Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder is an imaginative fantasy that’s to debut on January 5th. This review is a short exploration of the world. As you can expect, I received a free digital copy of the book through NetGalley, and all opinions are my own. I read it last year, but between exams and health issues, I’ve had a really hard time sitting down to write a review.
New year, new luck! And here’s to many new great books to read in 2021. And maybe write, but that’s a story for another time. So, without further ado, let’s dive into Crown of Bones, book #1 of Amassia.
Crown of Bones: The Plot
The story of Crown of Bones follows Ash – a girl without powers in a world of powerful phantom-wielders called savants, and Marcus – the heir to the Baiseen throne, who can yield one of the most powerful phantoms but is unable to even summon him. The whole thing reminded me of the Shaman King manga and anime, and that’s one of the few reasons I pushed through the book. Not to sound grim, but it gave me a really hard time, especially at first.
The plot follows Ash, Marcus, and a cast of side characters on their journey to the island of Aku. There, Marcus, now finally capable of summoning and holding his phantom to form, will learn to wield it and earn his robes. There’s a curious ranking of savants depending on how good they are with them, along with different classes of phantoms, but I won’t go into too many details. I’ll let you do the worldbuilding exploration on your own.
That’s my main problem with Crown of Bones. Their journey to Aku and the dangers they have to face along the way take up half of the book, I think. There’s unrest throughout the continent, and Marcus, Ash, and co. have to sneak their way to the island. Along the way, they meet Kaylin – a mysterious sailor/pirate, who comes from the seas and is paranormally good at everything he does. Our main characters don’t get much development on the road to Aku. It’s strung together events that eventually work out, and that’s kept throughout the book. Crown of Bones doesn’t offer real stakes for the characters, unfortunately.
Once on Aku, we witness Marcus’ training, but it’s rather glazed over. The focus is rather on Ash and all the inexplicable gifts she has. For one, to communicate with others’ phantoms, and even give them orders (if she knows their names, I presume, which is the case with Marcus’ phantom). While on Aku, we learn of a horrible plot that is in action. The island comes under attack and all but one of its residents are wiped out. Our heroes now have to rush back to Baiseen to bring back the phantom home and protect the land.
Everything happens fast from there. We get from Aku to Baiseen in half the chapters it took to make the same journey the first time around. Only to end the book on the biggest cliffhanger I’ve read recently. Amidst a fight. I understand the logical reason for such an ending, but it really threw me off.
Crown of Bones: The Characters
There were many, and I couldn’t attach to any of them. I could’ve read the story without half the side characters, and it would’ve still been the same. Most of them (like Piper and Samsen) had no other purpose than scouting and healing the main characters. While I know those are valuable figures in any party, they felt underdeveloped and not very interesting. Kaylin, by far, felt like the most interesting character, due to the mystery surrounding him. Ash and Marcus are what you expect them to be. As a whole, I think the story should’ve lost some of the side characters or paid more attention to them.
Should You Read It?
That depends. I gave Crown of Bones 3* due to the pacing problems and the cast of underdeveloped characters. But I liked the phantoms and the magic system around them. If you can’t tell, I was a sucker for Shaman King once upon a time (did you hear about the reboot???). The overall worldbuilding was also very imaginative and engaging. If you like multiple POVs (we get one for Ash, Marcus, and Kaylin), initiation journeys, secret schools, and training to be better with your magical abilities, A.K. Wilder has created a great world, indeed. Unfortunately, that cliffhanger at the end triggered me, and I doubt I’ll be reading the second book. But who knows, right?
Tell me what you thought of the book, if you’ve read it, down in the comments, and don’t forget to leave a rating!