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Rachel Gillig

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{second in Shepherd King duology; fantasy, teen romance, dark magic}(2023)

This is the second and final part of the Shepherd King's story and we discover it via Elspeth in the Nightmare's mind and flashbacks (the Nightmare being an entity who has been intertwined with Elspeth since her childhood).
But Ravyn knew better. No promise comes without payment. Blunder was a place of magic - barters and bargains. Nothing was free. 'What does the Shepherd King want?' he asked the girl-spirit. 'What is he after?'
'Balance,' she answered, head tilting like a bird of prey. 'To right terrible wrongs. To free Blunder from the Rowans.' Her yellow eyes narrowed, wicked and absolute. 'To collect his due.'
Wild magic used to exist, granted by the Spirit of the Woods. Legend says the Shepherd King tricked the Spirit into giving him magic, with which he created twelve types of Providence Cards which controlled magic so people no longer needed to make offerings to her. In revenge the Spirit surrounded his country of Blunder with a magical mist which cut it off from its surrounding countries. Children caught in the mist run the risk of 'infection' which gives them unknown, uncontrollable magic which is never the same and which usually results in degeneration, of mind, body, spirit or all three.

There are two threads to this story; one is the desperate race by Ravyn (pronounced like the bird's name), Elspeth, Elm, Jespyr and company to collect the complete Deck of magical Providence Cards (including the missing sole Twin Alders card) before Solstice, at which point of the year magic is strongest (and before Ravyn's and Jespyr's brother, Emory, dies from the degeneration caused by the infection), to free the country of Blunder from the magical mist and the other is the story of the Shepherd King and how he originally created the Cards. One Dark Window featured the attraction between Ravyn and Elspeth while in this book his cousin Elm (the king's younger son) finds a partner for whom he is willing to risk almost everything.

Though it continues straight on from the previous book, Two Twisted Crowns doesn't feel quite the same; for one thing it doesn't have the rhymes scattered liberally through it. The overall impression I'm left with is tangled tree branches in the mist (yes, like the cover). I may have read this book in a bit of a rush because I don't remember the details - I had to go back to re-read the end to remember exactly how it went - and, to be honest, I wasn't in the right mood for teen (oh, alright, they were both 22) romance - but that's just me. And Gillig seems to have taken the old adage for writers to do the worst thing they can to their protagonist to heart - so many times everything was in place for our heroes to go ahead and win the day when they were blindsided - usually by Hauth - which set everything back to naught again.
A flash of red. 'Don't move,' came Hauth's voice. 'Don't even speak.'
Salt stung Elm's senses. His mind skittered to a halt, locking his muscles along with it. He was frozen
Though the main story is rounded off and finished, I thought this book raised more questions than it answered - why, for instance, does the magic of the Spirit of the Woods come with salt and why does the Spirit come from the sea in land- and mist-locked Blunder? I also thought Brutus Rowan got a bit of a short shift; I can see why he took the actions he did but he and his descendants are made into the villains of the story (admittedly deservedly so, in some cases).

A good finish but more confusing than the first book.

(January 2024)
3.75 stars
… (mer)
½
 
Flaggad
humouress | 4 andra recensioner | Feb 26, 2024 |
Series Info/Source: This is the first book in The Shepherd King series. I borrowed this on audiobook from the library.

Thoughts: This was an interesting read. It is a fairly typical fantasy romance complete with a forbidden love. However, there are a couple of story elements that set it apart from other fantasy romances. The first is the idea of the providence cards. Thse are magic cards with special powers that people covet for their magical powers. The second is the idea of a kingdom isolated and cursed by a surrounding mist. If the Providence cards can be brought together and a complete deck made, then the curse could be lifted...however, people's own greed prevents this.

Although the above premise intrigues me, I also found it contrived feeling. It's hard to believe that over all these years no one has tried to break the curse. Also ,we never really understand how Elspeth absorbed the Nightmare and what would happen if she were to touch and absorb other cards. The whole "magic system" feels a bit weak.

I also struggled with Elspeth as a character. She makes a lot of poor decisions throughout and never seems to learn from her mistakes. I liked the Captain of the Destriers, Ravyn, better but even he comes across as very selfish at times. I did enjoy the relationship the two developed. The Nightmare in Elspeth's head is an intriguing addition to the story and I enjoyed watching Elspeth trying to balance her own actions with the Nightmare in her head.

I listened to this on audiobook and it was a good listen. My only complaint is that sometimes the Nightmare's parts were whispered really softly, this made the narration hard to hear while driving...I kept having to turn the sound way up to hear the Nightmare. Aside from that I enjoyed the narration.

The story was engaging and easy to read. I did have to set aside my disbelieve around the concept behind this kingdom and the Providence cards, and Elspeth wasn't my favorite character. However, aside from those issues this story had a lot of intriguing elements.

