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The Amber Crown

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In this new epic fantasy, three societal outcasts must work together to fulfill the orders of a dead king's ghost or risk their nation falling to a tyrant

The king is dead, his queen is missing. On the amber coast, the usurper king is driving Zavonia to the brink of war. A dangerous magical power is rising up in Biela Miasto, and the only people who can set things right are a failed bodyguard, a Landstrider witch, and the assassin who set off the whole sorry chain of events.

Valdas, Captain of the High Guard, has not only failed in his duty to protect the king, but he's been accused of the murder, and he's on the run. He's sworn to seek justice, but his king sets him another task from beyond the grave. Valdas doesn't believe in magic, which is unfortunate as it turns out.

Mirza is the healer-witch of a Landstrider band, valued and feared in equal measure for her witchmark, her scolding tongue, and her ability to walk the spirit world. When she's given a task by Valdas' dead king, she believes that the journey she must take is one she can never return from.

Lind is the clever assassin. Yes, someone paid him to kill the king, but who is to blame, the weapon or the power behind it? Lind must face his traumatic past if he's to have a future.

Can these three discover the real villain, find the queen, and set the rightful king on the throne before the country is overcome?

480 pages, Paperback

First published January 11, 2022

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About the author

Jacey Bedford

26 books98 followers
Jacey Bedford is an English writer who is published by DAW in the USA. She lives and works behind a desk in Pennine Yorkshire. She's had stories published on both sides of the Atlantic. She has seven novels out now. Her newest is The Amber Crown, published by DAW inJanuary 2022. Previous books are: Empire of Dust, Crossways, and Nimbus, science fiction (space opera) which make up the Psi-Tech trilogy. Winterwood, Silverwolf and Rowankind make up the Rowankind trilogy. These are historical fantasy, set in 1800, with a cross-dressing privateer captain, the jealous ghost of her dead husband, and a sexy wolf shapechanger.

Jacey is secretary of the UK Milford Writers' Conference, a peer-to-peer workshopping week for published SF writers. She also hosts Northwrite SF, a critique group based in Yorkshire.

She's been a librarian, a postmistress and member of internationally touring a cappella trio, Artisan (and still occasionally is for reunion gigs www.artisan-harmony.com). When not writing she arranges UK gigs for folk artists from all over the world.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews
Profile Image for Jane.
959 reviews62 followers
January 11, 2022
4 stars

You can read all of my books at Nerd Girl Loves Books.

This is a really good stand-alone fantasy book. Although the book is 480 pages, it's a quick and easy read. Told in short alternating chapters from three main character's points of view, the story sucked me in at the start and kept a steady pace until the satisfying ending.

The King of Zavonia has been killed and the Queen is missing. The usurper king quickly takes the crown, assassinates the High Guard that is accused of conspiring to kill the previous king and takes the country to the brink of war. Valdas, Captain of the High Guard, is accused of killing the king and is on the run. Riddled with guilt at failing to protect the King, he initially vows to avenge the king and find the true killer, but is set on another path to find the Queen and her unborn child - the dead king's heir.

Mirza is a healer-witch of a traveling Landstrider band. She treats an injured Valdas and while walking in the spirit world to help heal him, is tasked with helping Valdas in his quest by his dead king. An unsettling, dark magic surrounds Zavnoia's capitol, and Mirza wonders if she's strong enough to overcome it. Agreeing to help Valdas to settle a debt owed by her band to his dead king, Mirza senses she will not return from the journey.

Lind is the assassin that killed the king. But who is the master behind the plot? Lind had no idea his actions would set into motion such a complicated series of events. How will he deal with his new contract by the same master? Will he be able to overcome his traumatic past so he can have a future?

I enjoyed this book and read it in three days. The main characters were likeable and well-defined. The author did a great job of portraying their growth as they overcome hurdles both internal and external, particularly with Lind. Issues of sexual assault and mental abuse are dealt with frankly, with sensitivity and understanding.

There is plenty of action, with the characters facing multiple obstacles during their trek. Sword-fighting, magic, necromancy, sulky ass-biting horses, ambushes - this book has it all. I particularly enjoyed the bit of humor the author injected into the story when things got too intense. Stand-alone fantasies are rare to find, and this is one of the good ones that I highly recommend you read. This is the first book by this author I've read, but I will definitely read more of her books in the future.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and DAW. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Jacey.
Author 26 books98 followers
February 2, 2022
Is it weird to read and review your own book? Just so you know that this review is biased because I know what went into the writing of The Amber Crown.

I wanted to write a character-driven fantasy with a more unusual background than a generic medievaloid setting, so I set this in a fantasy version of the Baltic States in the 1600s. My fictioinal country of Zavonia is approximately where Latvia and Lithuania live today. It's beset by ambitious neighbours but it's holding its own under the enlightened King Konstantyn, that is until he's assassinated. (That's not a spoiler, it happens on the first page.)

