Release date: 9 May 2023
Narrator: Evelyn Rose
Synopsis: 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.
I’ve never read Legrand’s work. I’ve heard great reviews of it, which was why I felt compelled to pick this one up. Since it’s pretty hefty—about 560 pages and 21 hours of audio—I chose the ALC instead of an ebook to read, and I chose it despite the abysmally low rating on both NetGalley and Goodreads. I’m not an advocate for avoiding books just because they have collectively bad reviews; I know sometimes ratings can be skewed, especially before a book’s release. After finishing, however, the book seemed to me to earn its startlingly low ratings. Even with a pleasant narrator and a Regency feel, the beginning just droned on and on; and much of it was repetitive, among other things. I didn’t connect with the main character, and I had a difficult time getting into the narrative. The cover is beautiful, though.
What makes the beginning of this book such a chore to read is the nearly insurmountable amount of minutia that bogs the plot down. Every task Gemma undertakes, every thought Gemma thinks, and every feeling Gemma feels unfolds to the reader in painstaking detail—every time. The whole plot really is convoluted to the point of superfluity. Do readers really want to know every detail and step required to draw a bath, including the character staring at the water and watching it fill the tub if it’s just a transition scene? Does it propel the plot forward or stagnate its development? I think perhaps the book could use another round of dev edits in order to polish up the plot and trim it down.
My low rating comes almost entirely from the terrible plot consistency. If you’ve ever read Waverley (though that comparison is abysmal, but hear me out), you’ll know how a plot that drags for the first half can almost completely ruin a book. Not only does the plot in A Crown of Ivy and Glass drag until about 50-60% of the way through the book, but it completely changes direction thereafter and feels like a different story altogether.
I’d say the book has some underlying merit to it; the plot picks up pace and gets very interesting toward the end, but one cannot drag the pace for several hundred pages and then finish it so quickly and with such spontaneity. Cut the book back about 150-200 pages, trim the excessive inner monologue and dreary exposition, and the book could be a solid 4 star from me.
On a positive note, if not for the narrator, this book would have been a DNF for me. Rose’s voice gave Gemma a personality and quality I would not have found in the character had I read the book physically. Absolutely 4.5 stars for the narration. I did have a bit of a hard time following the character voices—there were quite a few—but overall, superb narration. If you feel you want to pick the book up and give it a try, I recommend audio consumption.
My thanks to NetGalley for the ALC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.