As a reader, I have mixed emotions when a series I love comes to a close. On one hand, I don’t want it to end. I love these books for a reason and genuinely look forward to seeing how things continue for characters and worlds I’ve invested in. On the other hand, I’m dying to know how it all rounds out, if those characters will get their happy endings, and if the world will be whole or damaged by their actions. I definitely had these feelings going into the final novel of Elise Kova‘s Air Awakens series: Crystal Crowned. I have many things to say about Kova (and all of them are good!), but the one thing she knows better than writing is how to treat her fans and honour her readers. I got everything I wanted from an Air Awakens book, and a few things I didn’t expect. Characters I adored continued to grow even after I thought I knew them, and the final battle was tense and nail-biting. A climactic end to a truly exceptional series, Crystal Crowned is not to be missed by fantasy and Young Adult fans. Because this is the final book and I loved it and have soooo much I want to talk about, I’m going to put up a minor spoiler warning.
Long live Solaris.
One bloodthirsty ruler has been overthrown by another, casting the shadow of death over the Solaris Empire. Vhalla Yarl stands upon the stage of fate, prepared to do battle one final time. Fragile alliances will be tested and new bonds will be formed as the world is reshaped. She fights as the champion of peace, but when the night is darkest will she be able to pay the price of a new dawn?
Crystal Crowned takes off shortly after the dramatic events of Water’s Wrath (still can’t get over that ending– so perfect!), and it’s full steam ahead for Vhalla, Aldrik, Fritz, Jax, and the rest of the gang. The story is steadily paced, not overburdened by action and focusing mainly on the characters. That’s not to say the action scenes aren’t suspenseful when they happen. I found myself flipping the pages a couple times to make sure I hadn’t misread a close-call for a character, one of those “No, that didn’t happen, no way, I don’t believe it!” moments.
The Air Awakens series has always been about the characters, and that is where it’s strongest. Kova has a way of bringing characters to life in fiction that I adore. I’ve read 118 books this year according to Goodreads, and it’s easy for me to forget certain events and characters in between books. But the characters of Air Awakens are exceptions. Each one is powerful in his or her own right and acted in ways I could, shall we say, predict. They would do or say something and I would smirk and think, “Yup. That’s just what Jax would do,” or “Oh boy, that’s going to put Aldrik in a mood.”
While we learned some exciting and dramatic things about certain characters like Jax (not what I expected to learn about him!), the forerunners were of course, Vhalla and Aldrik. Both of them have come such a long way and turned into almost completely different people. Let’s start with Vhalla. Talk about a strong female protagonist! Her progression from a naive librarian to one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world is noticeable and distinct. But it hasn’t been easy. She’s endured hardships and heartache, and I thought we would simply see this new person tackle the challenges thrown her way. Not the case. A scene near the end took a dark, wicked turn, and I was honestly worried. I never thought I would see her react the way she did, and while it worried my little fangirl heart, the reader in me was thrilled. As for Aldrik, he’s a rare character who completely transformed. If you put the broody Fire Lord from Air Awakens next to the Prince in Crystal Crowned, I would only recognize them physically. He’s one of the deepest, most complicated characters I’ve ever read in fiction, and Kova knew that we would love the moment his commanding presence stole the scene. Vhalla and Aldrik are formidable together, and I will genuinely miss them, along with Jax. Because… Jax.
The world was familiar, but the new ways in which is was described led me to think it was another place entirely (obviously the point). Kova was able to paint vivid images that commanded attention. I could see everything as though it were painted before me which drew me deeper into the story. After five books, I can tell this is a complex world and there’s so much more we haven’t seen. Combine the settings with the elements used by the sorcerers in combat, and I basically had a movie playing in my head for most of the story, though especially at the end.
Kova’s writing is amazing. Seriously amazing. I can’t put it more simply than that. The more I write this review, the more I think about the book and the way it was pieced together with time, consideration, and love. Sentences are beautiful constructed, and Kova has a way of hinting at things without explaining them outright that I love. Most of the time, I don’t want things bluntly stated to me unless it’s for heat-of-the-moment/dramatic effect. I like a little mystery, to create my own conclusions and let my inner fangirl go wild with conspiracy. That’s why I’m glad there were a couple unanswered questions at the end of Crystal Crowned. There’s still so much to consider, even if things are settled down for our dynamic duo. Mostly.
As I said earlier, Kova has a distinct understanding of her fans. She knows what we want and knows what we like. This couldn’t be clearer in Crystal Crowned. While the story was rounded out for the sake of the story, there were a couple points directed at fans. I have huge respect for that, and couldn’t be happier with the ending of this truly amazing series. Major thanks to Kova for putting together these exceptional books. I can’t wait to see what’s next!