My three viewpoint characters, Valdas, the king's (failed) bodyguard, Mirza, the witch-healer of a Landstrider band, and Lind, the clever assassin who sets off the whole sorry tale in the first place, start out separately but come together in an attempt to set things right before Zavonia is embroiled in a war on two fronts which it cannot win.

So what can you expect? There's peril, sex, a bit of gore, whorehouses, itinerant Landstriders, one harrowing backstory, magic of two different kinds, a cranky horse with long ears, a massive knock-down-drag-out fight, cavalry with wings, a particularly smelly corpse... and cabbage. The cast is diverse with backstories that shape their actions.

I hope you like it. Happy to answer questions.
150 reviews
January 19, 2022
I can't really say I enjoyed this book. I very nearly DNFd several times, but I got to a point where I needed to see the resolution of the story (one star because I actually didn't mind most of the resolution - except Mirza's resolution). Things got better in the second half, but the first half had so much misogyny (including internalized misogyny), racism, casual antisemitism, homophobia, rape/assault, and disregard for trauma that I nearly gave up just for that reason alone.

And the trigger warnings, oh the trigger warnings! If you have triggers around anything to do with assault, rape, attempted rape, torture, cutting, body self-hate, or pedophilia, this may be an incredibly difficult book for you (this is not an exhaustive list).

The premise itself was good - I enjoyed the multiple POV, and the political intrigue. And yes, I understand that this book is loosely based on historical events, but it's also a fantasy novel. It's not an excuse for the number of times assault, rape, or attempted rape are used instead of interesting plot. Lind's trauma is basically mocked for most of the book, .

Also, I really hated Mirza's ending.

Although the story eventually resolved in a mostly satisfactory way, I can't recommend this book. I'm writing this review at 1am to get it out of my system so I can sleep - please forgive any typos or weird wording.

I thank the publisher for the advance copy, in exchange for this honest review.
January 25, 2022
@dnf 59%

Although the story seems interesting the pace is very slow! I would recommend a bit more editing and cutting off some parts because 60% into the book and no major events happen and it seems very a back and forth the same things. The MCs were interesting like the thief but Mirza and Valda were too much and the non-existing tension that ends up in sex was like why?

I ultimately decided to DNF due to casual and unchecked racism, sexism, unnecessarily crude scenes and a very slow pacing plot that drag the book for a long time without seeing moving into the story

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the gifted eARC.
Profile Image for Shelley.
5,220 reviews462 followers
January 11, 2022
*Source* Publisher
*Genre* Fantasy
*Rating* 3.5-4


The Amber Crown, by author Jacey Bedford, brings together three of societies outcasts who must work together to fulfill the orders of a dead king's ghost or risk their nation falling into the hands of a tyrant. Valdas, Captain of the High Guard, has not only failed in his duty to protect the king from being murdered, but he's been accused of the murder, and now he's on the run. He's sworn to seek justice, but his king sets him another task from beyond the grave. Valdas doesn't believe in magic, which is unfortunate as it turns out. Especially after meeting Mirza who saves his life from a brutal attack.

*Full Review @ Gizmos Reviews*

Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,635 followers
April 19, 2022
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2022/04/11/...

While The Amber Crown wasn’t the perfect book—and I certainly had my issues with some of the characterization—at the end of the day, it was still solidly entertaining and made for wonderful escapism and perfect light reading. The fact that it’s a standalone fantasy novel is also a nice bonus.

The story takes place in the land of Zavonia, a setting heavily inspired by the history and cultures of the Baltic region in the 17th century. It is told through three main viewpoints: Valdas, a Captain of the King’s High Guard; Mirza, a witch-healer from a band of nomadic Landstriders; and Lind, an assassin hired to kill the king. As the book opens, the deed has already been done, and all around the city, alarm bells are ringing to report the monarch’s murder which had occurred on the one night Valdas decided to take off. He immediately becomes the main suspect, likely the result of a frame job set up by the true masterminds behind King Konstantyn’s assassination. All his men were also accused of treason and executed, and so Valdas is forced to flee the city in search of other allies to avenge his king’s death.

After some misadventure, Valdas winds up gravely injured and in the care of Mirza, a Landstrider whose band was traveling through the area at the time. With her powers of dreamwalking, she enters the Captain’s mind and learns of his personal quest, realizing that she is fated to play a vital role in his mission as well. Together, they part ways with her band and set off for a new course to save Zavonia before their land can be destroyed by the usurper who now sits on the throne.

