Sabrina Rose's Reviews > Shadow Crown

Shadow Crown by Kristen Martin
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did not like it
Recommended for: No One

Like many of the other reviewers, I am completely disappointed with this book. It has potential, but it feels like a little kid wrote a book about what they think a girl assassin would do if she had to go on a mission. I tried to read it through, but by page 55, I just had to put it down. Here's why:


First, the book has a very weak premise. The book is about 17-year-old assassin named Arden being assigned to a mission. We find out within the next few chapters that this mission is a category 8 mission and now she has to go with a partner. Sounds okay right? Until you start to unpack the nuances of how improbable it is within how the story is set.

There are 7 total members of the Creux. Out of seven, two are under the age of twenty (Arden, 17 and Rydan, 18). Every other assassin has more experience, has completed more missions, and are at least ten years older than they are, etc. But when a category 8 mission (the most complex and difficult mission ever assigned) comes along, the king gives it to the newbies?! How in any universe does that make sense? Come on. I can only suspend disbelief so much here, but from what the reader is told about mission categories (and it’s very little), a category 8 mission is so rare that it’s unheard of. But the king gives it to the newest assassins who don’t have as much experience as the others? Stop it! Just stop.


The Book needs all kinds of editing, badly. Not one professional editor glanced through this with all the grammatical and spelling errors. Beta Readers just don’t replace a full on paid for editor. In some instances, an author might get away with it. But, in a high fantasy that is completely out of the author’s element, a little more oomph is needed. Shadow Crown’s overall structure is bad, the focus is bad, and things that are supposed to have impact, don't. There are scenes that are completely pointless. And many times, the reader is set up for something great then the very next page/sentence/paragraph, they’re told it’s unimportant.

For example: During one chapter, the two assassins are brought to the king to discuss the next mission. Arden, the protagonist female assassin asks the king about the missing details. After Arden asks about the missing details, the king informs them that he’s not willing to share anything seeing as it’s a category 8 mission and he doesn’t feel like they need to know. Then, the assassin (who has been trained her whole life to obey, mind you), speaks out of turn. The king reacts with a light scolding, but let’s them go. But, as they leave he calls them back (which is a bad thing based off of the character’s reactions), and tells the two assassins, "'You'll assassinate the Soames…and as proof, you'll bring me their heads.'"

The reader is led to believe that this is a big deal, since after all, the king stopped the show because of Arden's outburst (which is uncharacteristic for an assassin). So, he must be giving them some sort of odd request because he usually doesn’t care how his victims die. However, on the very next page, the assassins are running away from each other (I guess they’re mad at each other?), and Arden says to her friend, “So we have to take the Soames’s heads? We’ve done it before.” Like this is no big deal!!!!!!!! Then why even set it up like it is! Oh, because the author is trying to trigger a flashback memory where apparently Rydan had some failed mission where his face was cut and Arden (who was not supposed to be around) steps in to save the day and cuts the head off the victim to bring it back to the castle as proof of success.

So, inevitably, the reader is led on a bridge to nowhere. The reasoning was just too thin and I think the author could have been more creative on how she introduced that pointless low stakes mission which ended in a cut face. In fifty-pages, there were many of these. I dread to think how many are in 475 pages.


I didn't get very far in the book, but there were tons of inconsistencies. And all of these blatant errors can be seen in chapter one. For example, the protagonist says “Don’t get me wrong; being an outcast does come with it’s struggles… Rydan’s the only one [member of the Cruex] who eats with me… talks to me. But I don’t mind. I’m here to do one thing and one thing only… I’m here to do my job.”

So, either it’s a struggle that no one talks to you or it’s no big deal because you don’t mind. It can’t be both.

In the SAME chapter (chapter 1), Arden is hopeful that the king will give her the next mission. So, as one does, she’s sizes up the competition. She says about one character, “Percival Garrick. Hardly my competition…. [he’s] carried out twenty-four successful missions…”

Let’s count the score, shall we? Out of twenty-four missions, Percival has carried out ALL of them successfully. That’s a 100% accuracy rate.

