Crown of Crystal Flame - C.L. Wilson

I absolutely loved this series and it has become one of my favorites. The world building is amazing, the characters have real depth and they grow a lot in course of the five books, the romance is believable and progresses as the story does. The Tairen are original, they’re basically giant cats with wings who can spew fire...I mean what’s not to love!

The characters developed a lot throughout the books; Rain is tormented by his past actions, but he learns to live with the taint on his soul and is able to put the good of his people above what he has always conceived as right and wrong, he learns to think out of the box and is able to change the way he thinks about the strict rules of the fey, and because of all that he grows the most throughout the books. Ellysetta is a young woman who has a darkness of her own and must overcome her fears of herself, grow into a strong confident woman and learn how to be a good queen of the fey. There is no insta-love between them, while Ellysetta is enchanted by all things fey, she falls in love with Rain because of his kindness and his acceptance of every part of her. Rain, even after tragically losing his first love, still has it in him to accept Ellysetta into his heart and give himself with all of his darkness fully to her. Their love story was well thought out, executed and believable.

The supporting characters play a huge role during the entire story and they too grow amazingly throughout the books. Their stories are touching as well; we have the star-crossed lovers who are killed because of their love, the girl who chooses light over darkness even though she has knows nothing but darkness, and the outcast dahl'reisen who still manage hold on to their "lost" honor and protect the Fading Lands even though they are exiled from it.

One of the most moving aspects was the whole honor system of the fey. They respect their women, who are strong individuals, and are driven by their honor and morals, those who fall into dishonor become dahl'reisen, but that does not stop some from still clinging to that honor, not because they seek redemption but because it’s the right thing to do. Even though the fey have strict laws and are centuries old, they are still able to adapt to new changes, they are able to look beyond what they have been taught, take in the bigger picture and then choose to retain their honor while evolving from their conservative mindset.

And finally, C.L. Wilson showed that it is possible to write a likeable romance between a possessive and dominating alpha male and a strong woman with a backbone. Without him being a misogynistic asshole with sociopathic tendencies who disrespects her while she in turn thinks it’s romantic that he treats her like shit! Instead the two as characters learn how to compromise and find the right balance. Which every healthy relationship needs to.


Although I loved the books, there was one thing, that I wasn’t a completely happy about. This is my opinion and it in no way changes the way I see the books as a whole.

I was not happy with the way the final showdown between Good and Evil transpired. It became clear, that Ellysetta would have to overcome her fears of her own darkness and choose between Good and Evil. This is what the whole story was leading up to and she was even told, that she has the power to choose between Light and Dark. So naturally she would have to make a tough decision in the end and hard decisions usually come with a steep price.

 

Well, if you break everything down, basically she chose evil, because by not sacrificing Rain she gave herself up to Vadim Maur and thus to Darkness.

The world and Ellysetta were saved from falling to Darkness by the great supporting characters. But had it all been up to her, evil would have won and this disappointed me. I fully understand that it is in no way an easy decision; either she could have let Rain, the love of her life, die or she could have surrendered herself to Darkness to save him. But dammit, she knew that he would suffer a worse fate if he lived while she became the very thing he swore to destroy and Evil would have won.
I just expected her to choose Good over Evil no matter the cost, especially since she knew exactly what would happen to the world and to everyone loved were she to choose evil. But in the end she surrendered herself to evil to save Rain, fully knowing that the world would fall to Darkness. That she couldn't sacrifice the person she loved most for Good and the well-being of the entire world and everyone she loved was disappointing.

The ending feels hastily written; after the exciting and descriptive battle scenes, the way they just decide to infiltrate Vadim Maur’s fortress was clumsy. It had “trap” written all over it, yes they had a back-up plan, but it was obvious that Ellysetta would be captured and thus the world would hang in balance. But because of the supporting characters, who finally managed to defeat the evil that was Vadim Maur, they all made it out alive and Light eventually triumphed over Darkness.

While we learned what happened to the main characters in the end, I would have loved to know what had happened to some of the supporting characters, such as the girl from Eld.

(show spoiler)



Even though the ending was not what I expected and I was a little disappointed by it, the series as a whole was just amazing. Since the reason that I didn’t like the ending was because I was expecting a specific showdown and didn’t get what I was expecting doesn’t change the overall greatness of the books I gave it five stars. The world building was exceptional, the characters so alive and the way the book is written just keeps you on edge the entire time. C.L. Wilson wrote these books outstandingly, neither the romance nor the fighting scenes overwhelm the story; instead they balance each other out and form this epic tale of love, honor and redemption.