Meanwhile, the assassin Lind has completed his job of killing the king and is looking for a quick and discreet way to get out of dodge. An opportunity presents itself when his innkeeper, who is also a spymaster and information broker, offers him a large sum of money to transport a young woman out of city. Posing as husband and wife, they make for an inconspicuous couple, and Lind thinks this might actually be one of his easier jobs—that is, until he discovers the true identify of the young woman and why she has to flee.

The Amber Crown is a purely character-driven story, there’s no denying that. I also wouldn’t say any of the characters are entirely likeable, i.e. Valdas is sex-obsessed in a way that puts a bad taste in my mouth, Mirza is comes across as a bit of a pushover, and Lind is a killer-for-hire who simply thinks of himself as a tool and hence holds little remorse for any of his actions, and their list of flaws goes on and on. That said, I can enjoy a story even if I find its characters distasteful, or recognize that many of their shortcomings are important to the plot or to their overall development. Also, I must admit the character flaws made this novel more memorable, almost like they were written in with the intention to make a strong impression.

And it’s not like the characters don’t have any redeeming qualities. In fact, many of their heroic traits come through in the end that make it easy to root for them. Our three protagonists ultimately become a team working towards the same goals, despite all their conflicting interests (which made for some good drama).

In terms of the story, we have the usual hallmarks of a fantasy saga. There’s a good deal of sex, action, conspiracy, violence, and magic. World-building was a tad light, but considering The Amber Crown is a standalone novel, that’s a tradeoff I didn’t particularly mind. Some stories are made for multi-book series, while others have the simplicity that can be told in a single volume, and here we have an example of the latter. Still, despite its straightforwardness, there was plenty in the plot to keep me interested, including fascinating side characters, intriguing mystery, and dark magic shenanigans. The pace was also snappy, helped by short chapters, so on the whole, this went by real quickly.

Bottom line, I wouldn’t say The Amber Crown is for everyone, especially if you prefer more meat on your fantasy, but if you’re not feeling in the mood for something too long or too time consuming, this would do nicely.
Profile Image for Juliet McKenna.
Author 92 books191 followers
January 11, 2022
This tale opens in Biela Miasto, the capital city of the insecure realm of Zavonia. King Konstantyn is dead and guardsman Valdas Zalecki must avoid being hanged for the murder while he hunts down his royal master’s killer. First he needs to find loyal allies which isn’t easy when so many of his friends have been executed on newly acclaimed King Gerhard’s orders. Meanwhile, far away, Mirza must claim her right to succeed her dead teacher’s place as the healer and witch of a Landstrider clan. That would be a lot easier if she wasn’t so unpopular with the clan, who would much rather have someone else. Lind the assassin just wants to be on his way out of the capital city with his payment. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, with the new king’s vengeful advisor Kazimir sending men to turn the place upside down as they search for Valdas. Lind is glad to take on the mundane job of escorting a young mother-to-be to her family out in the countryside.

Readers will not be surprised to learn that these three narratives become intertwined. Bedford strikes a deft balance between hints and foreshadowing on the one hand, and unexpected twists and turns on the other. The scene-setting is equally assured, creating a world that’s very like but not quite our own, reminiscent of central Europe a few centuries ago. These similarities ground the narrative while the differences will keep readers guessing. The central characters and the supporting cast alike are satisfyingly three-dimensional, with their motivations and flaws stemming believably from their past experiences, good and bad. Crucially, Bedford’s portrayals are sympathetic without ever getting sentimental, so these people’s lives have realistic hard edges. Her villains are equally convincingly foul.

So far, so traditional, as far as epic fantasy goes. Bedford offers more to lift this story out of the genre’s well-worn ruts. As she works with classic themes and archetypes, she recognises where these have become outdated and even offensive, reshaping them to suit her story’s purpose. Newcomers to the genre will find a story with an up-to-date perspective. Those who have been reading these tales for decades with find a thoughtful contribution to the ongoing evolution of epic fantasy.
1,166 reviews10 followers
June 13, 2023
En ganska underhållande historia om en hussarkapten i fejkpolens 1600-tal. Tidvis kladdig, väldigt östeuropeisk, och väldigt transparent med bland vilka historiska figurer och skeenden författaren har hittat sin inspiration. Trots detta väldigt underhållande på ett regiontypiskt låghumoristiskt sätt. Jag är förvånad över att författarinnan är britt.
Profile Image for Elianna.
112 reviews8 followers
December 30, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley and DAW Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

After finishing this book, I checked around just to see what other people’s responses were, and it looks like I’m in the minority, so do what you will with my thoughts.

The synopsis of this book hooked me! It gave me political intrigue with mystery and multiple different characters and I just couldn’t say no. My fingers were crossed hoping I would . Unfortunately, this book fell incredibly flat for me, which is so disappointing, because I was hoping I would really love this book.

