Twenty years ago, General Cobalt Zosia conquered the Star and became queen of the Crimson Empire — only to disappear, seeking a quiet retirement with her husband. But the Empire isn’t done with her, and when her village is destroyed and her husband murdered, she returns to the battlefield to extract every ounce of pain in revenge.
Before anything else, A Crown for Cold Silver is funny. Incredibly funny. The voice of the narrator is hilarious, Zosia is snarky in a too-old-to-care-anymore sort of way, and basically every interaction Maroto has is filled with hilarity. And I’m especially fond of Marshall’s metaphors and imagery, as full of snark as they are.
The book also upends a lot of tropes, from the exhausted archetypes of women in fantasy to the structure of who is and can be a hero. When A Crown for Cold Silver starts, Zosia isn’t the plucky and headstrong youth or the teen set out for revenge of crimes against her father — she’s in her 50s, she’s starting to ache everywhere, and she is not the Cobalt Zosia that the Star remembers.
But, this book being what it is, recognizes this, pokes fun at it, and integrates that into the story, much of which involves an imposter Cobalt Zosia some thirty years younger. In what is possibly the actual greatest scene of any fantasy novel ever, Zosia discovers that her imposter’s been wearing some sort of metal bikini-like thing and tells her that if she takes no other advice, put some real clothes on. Meta, but also hilarious.
One of my favorite things about this book was definitely its internally consistent worldbuilding, though I might have been able to do without their methods of drug use, which involves letting different insects crawl on, bite, and sting a person. Hashtag nope.
But the drug use is integrated well into the story, both with references to the thing and its impact on characterization and storytelling. I also appreciated the use of a variety of character types — the characters have so much variation and diversity of presentation and voice that it wasn’t difficult to remember who was who or tell them apart in the story itself.
A Crown for Cold Silver is an exhilarating ride, and it’s a fully enjoyable one to boot. I would recommend this book to all readers of adult fantasy — in fact, I’ve been recommending it practically to every human I know who reads books for four months. I feel this book is one many readers will enjoy, especially those who tend to slog through dense adult fantasy. You can also read an extended excerpt of the book here.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Feliza Casano is a fan of anime, manga, and every sort of book as well as editor in chief at Girls in Capes. She writes for all sections of the site, and she’s the one behind GiC’s Facebook and Twitter. Follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.