Arden, at the start of the novel has only had a meager 12 missions. The reader isn’t certain of her success rate, but we are inclined to believe (because of the story told so far) that she’s had her fourth mission go awry. So, maybe one bad mission?

So, how is this character not competition if he’s older, more experience, and has completed more missions successfully than she has? Seeing as I’m now sizing up the competition alongside Arden, I’d bet on Percival, the ass-kissing, more experienced assassin, than a teenager who seems (as we learn) childish and dramatic with half as many successful missions. He has double the experience than she has. So, he would be the better candidate. That’s just math.

Flat POV/Character Voice

Outside of the inconsistencies, which were not ideal. I couldn’t get over how flat the characters were. The book is told from multiple POVs, although Arden’s (main character) is told from the first person, while all the rest are told from the third-person subjective. But there is no distinction in how they talk or think. So, you can be reading Rydan’s POV and the King’s POV and can only tell them apart by the names the author uses. If you stripped those away or replaced them with pronouns, they’d be virtually all the same person. They even use the same phrases. “Her eye flicks to the guard.” “The king’s eyes flick to them.”

Word Choices

Language is a quintessential tool for world building, and unfortunately there isn't any here. The author has made some strange choices when it comes to word choice and it disallows the reader from being fully immersed in the book.

For example, the use of military time, which feels completely out of place within this high fantasy world set in a world unlike our own. There are several ways the author could have given time. Even using “600 hours” “Or 1,200 hours” or “1,800 hours” with context around the time of day would have been infinitely better than saying “I’ll meet you there at 0700.” And it’s often used in a way where if feels like these characters are having coffee on a military base and not showing up for a super complex unheard-of mission.

But there are more things that irk me. The use of flick instead of flicker. “My eyes flick to him.” “His eyes flick from the squire to them.” (And YES, it’s flick, as in I flicked a person on the nose because they were annoying. As in, flick of the wrist. But, it’s their eyes that are doing the flicking.) Everyone’s eyes are flicking everyone else.

And often, a character is loosing their breath (Yes, Loose. Not lose. Loose.). And this happens in multiple POVs. After the fourth time, on the third POV, I assumed the author actually meant for this to be a term that is distinct to their world, while still maintaining a familiar tone to the reader. I get it, but it doesn’t quite work.

And my biggest irk, the word kingdom is duplicitous without any distinction of how these should be defined in their world. For example, the king can see and hear people outside of his kingdom from his kingdom’s bedroom. Yeah, you read that right. So, there’s also that.


Not only is the word choice a little off, but the characters themselves (as a construct) don’t make sense and defy everything that a character would be.

The ruthless king who can glare so hard he can practically shatter the throne behind him, is surprised that he hasn’t been overthrown because his people don’t respect him and do whatever they want anyway despite his decrees. If he’s supposed to be a ruthless dictator, who has people killed on a pretty regular basis, why can’t he keep a group of townspeople from speaking a language he’d banned ten years ago? His people defy him openly and there are no consequences. How did he even rise to power with that wishy washy weak garbage?

Arden, who’s a stone-cold assassin, wonders why she doesn’t flinch or cringe at the sound of her own name because of the atrocities she’s done. Because this is the only life you know Arden, you don’t know that you shouldn’t be killing people. That’s why. Oh, and I thought everyone you killed was bad. So, why would you flinch if you’re the killing the bad guys?

And besides that, she has this contempt for the king, although the book has said multiple times that being an assassin is the only life she knows. Okay, so if she’s an assassin and always has been, the king would pretty much be her God. Everything he says or does would bring on a devout loyalty. But, she knows he’s a terrible ruler and his kingdom is impoverished and in ruins. Why does she follow him again? At the very least, why hasn’t she second guessed any mission that he has given her as some sort of trick? If his people are suffering, he’s clearly not a good leader.

Rydan, her friend and supposedly the person who knows her best cannot tell her excitement from her agitation from her anger. The second chapter is completely out of sync with the first chapter. She’s excited, and he thinks she’s mad. Yeah, I can see how he’d get those two emotions mixed up. They're so much alike *sarcasm*. And also, he’s defined as her friend although he doesn’t trust her because of the botched mission four, where she had to come in a save the day when she wasn’t even supposed to be there in the first place! But, they’re friends?