The background of the characters was intriguing and their interactions helped to make the story interesting. The three main characters each have complexities that would have really contributed to a great storyline. However, through no fault of the characters, the plot fell short.

Despite a strong synopsis, I thought the plot suffered. I wasn’t overly engaged in the actions of the characters as it felt as though they were dragging. What felt like it might be the most intense point of the plot, turned out to be anticlimactic and the ending didn't feel as satisfying as I would have liked. That being said, I liked the characters themselves, but they definitely had to carry the book for me.

There were a few other aspects to the story I disliked. The few black characters described in the story were consistently described by their blackness, which rubbed me the wrong way. One’s skin color does not define who they are and in constantly referring to the certain characters as “the black man” or “black warrior” this felt like what the author was trying to do. Additionally, there were numerous references to and descriptions of rape that I felt were unnecessary to the movement of the story.

I had hoped that my enjoyment of the characters would be able to make this book a more enjoyable read, but that wasn't the case for me.

Content Warning: rape, implied rape, and threatened rape
Profile Image for Juliette.
370 reviews3 followers
April 2, 2022
Rating : 1 ⭐
After reading this book, I'm left feeling like there wasn't a single objectively redeemable thing about it. Every aspect of it was strictly in the average to mediocre range. I almost stopped reading multiple times since it made me so frustrated. I finished it more out of spite than anything else. There are so many things I absolutely hated about it. Rant ahead.
Profile Image for Cerviallacarica.
199 reviews8 followers
October 12, 2022
Avevo aspettative molto basse perché di solito gli standalone peccano in caratterizzazione/worldbuilding per ovvi motivi di tempo.
Pensavo fosse una lettura leggera e veloce, invece si è rivelato un romanzo banale e cringe in vari punti.

Non solo il worldbuilding è un mappazzone di roba, nomi e luoghi slaveggianti, religioni del nostro mondo, tutto calato in nazioni non esistenti, ma la caratterizzazione è moooolto superficiale e stereotipata: Valdas pensa solo al sesso, la risoluzione di Lind manco avesse traumi grandi come palazzi e Mirzra che alla fine si appiattisce manco fosse stata discriminata una vita.

Non è neanche divertente, è solo cringe.
Profile Image for Suncani.
137 reviews
January 21, 2022
A standalone epic fantasy that hits familiar beats in interesting ways with a strong cast that earns their bonds and uses the familiar as a bedrock to add surprises along with a keen eye for detail.
Many thanks to Stephanie at DAW for sending me an eARC, all opinions are my own.

The full review can be found here

Profile Image for Martin Owton.
Author 14 books77 followers
August 2, 2022
Very enjoyable, well-paced and soldily plotted standalone novel. Thoroughly believable world-building based on C16th Latvia + magic. What stood out for me was the excellence of the characterisation - not just the 3 POV characters (which was outstanding, particularly Lind) but the second rank characters. Thoroughly recommended.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
66 reviews17 followers
January 12, 2022
While i enjoyed the characters i found the first 80% of this book kinda boring. It was good but didnt really enthrall me and make me keep picking it up. Which is why it took my so long to finish it. But the last 20% really redeemed it all.
1,139 reviews5 followers
January 7, 2022
Well, this one was super dark and grim! If you enjoyed the Rowankind series like I did this is every bit as well written but much much darker and bloodier. So much blood and so many gory deaths and torture. So if you like your fantasy light, this isn’t the series for you. But if you like to wade through the blood and muck of the adventure and want that sense of the Middle Ages grimness and grim in your fantasy step right up, but mind where you step to miss the spilled intestines on the floor.
November 15, 2021
I read this straight through and enjoyed every minute of the intricate plot – there's lots to like in Jacey's Bedford's The Amber Crown. Firstly, it's set in a fascinating background we don't often see in fantasy. We're in the historical milieu of the Prussian /Germanic States with a mix of magic and the famous winged hussar cavalry regiments. Add in a mix of magic, Donkey and it's a great read.

Tina Anghelatos
Profile Image for Tika.
191 reviews41 followers
November 23, 2021
The more I think about this book, the more I enjoyed it. It’s a relatively straightforward journey tale, but the characters have an autonomy to them that I’ve rarely seen in fantasy. It’s not driven by patriarchal nonsense; despite the central figure being male, he’s not what I’m
used to in these kinds of books. There’s an undefinable kindness to the whole thing that feels just right.

I really liked it.
Profile Image for The Library Ladies .
1,192 reviews58 followers
September 19, 2023
(originally reviewed at thelibraryladies.com )

Yet another fantasy book with the title “The ‘something’ Crown.” I have another book with a type of crown in the title coming up in a week or so! I don’t know what it is about crowns that seems to be seen as the go-to in fantasy, but I do miss the days of more creative titles. Please, no more “crowns,” “queens,” or “the BLANK of BLANK and BLANK” for a solid five years please. Anyways, that mini rant aside, let’s dive in!

