I started this book with great expectations, because some of the reviews I read promised the kind of story I enjoy, that of an interesting character journey in an epic setting: Cobalt Zosia used to be a general who had conquered the world, but at some point decided to fake her death, hiding in the anonymity of quiet rural life with her lover. For twenty years she has enjoyed this life, until her husband and the inhabitants of her village are massacred by army rogues, so she decides to take back her old identity and seek vengeance, first tracking the five mercenary captains that made her inner circle, and then trying to re-build her army.
As far as beginning go, a very promising one: I even commented on a fellow blogger’s review post that the setting somehow reminded me of Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold, a book I greatly enjoyed, and the fact that the main character is an older woman added further interest, because it did not obey the genre’s usual “rules”. Unfortunately, the premise did not hold up to the promised epic adventure I was expecting. For starters, I thought the story would be focused on Zosia, and her quest for retribution: what I found, instead, was a long, winding tale about a great number of characters moving around the world in apparent aimlessness. What’s worse, at some point Zosia, on her quest to reconnect with her former allies, abruptly disappeared from the scene, only to come up again in the most unexpected and unexplained way after some two hundred pages. Other characters suffered a similar fate, starting in an intriguing way and then fading in the background or failing to keep my interest alive: it’s entirely possible that the many different threads scattered about would have come together in the end, but after laboring past the midway point of the book I could not take it anymore and I stopped reading – what’s worse, I did not even feel curious enough to try and skip ahead to see if the pace picked up again.
Because that’s the main problem I encountered with A Crown for Cold Silver: the pace is very uneven, quick and compelling at rare times and slow and pondering the rest of the way. The style does not fare much better, because it tries to find a middle ground between grim-dark and darkly humorous, but in my opinion with little success. And the world building suffers a similar fate: there are many different cultures in this world, and they all have the potential to be interesting if not downright fascinating, but to my eyes they are not explored enough – there were times when I wondered if I was missing some hints from a previous book, because I had the distinct impression that there were some inside references I was not made privy to.
While I don’t enjoy books where the author spoon-feeds the readers, providing them with such abundance of details that the story becomes buried under them, I also like to catch some glimpses of the world I’m reading about, glimpses that either point to a larger picture or help me “connect the dots” on my own. Here I constantly felt as if I’d been left out of the information loop, so to speak, and people were talking over my head, uncaring of the fact that I could not follow the conversation.
My Rating: 5/10