It primarily follows Fenn as he wakes up in the forest of the Dragon Spirit, Hassan, notorious for playing tricks, to find that he has no memory of his life whatsoever. What follows is a globe trotting adventure of which Fenn encounters varied cultures, colourful characters, terrifying enemies, and a whole lot of magic. All the while Fenn is opposed by the sadistic and morally corrupt Torsten, the head of The Iron Queen's Inquisitor forces.

MacRae needs to be praised for her take on Dragons. Dragons are the quintessential fantasy creature. We all know them, we all love them, despite how samey they appear throughout fantasy. However, MacRae's Dragon Spirits are such a wonderfully unique spin on the Dragons we all love. Dragon Spirits are reminiscent of Japanese Shinto Gods. In Hassar, the Dragon Spirits are essentially gods of a chosen domain, such as a particular forest, or sea - and their power comes from how large their domain is. They can provide blessings or curses, and they are worshipped by the locals with shrines and holy places devoted to them. Its a brilliantly fresh spin on Dragons.

The Iron Crown is a riveting story full of endearing characters, a compelling and fun story, and lots of fantastical elements such as dragons, griffins, curses and found family. It is an absolute must read for fans of the fantasy genre, and I am extremely excited for the release of book two.
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