Valdas is in disgrace. As Captain of the guard, his one duty is to protect the monarch, and when the king is killed under his watch, there cannot be a failure more profound. But his duty does not end there, and when he’s tasked with finding the missing queen and heir, he finds himself in mixed company: a healer with powerful magical abilities (something that Valdas didn’t even believe in until it was forced upon him recently) as well as the assassin who seems responsible for the king’s death itself. But who was the power behind the order? And can they save the queen and heir before they, too, are harmed?

One of the reasons I found myself initially intrigued by the premise of this book was how much it sounded like a fairly traditional fantasy story. The world-building and magical system didn’t seem overly complex, and the plot itself followed a fairly standard “group goes on a quest” storyline. Most of these things have a long history behind their “trope-y-ness” because they can be implemented easily to tell fantastic stories (“Lord of the Rings,” anyone?). Sadly, here, there too many other things working against the story for me to really revel in these sorts of classic fantasy features.

To start with what I liked, however. All three main characters were fairly interesting. Each had a decent amount of time given to establish their unique personalities and, more importantly, their motivations going through this journey. All three of them were nuanced characters, none falling neatly inside a black or white box. However, even here, I do wish we had seen just a bit more. It’s hard to really describe what I mean, but, in their own way, each character felt like it fell just short of really coalescing into a complex, compelling character.

On to some of my struggles, first my general problems. For some reason, the writing fell flat for me. The plot itself never truly sucked me in, and I was very aware of the experience of reading the book as I turned the pages (clicked on the Kindle). I just couldn’t fall into the story, and the pacing was a let down at times. Moments that should have landed with more “oomf” rather landed with a “thud,” and the ending was surprising anticlimactic considering the work that had been put into building up the entire situation.

From there, the specifics. While I just got done saying that I generally struggled to connect to the writing, there were also a few specific writing choices that didn’t land right. The author makes an effort to include a diverse cast of characters, and yet it seems to be done in a very clunky way. Instead of simply initially identifying her diverse characters, she routinely described people as “the black fighter” or something like that. The sheer amount of repetition here is maybe partly what did it. There was just something off. I was also turned off by the number of times women’s breasts were described and in ways that are of the more egregious sort. Like, a woman would enter the room and would be described as having her breasts almost popping our of her shirt….Why? How is this detail adding to the scene, characterization, or story? There were also far too many rapes/near rapes/threats of rape in this story. Everyone knows my thoughts on this sort of thing so I’m just not going to go into it again. Suffice to say, rape can be included in a thoughtful, meaningful way. In this case, it was not and just adds up alongside the overuse of sexualized descriptions of women and strange fixation on skin color.

I was very disappointed by this book. I had hopes of diving back into my roots and finding a new “classic” fantasy story. And in some ways I did: sadly it was “classic” in the sense that it felt like it was committing very dated mistakes that, happily, are seen less and less often. Fans of fairly straight forward classic fantasy may like this, but I think there are better options out there in general.

Rating 6: Interesting characters are let down by a strange set of tired “classic” fantasy missteps.
Profile Image for Andrea Rittschof.
217 reviews3 followers
March 20, 2022
Epic and thrilling

The king is dead, his queen is missing. On the amber coast, the usurper king is driving Zavonia to the brink of war. A dangerous magical power is rising up in Biela Miasto, and the only people who can set things right are a failed bodyguard, a Landstrider witch, and the assassin who set off the whole sorry chain of events.

Valdas, Captain of the High Guard, has not only failed in his duty to protect the king, but he's been accused of the murder, and he's on the run. He's sworn to seek justice, but his king sets him another task from beyond the grave. Valdas doesn't believe in magic, which is unfortunate as it turns out.

Mirza is the healer-witch of a Landstrider band, valued and feared in equal measure for her witchmark, her scolding tongue, and her ability to walk the spirit world. When she's given a task by Valdas' dead king, she believes that the journey she must take is one she can never return from.

Lind is the clever assassin. Yes, someone paid him to kill the king, but who is to blame, the weapon or the power behind it? Lind must face his traumatic past if he's to have a future.

Can these three discover the real villain, find the queen, and set the rightful king on the throne before the country is overcome? 

Jacey Bedford has created an intriguing and solid fantasy that works on several layers. One of the elements that feels fresh is the multiple perspectives. Not only do they add different points of view but those voices aren't typical. While Valdas, Captain of the Guard, is the typical soldier that we normally see, his willingness to learn from those around him and his willingness to listen to women is unique in many fantasy novels. Mirza is an incredibly strong character, one that allows us to have magic but also gives a fresh perspective on the Romany people, and might allow our modern world to see them in a more truthful light. Finally, we have Lind, the assassin, who is such a broken character that typically would be the villain in any other book but in this story, he ends up being not only a catalyst but also a changed man. While we meet some characters that are standard to a fantasy but others are unique. That is part of the joy of this novel.

