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In Rachel Gillig’s One Dark Window, we are introduced to the kingdom of Blunder. Here magic is real and so is the cost. We also met Elspeth, a girl with a terrible secret. And Ravyn, the man who is both her best hope and biggest danger. Together they embark on a mission to end magic in Blunder. In Two Twisted Crowns, they’ll come closer to saving Blunder than anyone else ever has. Now they just might be able to save everyone, if they can bear the cost. 

[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Orbit for the purpose of this review.Warning: My review of Two Twisted Crowns contains some spoilers!]

The monster in The Shepherd King series

In One Dark Window, we learn that Elspeth is infected with magic, a condition that carries a death sentence in Blunder. She has kept it secret for the last eleven years, but now some people have found out. What’s more, the Nightmare (her term for a voice in her head that came at the same time as the magic) is getting stronger. At the end of One Dark Window, the Nightmare completely takes over Elspeth when she is attacked. Elspeth is sent deep into her own mind, and the Nightmare is now in charge. That’s how it stays for the majority of Two Twisted Crowns.

Ravyn is devastated by the change in Elspeth. His goal remains the same, uniting the magical deck of cards that will save Blunder from the magical mist that surrounds it. But now he has a new reason, saving Elspeth. This means working with the Nightmare because he knows where the final card, the Twin Alders, is. No one’s seen the card for 500 years, so Ravyn has no choice but to trust the Nightmare, at least a little. So Ravyn, the Nightmare, and a few companions set out to find the final card and save the kingdom.

Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig

Meanwhile back home in the kingdom of Blunder

A second very important set of events unfolds back in the royal court while Ravyn and Elspeth are out chasing cards. Elm, the second prince, is reluctantly upgraded to the heir by his father. His older brother, Hauth, is clinging to life after attacking Elspeth and having his butt handed to him by the Nightmare (his attack was the catalyst for the Nightmare taking over Elspeth). As Elm deals with the pressures of a role he never wanted, he also finds himself falling in love with his brother’s fiancée, Ione. 

Ione Hawthorne never wanted to be betrothed to Hauth, her father basically sold her for a better position in the kingdom. Now that Hauth is practically dead because of her cousin (yes, Elspeth is her cousin and best friend), Ione is in a very dangerous position. The king wants her dead, but killing her would require admitting that Hauth is dying, and that would be bad for the kingdom. 

Elm manages to convince his father to spare Ione, at least for now. The two begin spending time together and something seems to be growing between them, but it’s hard to tell since Ione is stuck under the influence of magic that keeps her from feeling emotion. Can Elm help her find her heart again and keep the kingdom safe?

A full circle ending for Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig

An important theme in Two Twisted Crowns is patterns and events coming full circle. It’s a story 500 years in the making and finally, the patterns can be completed, the cycles can be broken, and new circles can be started. Gillig crafts a satisfying ending for every one of her characters. I absolutely loved reading Two Twisted Crowns, just as much as I loved reading One Dark Window. Some of her outcomes were a little predictable because of the patterns and circles that the story is all about. But it was still satisfying when I was proven right. And some of the reveals were still surprising.

Gillig’s style really draws you in and makes for a quick read, despite the length of the book. Two Twisted Crowns has over 400 pages, but I read it in just over a day, if that gives you an idea of how enjoyable it was. The story just flies by. Plus, I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t want to set it down! I definitely recommend this two-part series to any fantasy lovers looking for a compelling story! Just make sure you read One Dark Window first, or you won’t know what’s going on. Of course, One Dark Window is also a great read, so there’s no real sacrifice with having to read it first, just extra pleasure.

My Rating: 9/10

Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig is available now from Orbit Books! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you place on adding this great novel to your TBR list!

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Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

Luna Gauthier has 211 posts and counting. See all posts by Luna Gauthier