Survival took strength, and I had survived. Moving forward took strength, and I had forged a new path.
Forgiveness took strength, and I would not let Razel take that from me.
Hello, and welcome to my stop on The Crow Rider Blog Tour! I’m so excited to have been invited to partake in this tour and gush about one of my new favourite series!
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire | Pages: 352 | Release Date: July 7, 2020
The thrilling conclusion to the epic Storm Crow duology that follows a fallen princess as she tries to bring back the magical elemental crows taken from her people, perfect for readers who want fantasy books for teens.
Thia, her allies, and her crow, Res, are planning a rebellion to defeat Queen Razel and Illucia once and for all. Thia must convince the neighboring kingdoms to come to her aid, and Res’s show of strength is the only thing that can help her.
But so many obstacles stand in her way. Res excels at his training, until he loses control of his magic, harming Thia in the process. She is also pursued by Prince Ericen, heir to the Illucian throne and the one person she can’t trust but can’t seem to stay away from.
As the rebel group prepares for war, Res’s magic grows more unstable. Thia has to decide if she can rely on herself and their bond enough to lead the rebellion and become the crow rider she was meant to be.
When I first read Josephson’s debut and the first book in the series, The Storm Crow, I fell instantly in love with the world and characters, and the history of both. I loved how surprisingly introspective and character-driven the first book was. It drops you into a world full of magic and wonder and life. You’re pulled in, given just enough to become attached and then—it’s taken. Stolen away. Destroyed.
The result of that transition is you’re left feeling as lost as Josephson’s protagonist, Anthia. You spend the rest of the book discovering a world that is as unfamiliar to you as a reader as it is to the characters.
And the book was better for it, because it does such a brilliant job of pulling you into Anthia’s perspective, of understanding her and her journey with situational depression that she struggles with over the course of the book.
Side Note: One of my favourite moments in The Storm Crow was when Anthia proclaimed, straightforward and point-blank, that she was depressed. I appreciated so much that Josephson didn’t skirt around using the word, especially in a fantasy novel—which I adore, but don’t always have as strong a track record with mental health representation in comparison to other genres.
I know this is a review for The Crow Rider, but I couldn’t write that review without first mentioning just a little of my love for The Storm Crow, because the sequel takes all my favourite parts of the first instalment, and continues them.
The feeling never cared about the stuff I should be happy about. It was like the sea or the wind or the rain; it simply was, and I had to deal with it.
Anthia starts at a very different point as The Crow Rider begins. She is, undoubtedly, in a much better place with her mental health. That isn’t to say this journey occurs in a straight line, because it doesn’t (and I’d consider it a disservice if it did). I appreciated that Anthia still has moments where she slips, where she doubts and the same sinking feeling threatens it’s way back under her skin. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with, and I appreciated that honesty.
What I also appreciated, though, is how Anthia now finds herself in a place where she feels better able to handle those feelings for herself, and better able to help others as they face similar experiences.
The relationships between characters in this duology are incredible across the board, honestly. Even though it may not always feel like it to Anthia, she is surrounded by such an incredible support system. No one in The Crow Rider is ever truly alone, or forced to do things on their own (again, even though they might feel that way). The comradery is wonderful, a united force against the evil that threatens them all.
I know what it is to feel useless. Powerless. Weak. But you are none of those things. Sometimes we need a little help. That’s what I’m here for. To help fight those battles.
Which brings me to the characters, all of whom I loved. Each and every character in this series feels so real; if I were to pull any of them off the page and into the world, they would appear fully-formed. This goes as much for the protagonists as for the antagonists, too. Everyone is faceted, with individual motivations and fears.
The women in particular, deserve a shout-out. The Crow Rider continues to feature an array of strong, complicated female characters. There is no “one” way the women in this series are boxed into, and I truly don’t have the words to express how incredible and refreshing that will always feel. There are the soft-spoken, nurturing sorts. There are the snarky hot-heads. There are the emotionally reserved but more than able to stab you with a giant sword sorts. There are the cruel, coldly calculating sorts.