My Summary (4/5): Overall I enjoyed this. I like the idea of a cursed kingdom shrouded in mist and I enjoyed watching Elpeth balance her own life with the Nightmare in her head. The relationship between Elspeth and Ravyn is sweet and a bit dark all at once. I plan on reading the second book in this series, "Two Twisted Crowns", as soon as I can get it from the library.
… (mer)
 
Flaggad
krau0098 | 14 andra recensioner | Feb 22, 2024 |
I know I’m late to the game with this duology, but I just finished Two Twisted Crowns and I couldn’t get enough! I started searching videos and reviews of other talking about my favorite parts of this book and saw so few so I decided to give my opinion of the best part of it!

Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely counting down chapters until I got to another part of Elm’s pov and got more of him and Ione. However the character/relationship development of the Shepherd King is something I will be thinking about for a very long time. While I loved this book I felt a lot of the plot twists were pretty predictable and felt the romance of One Dark Window and Two Twisted Crowns were so similar. The one thing I was not expecting was to be crying over the Shepherd King!!!!

Also, the multiple POVs really played a part in not being able to put this book down. I kept saying “after this chapter, I’m going to take a break” just to be left with a cliff hanger and needing to get the next chapter with that character’s pov.

I do think the ending was a bit rushed, that could just be not wanting to be done with these characters and this world. The Shepherd King series is the my first time jumping back into the fantasy realm since HP, and Rachel Gillig did an outstanding job setting up this world and magic system making it incredibly easy to follow.

My only worry is that no other fantasy is going to be able to compete with this one.
… (mer)
 
Flaggad
bvillegas410 | 4 andra recensioner | Feb 14, 2024 |
{first of Shepherd King duology; fantasy, quest}(2022)

Wild magic used to exist, granted by the Spirit of the Woods. Legend says the Shepherd King tricked the Spirit into giving him magic, with which he created twelve types of Providence Cards which controlled magic so people no longer needed to make offerings to her. In revenge the Spirit surrounded his country of Blunder with a magical mist which cut it off from its surrounding countries. Children caught in the mist run the risk of 'infection' which gives them unknown, uncontrollable magic which is never the same and which usually results in degeneration, of mind, body, spirit or all three. Only the magics granted by the Cards are now legal so these children are rounded up by the king's Destriers and Physicians and ... disappeared.
The Shepherd King had made seventy-eight Providence Cards in descending order. There were twelve Black Horses, held exclusively by the King's elite guards - the Destriers. Eleven Golden Eggs. Ten Prophets. Nine White Eagles. Eight Maidens. Seven Chalices. Six Wells. Five Iron Gates. Four Scythes. Three Mirrors. Two Nightmares.
And one Twin Alders.
Eleven years ago at the age of nine Elspeth Spindle, eldest child of the Destriers' Captain, was infected and survived - but only her family know her secret. She has been able to hide her magic because no magical traits appeared. However, unbeknownst to anyone else, she did touch a Nightmare Card and absorbed an entity from it; it still slithers in the back of her mind, whispering to her, quoting from the Old Book of Alders.
For the Black Horse Card, for power and speed,
The Spirit wanted blood from my warhorse, my steed.

For the Golden Egg Card, abundance and wealth,
I bartered two years of my life's precious health.

The Prophet came next, the Card of foresight.
She wanted my fear, so I gave her my fright.

When I asked her for courage, the White Eagle Card,
I bartered my skin, which left my hands scarred.

So I begged for the Maiden, for beauty I prayed.
She asked for my hair, shorn off with a blade.

.....

Wary I'd grown, so I needed the Well.
She asked for a chamber - a place she might dwell.

To reclaim my good self, I forged the Iron Gate.
The cost was my armour, my golden breastplate.

For the Scythe I wanted power, and her price was quite steep.
I gave her my rest - she claimed all my sleep.

The Mirror was next, to be invisible - unseen.
She wanted old bones, so I gave her my Queen's.

But it felt incomplete, my collection yet whole.
And so, for the Nightmare ...
I bartered my soul
The Kings of Blunder have historically been cruel and use the Cards to keep control of the country. When Elspeth is invited to the King's castle for the Equinox celebrations she discovers that there is a conspiracy to collect all twelve Cards - which, by the law of the land, is treasonous - in order to release Blunder from the spell of the mist and the threat of infection that hangs over its children. For the chance of being rid of the Nightmare in her head Elspeth agrees to help them since, with his help, she can sense the Cards when they're close by.

And it just so happens that Ravyn (pronounced Raven), the current Captain of the Destriers who succeeded her father, is young and handsome, which doesn't hurt. He is desperate to save his younger brother, who has been infected and is degenerating quickly but he has to hide what he is doing from his uncle, the king.

The magic system (based on the cards) is interesting and I thought the story was plotted well though there was probably an excess of rhyming couplets. I would say it falls into the Young Adult category - but there is a bedroom scene, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone too young. The story behind the cards is hidden in history and unfolds slowly. The book doesn't quite have a cliffhanger ending but it does stop at an interesting point; I've already borrowed the sequel.

(December 2023)
4 stars
… (mer)
 
Flaggad
humouress | 14 andra recensioner | Feb 12, 2024 |

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Verk
4
Medlemmar
1,374
Popularitet
#18,724
Betyg
½ 4.3
Recensioner
20
ISBN
13

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