The plot is another part of what works well. Again, it begins as a standard fantasy but then ends up developing intrigue and mystery. The political insight makes for an unusual story but what makes this plot so compelling is the twists and turns, the magic and a stunningly original conclusion that makes for a very satisfying story and completely engaging. It will certainly keep people up long into the night reading. 

If you love fantasy, magic, mystery and intrigue with unusual characters, this is the novel for you. It is epic and thrilling. While there are three different points of view, it is easy to track each voice and the way each thread works together to tell the story and keeps you engaged in the novel. You will not be able to put this novel down.  

Rating: 5 out of 5 deaths.
Profile Image for Alyson Stone.
Author 4 books61 followers
February 6, 2023
Book: The Amber Crown
Author: Jacey Bedford
Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars

This is a very tricky one for me to rate. On the one had, I did enjoy it. One the other, I didn’t. I felt like there was too much in her for one book and things were not expanded on as it should. The world building was lacking and the characters could have been fleshed out a little bit.

In this one, we follow Lind, Valdas, and Mizra, who live in this kingdom. They are from all different walks of life. Lind is an assassin. Valdas is the Captain of the Guard. Miza is a healer and a witch. They are going about their lives until the king is killed. Valdas finds himself on the run. Their country has this tradition of killing the guard when and if the king is killed. Fate brings these characters together as they must work to uncover the truth and why their king was killed.

These characters could have been great. We have the bones of great characters, but, yet, they were underdeveloped. Lind’s story could have been great. He has trauma in his life and it has haunted him. However, this trauma becomes almost a joke throughout the book. The author could have done so much with his story, but, yet, it felt like it wasn’t important. I didn’t like Valdas at all. He felt like he had never grown up. Mizra, like with Lind, could have been a star. Yet, it felt like her character was also very underdeveloped.

The writing was okay. There were parts that it could have been expanded on, but it worked. There were many times that the author would explain something to us, then turn around and have the characters do the same thing. I would have preferred one or the other. The character moments, I thought, were well written. The action sequences could have been fleshed out more. The ending, though, didn’t make sense. It needed to be more developed.

The world building was lacking. It could have been great, but it just needed to expand on what we had. I think that had the author taken the time to expand on the world and let it develop, then the events could have had more of an impact.

Overall, I think this just needed to be developed a little bit more. If it had been developed, this would have had a much higher rating from me.
Profile Image for Barb Lie.
1,848 reviews4 followers
January 11, 2022
The Amber Crown by Jacey Bedford is a stand-alone fantasy novel. The story starts out when we meet our hero, Valdas, who is the Captain of the High Guard, protecting the King. Valdas learns after his liaison with his girlfriend, that while he was away, the King was murdered; and he is being accused of killing the King; all of his soldiers have been killed, by those protecting the new King, and the Queen is now missing. Valdas has to run and hide from the usurpers who are controlling the new King, and pushing for an all-out war.

We meet Mirza, our heroine, who is a healer-witch, and has the ability to enter the spirit world, which she will come face to face with the dead King, who sends her on assignment to help Valdas, and save the Queen (who is pregnant).

We also meet Lind, who is the assassin who killed the King, having been paid to do so; but Lind discovers the Queen in hiding, and is determined to help protect her and the baby, which in time will bring all three together to defeat the evil villain, who is determined to take and use magic, as he plans to take over the crown.

With three narratives, the story becomes a bit complex, trying to keep up with everyone, but by the last third of the book, everything begins to tie together. This is a complicated storyline to review, as there are so many details, surprises, attacks and events along the way. Though this is fantasy, it is a historical vibe of magic during the Prussian time frame. I will say that I did like the main characters, with the third (Lind) being better later in the book. It is a unique story line, with the two amazing leads (Mirza and Valdas), who fought their way through danger at every step.

The Amber Crown was a complex, but very good fantasy, which was a bit slow early on, but got more exciting in the second half of the book. The three of them joined together to try and save the queen, defeat the evil villain, and bring the country back to its rightful heir. The Amber Crown was well written by Jacey Bedford.

The Reading Cafe
Profile Image for Alex.
5 reviews
August 21, 2023
an action-packed, game of thrones esq. stand-alone fantasy, full of interesting characters, sprinkles of humour, and intriguing plotlines.

told from three pov’s from characters you grow to love, this story had me easily drawn in. the writing style was perfect, never underdeveloped or difficult to read. it probably doesn’t make sense but I felt the writing style was just perfect for the genre and type of story itself.