And the flaws of the main characters bleed over into the secondary and even the minor characters.
The guard who summoned them to see the king the night before has to ask for their names the next day so he can check a scroll to see if they’re allowed to visit the king…

Yes, he’s a minor character, but we need to unpack this pointless exchange real quick. We’ve already learned that the king is wondering why his people haven’t come banging down the kingdom’s (not castle) doors and kicked him off the throne. But, any ole body can come into the castle, and meander around to look for the king. And the only person who’s keeping watch is the guard at the door of the Great Room who has a scroll to verify the names of the people who can see the king?! There’s no other security around there? How can anyone be moseying so close to the king and not be caught before then? What if someone just gave a name that's on the scroll, would he just let them in? Because clearly, his eyes don't work if he can't see that these are the same two people he took to see the king the night before!

Besides that, the guard must either be really stupid or poorly written or both. Because under no circumstance would you have some imbecile like that as a guarding force in which he doesn’t recognize the faces of the elite Cruex, the king’s personal assassins, as people who are allowed to visit him. Does the guard also do this to his queen? To the king himself? Where does the stupidity end?

The Wold Building

In addition to terrible inconsistencies in the prose, flat and meaningless characters, terrible story structure, the world building is completely nonexistent. There are too many euphemisms that come from our world, that get transpose into this “high fantasy” world. Things like using military time to report the time of day, or jargon like the use of “roger that” or “mess hall.” It completely took me out of the story. There are also phrases like “Bat an eye,” or “Carpe Diem,” etc. that also don’t help either.

And the setting? Who knows? If the author hadn’t mentioned the shift in space between bedchamber or hallway, I wouldn’t even know where the characters were at a given time. There’s no descriptions of the castle or the surroundings. The only thing that is described is Lonia, the place where their mission is to take place. And even then, the author says that a couple of the assassins have talked about seeing it, but then at the end of the same paragraph, the author says that no one has ever seen it. So, the description given can be completely wrong.

In a high fantasy novel, the reader has to have some sense of where the story is set. Just mentioning the names of the kingdoms is not enough to go on.

Creative Ex Machina

Plus, at some points, there is a lack of creativity of how information is uncovered. The Book Ex-Machina in this story is out of control! Arden finds a book about magick in the kingdom in her bedroom. All things magick including books have been banned for ten years, and there happens to be one in her bedroom at the castle. And the book is not disguised as something else. It openly says it’s a magick book on the cover. And when Arden happens to see it, instead of reporting it right away like a good assassin, she opens it up for a bit of light reading. Then, poof, we hear no more of this book (maybe it makes a comeback after page 50). But this is the author's attempt at foreshadowing and solidifying that this book has a magick system. Why can't the assassin's missions be based solely on killing people who use magick because the king sees it as dangerous? That would solidify this magick world and there would be no need for book ex-machina.

Then her friend, Rydan also discovers the king’s hit list in his bed chambers while opening a book. All the names of the people they’ve killed are crossed off except for the family they’re to kill next. Wasn’t it nice of the king to leave his hit list in the assassins’ bedchambers before he had the chance to cross off that final name and destroy the evidence? How convenient that king is hanging out in the assassin's bedchambers?

And even after all of that, I tried to power through it, but I kept getting stopped because there’s tons of telling and not showing. Authors don’t have to “show” everything, but there are actual times where an author will need to not talk at the reader.

Arden is supposed to be witty and shows off when she’s assigned to missions. Has she done either in the fifty pages I had to get to know her? Nope.

Rydan and her are supposed to have this playful banter back and forth as described by each of them. But do they? Nope.

The king is supposed to be ruthless. But, is he? Nope.

The Cruex bedchambers was three sizes too small. Three sizes too small compared to what? A foot-ball field? A broom closet? What? Is this ever clarified? Nope.

Would I recommend this book? Nope.

Not without an extensive edit and relaunch.

And to think this author has a self-guided coaching program for $2,000?! HAHAHAHA What a laugh. How can she teach anyone something that she doesn't have the mastery of? It's like me teaching someone how walk on Mars.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 1, 2018 – Finished Reading
August 5, 2018 – Shelved

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