July 02, 2024

The Gilded Crown

By Marianne Gordon
Review by
Fans of dark fairy tales will find much to love in Marianne Gordon’s The Gilded Crown, which follows a young woman tasked with repeatedly resurrecting a princess.
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Hellevir can raise the dead, but Death demands a price. The gatekeeper of the afterlife makes demands of the rural herbalist for each life she reclaims, wanting a small part of Hellevir’s body as payment.

After Hellevir saves her mother from Death’s embrace, word of her ability spreads. When Princess Sullivain is assassinated, the queen demands Hellevir save the princess’ life—and once revivified, Sullivain demands Hellevir stay by her side. With Hellevir’s family under threat from the Crown if she does not comply, she is forced into the middle of court machinations and must try to find her freedom without literally carving away too much of herself. As assassins continue to come for Sullivain and as Death sets riddles for Hellevir to solve, she’ll have to trust her instincts and abilities before civil war crumbles the kingdom and destroys all the people she holds dear.

Fans of dark fairy tales and political schemes will find much to love in Marianne Gordon’s debut fantasy novel, The Gilded Crown. The only place that dwarfs Gordon’s fully realized main setting of Rochidain, a city where multiple faiths are at odds with one another, is Death’s realm, with its mirrored sky and enigmatic gatekeeper. The whole cast of characters is well-developed and compelling. Rather than foolish, Hellevir’s naiveté concerning city life and her staunch beliefs in the importance of all lives—from small ravens and cats to the princess herself—is endearing and unusually optimistic. Sullivain’s determination to do what is best for her city, despite her guilt over killing innocents to keep the peace, makes her a fascinating foil to Hellevir. Other standouts include Hellevir’s religious mother, Hellevir’s brother and the knight he loves and, of course, Death himself. 

While clearly first in a planned duology, the book’s conclusion will still satisfy readers who prefer standalones. But The Gilded Crown skimps on its romance. Sullivain and Hellevir are soulbound by Hellevir’s multiple resurrections of the princess and supposedly develop feelings for each other in their brief interactions. But the two women do not ultimately spend much time together, which makes Hellevir’s growing obsession with Sullivain at the cost of her family seem a bit unearned. Nevertheless, readers who adored Hannah Whitten’s The Foxglove King and Hannah Kaner’s Godkiller will find The Gilded Crown a lyrical, fantastical addition to their shelves.

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The Gilded Crown

The Gilded Crown

By Marianne Gordon
Harper Voyager
ISBN 9780063248779

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