I’ve probably only really experienced a slow burn in romances, which I love, but this book definitely taught me I love a slow burn fantasy too! the fantasy aspect wasn’t too difficult to understand. though the politics did confuse me a little at times, it wasn’t overbearing and you still understood the jist of it all.

I found the characters to be completely loveable or morally gray yet still absolutely drawing, captivating and love-inducing! the side characters who became more prominent were truly some of my favourites! the backstory on the characters and their current struggles were so heartbreaking and shocking, and expressed so perfectly to make you really connect and even feel more towards the characters, and in some cases even relate to them!

at times I hoped for more backstory on some of the characters, however only purely because I wanted to know everything! nonetheless, more explanations and insight were given later on. additionally, I would of enjoyed some specific extra scenes to give a more action-packed glimpse into some of the happenings of the story; nonetheless the events still had impact and continued the flow of the plot well and the plot never dulled! the only other downside I had with this was the predictability of the villain. I completely understood the reveal and it made sense, however, I hoped to be shocked. regardless, the book wrapped up really well with no loose ends and left me satisfied.

with this being a slow burn, yet an action-packed and tense story with characters and the dynamic between them you can’t help but love, I’d definitely recommend this one to the fantasy lovers!
Profile Image for Marcy.
30 reviews
January 8, 2022
A wonderful adult fantasy book that I strongly recommend anyone who wants to get their fantasy genre fix in without committing to a long series.

The book contains an engaging, easy to follow plot with well written (and diverse!) characters that I quickly found myself invested in the world.

The only warning I would give is that it does contain dark gritty elements so if you want a more lighthearted fun, I would definitely skip this.

Please note in an exchange for an honest review, I received an advance reader copy (ARC) from NetGalley.

What I Loved
- The cover is really beautiful and it is what caught my interest in this book.
- Bedford juggles three different point of views very well throughout the book. In this book, I could honestly block out the names and still identify whose perspective I am in. Not once did I feel that the voice of the characters sounded the same.
- The story was just interesting! Seeing how the king's death rippled throughout the world was really cool.
- World building. The magic, political effects of an assassinated king, culture of the different countries, and living conditions of the citizens was very interesting.
- Very diverse cast of characters!

What I Disliked
- I thought the villain of the story was pretty obvious. From the very get go, I guessed the villain of the story. He also seemed a bit cartoony/one-dimensional.
- The ending felt a bit anti-climatic. Towards the end I felt things rushed a bit but it did make sense, story wise. (Trying not to spoil it.)

To read some extra spoilery tidbits of my review, please check out the review at my website here
Profile Image for Jane Bigelow.
Author 8 books4 followers
April 20, 2022
I liked this very much, especially the way that Bedford interweaves the separate plot lines until she brings them all together in the Gura, the citadel of the capitol of Zavonia.

We start with a bang: the King is dead. The Queen is missing. Valdas, the head of the King's Guard, was off duty at the time, but he holds himself responsible--and so do a lot of other people. The other two viewpoint characters are an oddly ethical assassin, Lind; and Mirza, a Landstrider woman who can walk into the spirit world. There are also a number of other characters who are clear individuals even when they only get brief appearances. The villain is marvelous; I'll say no more than that for fear of committing spoilers.

There are some truly horrific scenes, and some lovely tender ones; some funny ones, and others that deal with deep questions. This author has range.

I thought as I read that this world felt like Eastern Europe, and according to the author's comments it was inspired by Latvia and Lithuania. It's a pleasure to read a fantasy novel set in a world that's different from the usual Western European one.

I applaud the fact that the personal relationships are not all neatly tied up at the end.This is the first of Jacey Bedford's books that I've read (how have I missed reading someone this good?) but it won't be the last.
Profile Image for Leah.
200 reviews29 followers
December 7, 2021
I was so excited to get approved for this ARC and I couldn't be more happier now that I finished it! The story wasn't what I expected it to be but I still liked it! I don't know why it took me so long to finish, I guess I took my sweet time savouring it.

I always forget there are authors who still write traditional fantasy and not just YA-goes-adult. I appreciate both, but there is a different kind of enjoyment for me when I come over a more traditional book. And The Amber Crown was definitely that!

I loved the complexity of the story and the characters, the way everything unfolded little by little and the way it was all tied together and came to a full circle.

At first I was a little confused about the setting but I soon realized it was a magic infused, fantasy version of European history and reading quickly turned to a treasure hunt between the pages, seeing how many things I could spot and place.

The characters were unique and lovable with their chaotic mess of lives and surprisingly enough, I was interested in all of them, not just one or two.

I think it was a treat, and the perfect book to ease me back into epic fantasy.

