“I want to be free.” The words came rushing out of me before I could think through their implications and consequences.
“There are two things you need to know about yourself if you want to be free—what you stand for, and what you stand against.” Lady Penelope held up her hands, brandishing a pair of daggers that had been hidden in her skirts. “This world lives enslaved to its destruction, and so long as you are living, as long as you are fighting, you will be free.”
I gazed at the daggers, transfixed. Each blade was clothed in a leather scabbard, but the silver and obsidian of the daggers’ hilts winked at me, as though it was calling for me.
For the last ten years, nineteen-year-old Eleanora Svobodová has worked as a servant in her stepmother’s household. Along with her older brother, she dreams of the day they will be free to live life on their own terms.
But everything changes when their estranged grandmother comes to Prague on behalf of Queen Victoria. Throughout Bohemia, a string of murders and secret whispers hint at a larger coup. As the leader of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, an ancient order of spies and soldiers that protect kingdoms and their rulers, Lady Penelope is determined to mete out the perpetrators. Now, Eleanora must make the choice between a life of intrigue and saving the lives of others.
Can Eleanora find a way do the right thing and still find freedom?
With a fun blend of historical fiction, true love, castle intrigue, and family dysfunction, The Order of the Crystal Daggers is the latest adventure series from C. S. Johnson.
*I’d like to thank Prodigy Gold Books for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*
I started reading Kingdom of Ash and Soot on the 11th of June and finished it on the 2nd of July, not having read for quite a number of days in between. Despite some of the shortcomings that this novel has, I was pleasantly surprised! My mom and I were planning to go to Prague this year which unfortunately didn’t work out and the fact that I was sent an eARC of a novel that takes place in 1870s Prague was truly a blessing in disguise! I found the blurb to be very intriguing and immediately was sold! I knew I had to read this book which is set in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
The writing totally gave justice to the setting through its vivid and detailed descriptions. It wasn’t difficult to imagine what the text was trying to describe although Prague and its culture was completely foreign to me. At the same time, it didn’t feel as though I was bombarded with descriptions; it was just the right amount of pacing which made you linger in certain areas and speed past others. The balance couldn’t have been better. Another thing to appreciate about the writing style is that all of this was accomplished in a first-person narrative which to me felt slightly unusual in a historical fiction genre. Though I would have preferred a third-person narrative, this one didn’t disappoint me.
The first half of this novel was thoroughly enjoyable. The story was set up magnificently through our protagonist’s perspective and I enjoyed watching her unique world unfold. The part when Eleanora visits the city center to sell her father’s books was also brilliant – it made me want to know what would happen next. This is when our protagonist first meets her love interest – Ferdy. The only annoying thing I found in this scene was when she repeatedly mentions how she thinks Ferdy is dangerous and yet, intriguing. When she goes back home to live as a servant in her stepmother’s mansion as she has for most of her life, her long-lost grandmother returns abruptly at a party hosted by Cecilia (the stepmom) and claims most of her assets. This is when Eleanora and Ben’s, her brother’s, lives drastically change. All of this happens too instantly to fit the original pace of this novel which is also part of what makes Eleanora so unreliable and inconsistent as a character. Although Eleanora grapples with the concept of freedom, which was incredibly explored throughout the novel, her skepticism contributed less towards her development and made her more inconsistent. An example of this is seen during this novel’s possible attempt at creating an unnecessary love triangle.
Eleanora clearly isn’t attracted to one of the characters in this hypothetical love triangle. This makes statements such as, “He would make such a nice husband” entirely redundant.
She doubts this guy’s ability to do something dangerous but not Ferdy’s despite the universally known fact that this guy has a shady history.
“But you’re ready to leave _______ out of everything, but Ferdy and ____________ are not above suspicion?” Ben asked.
Besides that, the side characters such as Lady Penelope, Ben, Clavan Ferdy, and Amir were very interesting to learn about.
One thing that is incredibly central to the plot of the novel is politics. The novel does a marvelous job in conveying the intricacies of Prague politics and the ruling system in the late 19th century but does it in a way that gradually makes you care less about all of it. However, it was all worth it in the end because of that amazing cliff-hanger!
Overall, I enjoyed reading Kingdom of Ash and Soot and it wasn’t hard to get into or continue at all. I’d definitely recommend it to people who enjoy reading historical fiction and fantasy. Make sure to get your copy soon!
I rate Kingdom of Ash and Soot 3.5/5 stars!
Thanks for reading!