Published: January 4, 2022
Publisher: Tor Books
Series: Moon Fall #1
Pages: 560 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
An alliance embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the secrets of the distant past and save their world in this captivating, deeply visionary adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling thriller-master James Rollins.
A gifted student foretells an apocalypse. Her reward is a sentence of death.
Fleeing into the unknown she is drawn into a team of outcasts:
A broken soldier, who once again takes up the weapons he’s forbidden to wield and carves a trail back home.
A drunken prince, who steps out from his beloved brother’s shadow and claims a purpose of his own.
An imprisoned thief, who escapes the crushing dark and discovers a gleaming artifact – one that will ignite a power struggle across the globe.
On the run, hunted by enemies old and new, they must learn to trust each other in order to survive in a world evolved in strange, beautiful, and deadly ways, and uncover ancient secrets that hold the key to their salvation.
But with each passing moment, doom draws closer.
WHO WILL CLAIM THE STARLESS CROWN?
If you’re looking for a cool new epic fantasy series to check out then might I recommend The Starless Crown? I expected this to be pretty awesome going in based on my experience with James Rollins’ other books (despite the very different genre) and was not disappointed. This was action-packed, had several of my favorite tropes, and the moon is also going to destroy the world in 3-5 years. More on that in a moment.
The story starts off with a woman fleeing for her life through dangerous swamps, stopping to birth her child, which is then swept away by a mysterious creature. Cut to the current day, where a mostly blind girl named Nyx is being chased by a group of extremely salty students who she inadvertently embarrassed in class. She is fleeing upwards, to the top level of the Cloistery she attends when a giant Myr bat swoops down, killing one of the boys chasing her and biting her in the process. Myr bats are described as these giant, unholy terrors of the swamp with deadly venom in their bites. Nyx however doesn’t die from the venom exposure, but is instead granted sight (and terrifying fever visions) and finds that perhaps she is connected to the bats somehow. Oh, and also she is certain that the moon is going to fall from the sky and destroy them all.
Then we find Rhaif, a thief who was sentenced to work in the mines, taking advantage of a disruption to escape his prison. Until he stumbles across a cavern where he finds a strange bronze statue of a woman. He could swear that the statue blinked at him… and though he is focused on escape, he detours to help the woman who appeared to be a statue escape the clutches of those who would use her as a weapon.
And lastly there is Kanthe, secondborn prince of Toranth. The black sheep of the family, the Prince in the Cupboard, the spare. His father sends him off to the swamps with a team of soldiers to clear out the Myr bats, which have become too much of a threat since they attacked that boy at the Cloistery. He feels unwanted by his family, but perhaps this trip to the swamps will help him prove his usefulness and his ability to face danger.
The three characters have their own supporting casts and let me just say, it was quite a delight to watch them slowly converge and join together as the book moved along. Their individual plot lines are each quite fascinating and when they do meet up things really pick up the pace! Nyx’s chapters were probably my favorite since she has an animal companion and a mysterious past but Rhaif and Kanthe were excellent as well. Between the two of them, they supply enough rogue-ishness for the whole book.
The world building is also really quite something. The world is called Urth, and at some point in its history it stopped rotating on its axis and there’s a thin comfortably habitable area with scorching desert and frigid wastes on either side. The story strongly hints that long ago there was more advanced technology and I speculate that perhaps this is a post-apocalyptic version of our own Earth. I love that sort of thing and love getting those little hints at a fascinating history or seeing how history is distorted as the centuries pass. Strong Mark Lawrence vibes in that respect. The advancement of technology is pretty cool as well, with some of the greater advances coming from a dark religious order that is honestly pretty terrifying.
Overall, I was super impressed with the quality and depth of the story. Though there are several younger protagonists, this is most definitely an adult fantasy, what with some of the darker content and all. There are some seriously dark and brutal moments, many of which focus on human experimentation by the creepy-ass monks. There are some areas where I felt like the pace slowed a little (not always a bad thing) and I wanted to rush on to the next exciting sequence or the next POV. I can also confidently recommend both the print and audio versions since I checked out both formats (about 50/50). Great start to what I hope will be an incredible new fantasy series!