At this point is anyone still surprised that I love the Spellslinger series books? Each one I’m like how much more emotional angst can de Castell put me through, how can Kellen really escape, and then I’m whisked away each time.
A failed mage learns that just because he’s not the chosen one it doesn’t mean he can’t be a hero in final book of the Spellslinger series.
Once an outlaw spellslinger, Kellen Argos has made a life for himself as the Daroman Queen’s protector. A little magic and a handful of tricks are all it takes to deal with the constant threats to her reign. But when rumors of an empire-shattering war begin to stir, Kellen is asked to commit an unimaginable act to protect his queen.
Inside enemy territory, he quickly realizes something is amiss. Someone is playing a dangerous game. And to discover their secrets, Kellen will have to challenge the greatest spellcaster who’s ever lived.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
In some ways, Crownbreaker is almost like a reckoning. de Castell has built the tension throughout the last books to the point where we wonder is Kellen can truly keep living the way he has been. Even as he comes more and more to terms with his shadow black, his past, and his family, what does Kellen really want at the end of the day? Is there not a small part of him that hungers to be powerful? A sliver of him that still thirsts for approval and a different future?
A question you always have for the ones who escape death time and time again is how many tricks does Kellen have left? What if he finally runs out of tricks? And what kind of life is that where you look over your shoulder all the time for snares? Home is a tricky thing. You can think you’re past it, moved on and used to a new life, and then a sniff, a piece of fabric, and a memory will make you crawl back.
In Crownbreaker, duty and family are a huge theme. Sure it’s been a theme throughout the series, but this theme comes to a climax in Crownbreaker. When push comes to shove where does our loyalty lie? I have loved how de Castell emphasizes the power of found family and it is the most apparent in the latest Spellslinger book. In a situation where our blood is pitted against the ones who have supported us through no force but love alone, where will our path take us?
And the ever illusive question of duty. Family can ask a lot of us, more than it has any right to, but to whom do we really owe our allegiance? Sure there’s love and memories, but sometimes the pain, the mistakes, can never be bridged. Sometimes the hurt, the ways we make our loved ones choose, can never be repaired. Does our blood demand our duty despite making us their pawn? Or can we choose our loyalty and what does that make us?
Another theme in Crownbreaker is belief. All of these characters are struggling with belief in their own ways – a belief in the plan, in themselves, in duty, in their status. Do we give people second chances because we truly believe they can change or because we cannot accept them as they are? It’s about that final brick falling in the image we have in our mind, solidifying the terrible truth. What happens when the people we idolize, we hope can change, prove us wrong?
These themes are made even more emotional by the way these characters have made a home in your heart. I knew I loved them, but I didn’t realize how much until I felt the flicker of joy and it kind of cements in your gut. Can we escape the destiny that haunts our dreams? The pride and the fear we have stopping us from accepting our fate. And, in many ways, Crownbreaker still asks us the same questions of agency and Kellen’s identity. People who just want to be free, to have control over their own feet, heart, and loyalty. Can Kellen find a home where he can truly be himself?