Thank you Netgalley and DAW for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Liss (theclumsybookworm).
59 reviews10 followers
January 10, 2022
Thank you to NetGalley and Daw Books for sending me an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I know the saying goes that we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers - but I have to admit it was the beautiful cover of this book that first caught my eye. Luckily, the story matched the cover.

The Amber Crown is a new adult fantasy novel that follows our three main characters/unlikely heroes as they attempt to fulfill the wishes of the ghost of their dead king and save the kingdom of Zanovia from falling into the hands of a tyrant.

The story is told from multiple POV’s and is full of political intrigue, magic, and interesting characters. I enjoyed reading about all of the characters and finding out their backstories. Mirza was definitely my favourite though - she’s a witch and a healer who can walk in the spirit world, and I loved how snarky she was.

I was definitely invested in and enjoyed the story. The only things I would mention is that this book does deal with some pretty dark subject matter - so don’t go into it expecting it to be light. I also occasionally struggled with the pacing and wanted a bit more from the ending. However neither of these things detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story.
Profile Image for Lara.
60 reviews
January 13, 2022
Thanks to the Publisher and NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Unfortunately i had to DNF this book after 100 pages. I did not feel connected to any of the characters, nor can i think of any specific character traits they have.
The plot of this book is nothing new (at least the part that i have read), which is nothing bad, but if i read a book with a well-known plot structure and some common tropes, i need to be gripped by the characters and their story to enjoy a book.

The writing wasn't bad, but it felt a bit too flat for me. I did not really see the world or the characters in my mind, In fact, i was quite confused in what time period this book is set and only could pin it down to the fact that the author mentioned the painter Albrecht Dürer.

Overall, this book is by no means bad, it just isn't the type of book for me. So if you enjoy some "light hearted" fantasy, where you can just layback and enjoy a fun story, you should still give this a try!

I don't like giving star ratings to books that i don't finish... I will give this one 2 stars, simply because i don't think 1 star would be justified and i definitely see that there will be a lot of people that can enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Alex.
129 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2022
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to read and review an ARC of this book!
I loved the premise of this book. Social outcasts banding together to follow the orders of a *dead kind' ghost* in order to save their country? Absolutely, sign me up. Valdas, Mirza and Lind team up to sniff out the villain and corruption and find the queen in order to secure the throne for the rightful king. God, this idea was just so good. I can imagine the series this could have become. Unfortunately, I just really didn't like this. I think an idea like this, with switching perspectives, really needed a solid fast pace. But the pacing is so slow. It felt like a slog just to get 5 pages. There was a lot of tertiary things happening and even to about the halfway point, I would argue that nothing majorly important occurred. I also couldn't really conceptualize the relationships between the MCs--especially Mirza and Valdas. There was a lot of unnecessary sexism and racism that--when confronted or at least explained in the world--can be done well, but this was not done well. I think that combined with the crawling pace of the book just really ruined the experience for me. If this becomes a series or the author writes another book, I'll definitely check it out (second chances, and all that), but this first installment was just really a miss for me. I'm giving it two stars instead of one because the idea just had so much potential, and the author is clearly creative, we just needed a more well-honed, well-edited story for this to work out.
Profile Image for Susan.
39 reviews3 followers
February 15, 2022
This book is a great read. I was involved in critiquing some of the earlier chapters, so I knew I was in for a treat. I wasn’t disappointed! The three point-of-view characters (Valdas, Mizra and Lind) are engaging and believable; I was totally invested in their loves, their dreams and their dilemmas. The novel inhabits an alternative version of history (not my usual go-to genre) that plays out across the pages with a sense of authenticity, which is not dispelled by the traditional use of natural magic by the Landstriders or the darker blood-magic by the antagonist.

I was gripped by the story and enjoyed switching between the point-of-view of all three main characters. Within the pages of Amber Crown you will find rank treachery and heart warming loyalty, some great fight scenes, sensitive sex scenes and, best of all, characters who discover who they truly are. There is a real sense of healing and completion at the end, at least for two of the protagonists. It’s a bit of an open question for the third.

To find out more, you’ll have to read the book!
Profile Image for Carl Allery.
1 review
January 27, 2022
I really enjoyed the feel of this fantasy world, flavoured, for a change, with the history of the Baltic region. Very readable prose, characters I can like and get on-side with and, though it swaps viewpoint between multiple characters, it does so in a way which keeps the story flowing at a decent pace without ever being rushed. Each character gets just enough 'screen-time' to develop their part of the story fully and not enough time off-screen to lose track of their situation - very nicely handled. The magic/fantasy element is a bit different from the usual and there's plenty of political intrigue, but without reams of exposition to set it up and not overshadowing the stories of the individual characters. Easy to read and a fascinating plot that kept me reading. I was lucky enough to see an early review copy, but it's definitely a book I'll be adding to my shelves to enjoy again.
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