Touted as the perfect fare for readers who love George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie, Alex Marshall’s A Crown for Cold Silver presents the type of politically complicated, morally gray terrain associated with those authors.
After her retirement is brutally interrupted by Imperial troops, Zosia resolves to have her revenge on every single person responsible. This might seem a bit ambitious for a middle-aged woman 20 years into retirement, but when your previous gig was as feared rebel leader turned queen, it’s enough to give rulers pause and to shake the political stability of countries.
Marshall’s tale doesn’t just focus on Zosia—no warlord goes it alone, after all. There are also the Five Villains who aided Zosia the first time around. A Crown for Cold Silver jumps back and forth between these and a few other parties as it attempts to weave a complex, enormous world out of nothing.
For the most part, it succeeds.
Marshall, a pseudonym for “an acclaimed author who has previously published several novels in other genres,” certainly knows his or her way around plot and predicament. A Crown for Cold Silver is a better-than-average attempt at replicating the jaw-dropping world-building of Steven Erickson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, with a taste of Glenn Cook’s The Black Company series (especially with its “legendary” array of villains). That said, A Crown for Cold Silver often serves equally as a reminder of how amazing Erickson, Cook and the rest are. The fight scenes in A Crown for Cold Silver don’t suck you in and shrivel your soul as they can in the works of Abercrombie, Martin and Erickson. And the frequent harking to past battles and hard-earned status as legend doesn’t feel as earned as with The Black Company’s coterie of commanders and villains. For this reason, it feels like an author’s first foray into a new genre.
Still, Marshall’s opening salvo in this series offers the fantasy lover enough to justify sticking around for the next installment. It may be a freshman effort in the genre, but its growing pains are likely to pass swiftly enough, and the world of Cobalt Zosia and her Five Villains promises to only get more interesting.