Book Review: A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery by Curtis Craddock
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Risen Kingdoms
Publisher: Tor (January 22, 2019)
Length: 416 pages
I loved An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock, so you can imagine my excitement when it came time to dive into its sequel. To my delight, A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery turned out to be every bit as enchanting and mysterious as the first book, featuring the same incredible fusion of genre elements that captured my imagination so completely.
Once again, we’re transported back into the world of The Risen Kingdoms, where protagonist Isabelle des Zephyrs has been struggling with both the success and failures necessary for a leader’s development. Le Grand Leon has made her ambassador to the Great Peace, but unfortunately, the job has come with a lot more strings attached than she anticipated. What’s more, on top of her increased responsibilities, Isabelle finds herself dealing with her newfound well of magic—a discovery which has certainly elevated her status in court but has also meant increased scrutiny for her behavior and actions.
In a cutthroat environment like this, Isabelle knows she must step lightly, but there are also certain lines she is determined never to cross. Soon enough, her morals are put to the test, and when one of her decisions leads to a diplomatic incident, she finds herself thrown under a bus and stripped of all authority and protection. Thankfully, Isabelle’s friend and guardian Jean-Claude has remained faithfully by her side throughout the entire ordeal, keeping her spirits up as she ponders her next step. That decision is quickly made for her though, as Jean-Claude, in his own work as a King’s Musketeer, uncovers a horrific plot involving human experimentation perpetrated by a shadowy enemy known as the Harvest King, inevitably drawing them both into a tangled web of danger and conspiracy.
And here I thought An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was complex, but its sequel proved to be an even more twisted and suspenseful read. Like its predecessor, A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery was filled with courtly secrets and political intrigue as Craddock continues to build upon the plotlines he’s already established. Almost immediately, multiple threads arise to seize the reader’s interest, introducing even more mystery to the series. I honestly could never tell where the story was going to take me next; at times it almost got to be overwhelming because there were so many possibilities and nothing was ever predictable.
As well, I’m impressed with character development and the direction in which our main characters’ relationships are headed. The author has ensured that his protagonists have evolved with their experiences while retaining the core of their true selves, and Isabelle is a prime example, sticking to her guns even when she knows that it will cost her dearly. That said, she would then utilize her intelligence and whatever resources she can gather to keep moving forward, and I loved that she also started exploring her romantic side as part of her soul-searching. Moreover, I was beside myself with happiness when it came to Jean-Claude, who was my favorite character in the first book. He won me over yet again in this sequel, demonstrating, over and over why his loyalty is one of his most endearing traits. Interestingly enough, we also got to glean some details of his past which showed he was not always the kind of man we know him to be, but somehow these glimpses into his youth only made me like him more, knowing that he had matured and learned from his mistakes.
And of course, I would be remiss if I made no mention to the gorgeous world-building. Craddock greatly expands it in this volume, adding to the already vibrant atmosphere and history of The Risen Kingdoms. As I wrote in my review of the first book, there are honestly few things that this series doesn’t have. Examples from many genres are represented, including intricate magic systems, powerful shapeshifters, clockwork automata, flying airships, floating kingdoms, dashing musketeers and much, much more. With book two, this world has further solidified itself as a complex network of all these disparate but interconnected elements.
Initially, I was concerned that this novel wouldn’t feel quite as fun or surprising, given how a lot of the luster and novelty had worn off. Fortunately though, that was not the case, and A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery turned out to be a riveting and worthy sequel. This is a series I would highly recommend if you enjoy narratives that contains a number of different genres, themes, and ideas. I really hope more people will discover the wonders of Curtis Craddock’s The Risen Kingdoms, and I await the next installment with great anticipation.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (Book 1)