Cruel Crown is the collection of two prequel novellas to Red Queen. The first novella is Queen Song where we get the backstory of Cal’s mother and what really happened to her. The other is Steel Scars that follows Farley as she leads the Scarlet Guard into Norta. They both were pretty good. Giving more insight into world the books take place. Since Red Queen is told from Mare’s point of view, things like how the silver hierarchy is set up and how the Scarlet Guard works isn’t give much detail because Mare doesn’t know these things in much detail. That’s what kind of great but these little novella’s. I’ve written in the past about how it’s trendy for YA authors to write novellas or short stories that take place in between books or prequels. Sometimes they are just filler but other times they serve the purpose of filling in wholes that didn’t have time to get to in the narratives. They also usually focus on supporting or minor characters instead of the protagonists in attempt to flesh out the world a little bit but usually they are of little importance. If readers don’t read them, it’s no big deal. They will still be able to the novels without missing anything.
Of the two stories I liked Queen Song the best. It follows Queen Corianne before she became queen. She’s the only daughter of a once great house that is down on their luck. She catches the eye of Prince Tiberius, Cal’s and Maven’s father. It follows their courtship, their short marriage and her eventual death. She’s a feisty and curious girl, who is interested in mechanics and how things work but in a world where her only role is to be married off her dreams will never happen. When she meets Prince Tiberius things start to open up for her. She finds an equally lonely person to commiserate and love but never really gets over the feeling of being weak and useless. Among those helping her feel that way is rival Elara, who would become Tiberius’s second wife and Maven’s mother. She’s a powerful mind reader but the extant of her power is not truly revealed until the end. Over the course of the story Corianne falls deeper and deeper into paranoia and sadness. She’s been accused of tricking the Prince into marrying her. She suffers many miscarriages until Cal is born. She believes that Elara is behind it and ultimately she is right but no way to prove it. It’s really quite sad. From the very beginning there is a sense of foreboding since we know from Red Queen that she is dead and is believed by suicide. I kept hoping that there would be some kind of happy ending but knowing there would not.
In Steel Scars we get to know more about Farley and her motivations for not only for the Scarlet Guard but also for Mare. We know in Red Queen that the Scarlet Guard is a resistance movement against the silver leadership but I assumed only in Norta. I guess I’m going to have to go back and read it again. Farley is from the Lakelands and comes to Norta to start the Scarlet Guards operations there. While there she meets Shade Barrow, Mare’s brother, who becomes a spy for them. Mare believes Shade to be dead until the end when it’s revealed of his involvement but also that he is like Mare. Red blood with Silver powers. We really don’t get much else from the story then that and why Farley is keen to recruit Mare. Also, i think we are seeing the budding relationship between Farley and Shade. There might be other hints for Glass Sword, the next book in the series but we will have to wait and find out.