Review: A Crown of Ivy and Glass by Claire LegrandA Crown of Ivy and Glass by Claire Legrand
on May 9, 2023
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Pages: 656
Format: ARC
Source: Received from publisher

New York Times bestselling author of Furyborn, Claire Legrand, makes her stunning adult debut with A Crown of Ivy and Glass, a lush, sweeping fantasy-romance series starter that's perfect for fans of Bridgerton and A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Lady Gemma Ashbourne seemingly has it all. She's young, gorgeous, and rich. Her family was Anointed by the gods, blessed with incredible abilities. But underneath her glittering façade, Gemma is deeply sad. Years ago, her sister Mara was taken to the Middlemist to guard against treacherous magic. Her mother abandoned the family. Her father and eldest sister, Farrin-embroiled in a deadly blood feud with the mysterious Bask family-often forget Gemma exists.

Worst of all, Gemma is the only Ashbourne to possess no magic. Instead, her body fights it like poison. Constantly ill, aching with loneliness, Gemma craves love and yearns to belong.

Then she meets the devastatingly handsome Talan d'Astier. His family destroyed themselves, seduced by a demon, and Talan, the only survivor, is determined to redeem their honor. Intrigued and enchanted, Gemma proposes a bargain: She'll help Talan navigate high society if he helps her destroy the Basks. According to popular legend, a demon called The Man With the Three-Eyed Crown is behind the families' blood feud-slay the demon, end the feud.

But attacks on the Middlemist are increasing. The plot against the Basks quickly spirals out of control. And something immense and terrifying is awakening in Gemma, drawing her inexorably toward Talan and an all-consuming passion that could destroy her-or show her the true strength of her power at last.

A Crown of Ivy and Glass introduces a new fantasy romance series featuring dark magic, demons, fae, gods, and a mysterious magical boundary realm called the Middlemist. If all that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is.

Brimming with interesting concepts and ideas, A Crown of Ivy and Glass suffers the classic first book problem of doing too much. Lady Gemma Ashbourne is wealthy and beautiful, a member of a privileged Anointed family blessed by the gods with magical gifts. One small problem: instead of magic, Gemma has been “blessed” with debilitating pain every time magic is performed near her. Distracting herself with beautiful gowns and glittering balls, Gemma can only blind herself to the truth for so long. Something is wrong with her – and the magic surrounding her is becoming increasingly strange, too. Teaming up with a mysterious man named Talan, Gemma attempts to untangle the truth behind her family’s secrets, the changes in the Middlemist, and the cause of her own condition.

Unfortunately, there’s just too much going on in A Crown of Ivy and Glass for the characters to be well-developed. Gemma reads as juvenile and vapid, which is actually the point, as Legrand reveals more about her character as the story progresses. Although it’s a clear stylistic choice, it wasn’t successful. Despite knowing from the get-go that there was more to Gemma than her antics, her narrative voice frustrated me and made it difficult to become invested in her story. I’m bummed because as a fellow spoonie, I was very intrigued by and appreciated that chronic pain is such a significant part of Gemma’s life. I wanted to like her but I just couldn’t. And this coming from a reader who usually loves “unlikable” narrators!

Gemma's narrative voice frustrated me, and while her unlikable behaviour is the point, I just couldn't get on board.

Similarly, I thought Gemma’s love interest Talan was bland and forgettable. Fortunately, the secondary characters delivered – especially Gemma’s grim older sister, Farrin. I gather her story will be the focus of the second book and I assume that’ll be a welcome change for those who didn’t love Gemma and Talan. Fair warning: we’re dealing with a serious case of insta-love here. At their very first meeting, Gemma and Talan’s chemistry is obvious but their emotional connection felt very forced. This is a fantasy-romance novel so of course I expected that their love would be a focus, but I would’ve much preferred to actually experience its development rather than witness its instantaneous appearance. Two cagey, avoidant people start sharing personal and private things right away? The characterization just seems off.

I’m disappointed to report that the major issue with this book for me is how poorly it’s written. Gemma’s voice felt awkward and forced, and Legrand’s writing felt quite “young.” Multiple descriptive sections and philosophical moments that are clearly meant to be impactful just felt…awkward. I’m actually shocked because I loved Legrand’s thriller Sawkill Girls, which really is a YA novel but it was much more mature than this one. The pacing was terribly uneven, with a few chapters packed with information and action followed by multiple chapters that read like filler.

The ending was my favourite part of the story (sounds snarky but it’s true!) because it hinted at the next couple in the series – seems like it’ll be a juicy enemies-to-lovers situation. I don’t plan to continue reading with the series but I may reconsider if the reviews look promising.

Not recommended.