And the best part? These personalities still intersect with one another, too.
One of my favourite relationships was that between Anthia and Res. The concept of this gigantic rideable crow who mopes when he’s hungry and essentially functions like a giant feathered cat? I’m here for it. I got distinct Toothless vibes, and I use this comparison with only the highest of praise (because if you know me, you know I adore Hiccup and Toothless’ relationship).
Res in general is just an absolute treat. We don’t get to see much of “crows in action” in The Storm Crow, but The Crow Rider more than makes up for that! The crows fuel my love for all things elementally-inclined magic, and my love for human and animal/creature companionships (this is coming from a certifiable horse girl).
The Crow Rider also continues one of my favourite trends in book publishing, which is casually queer characters. They are everywhere in this series, and it’s great. I loved that we get to see more of Kiva and Auma’s relationship, and the on-page inclusion of aroace representation in The Crow Rider warmed my heart.
I was unfortunately less warmed by the main pairing and romance. While enemies-to-lovers is one of my favourite tropes, and something that initially drew me to The Storm Crow, I was pleased with the turn in direction in the first book. And while pleased by another turn of direction on that (a turn on a turn? turn-ception), by the end of The Crow Rider I was ultimately left feeling that Anthia and Ericen was more a product of necessity—almost a forced notion that certain characters needed to be together by the end—than anything else, if that makes sense?
Don’t get me wrong, I adore both characters on their own, and their dynamics! I’m just…not convinced they needed to be together. I can just as easily picture an ending where they rule their respective kingdoms, their relationship platonic with all the quips and jabs that come with friendship—and nothing more.
This is purely personal preference, and I have no doubt many readers will love them together, though!
“We can bring them back,” I told her. The words broke something open inside me. But it was a good sort of breaking. It was like the hatching of an egg, giving way to something beautiful.
That none of these characters or their relationships get lost in the action is a testament to Josephson’s writing. The Crow Rider is, without a doubt, much faster-paced than The Storm Crow. Which only makes sense, since the book spends much of its time on the brink of war.
Within that, of course, are the necessary conversations that come with building a rebellion. The Crow Rider relies in part on court intrigue and political alliances, and does so successfully. The fraught relationships between kingdoms as a result of history make this all the more complicated, and I love the questions that come of it. To what extent do the wrongdoings of our predecessors define our futures? Condemn our futures, even? Can we break cycles of violence, or are we doomed to repeat them? Can we do better, be better, than those who came before us?
We are asked these questions with increasing haste leading up to the final climactic battle you know must come. And come it does, in smaller waves that come barrelling down at the end with all the tour-de-force a confrontation such as this deserves and requires. Josephson is an expert at battle sequences that read with energy, and make you frantic to find out what will happen next. It feels like you’re in the heat of battle alongside the characters, completely immersive and entirely investing.
Maybe leading didn’t mean just making decisions and enforcing them. That was what Razel would have done. What my mother would have done. Maybe leading meant being the kind of person people wanted to follow.
As much driven by the depth of the characters and their relationships as it is by the plot and machinations of war, The Crow Rider offers a wonderfully satisfying conclusion to The Storm Crow duology. It also leaves me eager to see what other worlds Josephson has waiting to take flight.
My Rating: 4 Stars
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Raincoast Books. This does not affect my review, which reflects my honest opinions. Quotations have been taken from an advanced reader’s edition and are subject to change upon publication.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kalyn Josephson is a fantasy writer living the California Bay Area. She loves books, cats, books with cats, and making up other worlds to live in for a while. THE STORM CROW is her debut novel.
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:
Don’t forget to check out all the other stops on The Crow Rider Blog Tour! I’ve included direct links to everyone else’s posts where possible.
Hollibrary Books (that’s me!), Books and Lemon Squash