Review: A Crown of Star & Ash by Victoria K. Taylor





When the kingdom of Praiton began overthrowing the surrounding kingdoms of Krigor, no one knew why. As a healer for Praiton, Deya believed that there was no higher honor in the realm. But when Deya is imprisoned after learning an enormous secret that threatens the regime, her love and loyalty for her kingdom is shattered. Beaten, and tortured, a new, terrible power is unleashed inside of her, a power that she cannot control. Forced outside of the only kingdom that she has ever known, Deya has no choice but to team up with a band of unlikely rebels that all have one thing in the desire for the destruction of Praiton. One of those rebels is Caelum, a male who spent most of his life inside a prison. Having lost everything to Praiton, Caelum hates everything and everyone from the kingdom…Including Deya. But Caelum has a secret, one that could turn the tide of the war, and one that keeps him pushing everyone and everything away. As Deya struggles to recover from the trauma of her imprisonment, she is forced to face where her allegiance with the kingdom that betrayed her, or with the male who could destroy it forever.


Reviewed by Dakota Watson

After enduring two disappointing reads; one DNF and the other overhyped with deceptive marketing—this book was a welcome change. From the very first page, it gripped me with its non-stop action and kept me on the edge with its suspense and intrigue. Victoria’s talent shone through in her characters—they are as diverse as they are memorable, each with their own quirks and motivations. Their interactions and dynamics added depth to the story, making it impossible to put down. Despite the absence of any mention of a series on A Crown of Star & Ash’s Goodreads page, it’s clear that this book is just the beginning of a larger story. With a cliffhanger for an ending and numerous intriguing threads of plot left unresolved and sneak peaks at a much larger game at play.

The world building in A Crown of Star & Ash is nothing short of masterful. Victoria paints a vivid picture of the setting, immersing the reader in a rich and complex world that feels both familiar and fantastical. Every detail felt deliberate and well-thought-out, contributing to the overall atmosphere of the story. But perhaps the greatest strength of this book is its plot. It’s executed with precision, delivering twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end. Victoria’s prose is beautiful, enhancing the emotional depth of the story and adding layers of meaning to every scene.

One of the most powerful aspects of A Crown of Star & Ash was Victoria’s nuanced exploration of grief and loss. Through her characters, she deftly portrays how these experiences can shape individuals, altering their perceptions of the world in profound ways. Victoria’s approach is subtle yet incredibly effective, allowing readers to empathize with the characters’ struggles and understand the depth of their emotions. The way she delves into the psyche of her characters, illustrating how grief can consume and transform them, is both poignant and relatable. Additionally, I admired how she integrated the theme of religious conflict into the narrative. The portrayal of the devastation and turmoil that ensues when one nation imposes its beliefs (Our God is the One True God syndrome) on others is both timely and thought provoking. Through the lens of her fictional world, she sheds light on the real world consequences of religious intolerance and fanaticism.

Deya, the main female character in A Crown of Star & Ash, was a beautifully portrayed protagonist. Unlike the typical sword wielding badass often found in romantasy, Deya’s journey to self discovery was gradual and deeply emotional. What I loved most was how Victoria depicted Deya’s transformation through hardship, trauma, and the support of her friends. From the outset, Deya is not portrayed as a hardened warrior or an independent heroine. Instead, she is depicted as vulnerable and unsure of herself, struggling with her identity in the face of devastating circumstances. Victoria’s portrayal of Deya’s emotional turmoil as her sense of self is completely reversed is both heartbreaking and authentic. As the story progresses, we see Deya grow in unexpected ways. She may not be awe inspiring or conventionally strong, but her journey is no less compelling. Through her trials and tribulations, she begins to find strength within herself, learning to believe in her own abilities and worth. What I appreciated most about Deya’s character is that her growth felt genuine. Victoria didn’t rush her development or force her into a mold of the “strong female character.” Instead, she allowed Deya to evolve at her own pace, making her journey all the more relatable and compelling.

To be brutally honest, Caelum left me with mixed feelings. He reminded me of a rescued dog I once encountered who had been brutally abused– wary, quick to lash out, and deeply scarred by his past. Much like the said dog, Caelum carries the trauma of his shunned childhood and years of imprisonment. His experiences have left him with a profound distrust of others and a readiness to strike out at any sign of threat. It’s as if he’s been conditioned to expect the worst from the world. His portrayal as a deeply flawed character is what makes him so memorable. Caelum’s impatience, sudden bursts of anger, and struggle to find his place in the world are all aspects of his personality that add layers to his character. His journey is one of redemption and self discovery, as he grapples with his own demons and tries to find a way to overcome his past. Despite his flaws, there’s a vulnerability to Caelum that makes him compelling. He’s like a wounded animal, lashing out in fear but also yearning for connection and understanding. Throughout the story, I found myself both frustrated and sympathetic towards Caelum. His complexity as a character is a testament to Victoria’s skill as a writer. By the end of the book, I still hadn’t made up my mind about him, but I couldn’t deny that he had left a lasting impression.

Val, Rayner, and Aris were incredible additions to the cast of A Crown of Star & Ash. Each brought a unique dynamic to the story, making them stand out in their own right. Val, with her badass yet bouncy personality, provided a refreshing contrast to the darker elements of the narrative. Her ability to send Caelum in to fits of rage added an entertaining layer to their interactions. Victoria crafted her character with depth, allowing her to shine brightly in the midst of the story’s turmoil.

Rayner, on the other hand, brought a quiet strength and diplomacy to the group. His optimistic outlook on life provided a counterbalance to the cynicism of other characters, offering hope in the face of adversity. His presence was understated yet impactful, leaving a lasting impression on both the story and the reader.

Aris, with his rational and commanding presence, added a sense of gravitas to the group. His secretive agendas and enigmatic nature kept the me guessing, adding an element of intrigue to the narrative. Despite his mysterious demeanor, Victoria gave him enough depth to make him feel like a fully realized character rather than just a plot device.

What I appreciated most about these side characters was that they were given ample opportunity to shine throughout the book. Each had their own moments to contribute to the plot and showcase their personalities, enriching the story as a whole.

While A Crown of Star & Ash was a captivating read, I do have a couple of complaints that nagged at me throughout the story. Firstly, I wished the author had delved more deeply into the magic system. Both Deya’s and Caelum’s mysterious abilities hinted at a rich and complex magical world, but it felt like we only scratched the surface. I found myself yearning for more exploration and explanation of how magic works in this universe. Similarly, I was left wanting more from the overall plot. While the book was filled with intrigue and suspense, it often felt like a setup for something larger. While this can be an effective strategy for building anticipation for future installments, it left me with a sense of unfulfillment by the end. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the groundwork that Victoria  laid for future developments, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted more closure from this installment. It felt like a huge stepping stone towards whatever larger plot the author has in store for us, and while that’s exciting, it also left me craving a bit more resolution.

All in all, A Crown of Star & Ash was a great book and a superb start to a promising series. Kudos to Victoria for writing such a masterpiece in her very first attempt. Extremely excited for the next book of the series! Highly recommended!

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