'Crownchasers' is the first book in a brand new duology by Rebecca Coffindaffer that is billed as being perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, Aurora Rising, and Three Dark Crowns.
Alyssa Farshot, explorer extraordinaire and Captain of the worldcruiser.. The Vagabond Quick, is our main character. Paired up with 'Hell Monkey,' the sweet, sarcastic engineer on her ship, Alyssa's spent years trying to escape her family legacy and responsibilities.
Having left behind the Kingship, her uncle.. the emperor, she's forced to return when news of his rapidly declining health reaches her.
When the dying emperor announces a crownchase, an event the kingdom hasn't seen in 700 years, she's thrust full on into the race whether she wants it or not. The prize? Rule of their world as the next to sit on the throne. All she has to do is find the royal seal hidden on one of the 1,001 planets within the empire. Sounds easy enough, right? The first problem is.. she doesn't really want it.
I was waffling back and forth on this one for awhile.. but hear me out.
When I first saw the book pop up on a friend's Instagram stream (thank you @gingerly_reading for bringing it to my attention), I was really excited. The cover art has an almost classic Star Wars feel, though that imagery is sunken into the character portrayal and the tagline is the kind of gold this rebellious-natured reader is a sucker for.
"They can make the rules...but they can't make her follow them."
Upon starting to read the book, initially I thought I was going to be disappointed. The wild streak feels a little forced, the sarcastic comments a little cliche, and the engineer's name seemed ridiculous. It was very hard to take him seriously at first, but as I proceeded.. I realized there was a reason for this funny, carefree outer shell and in time the name actually grew on me.
The innocuous looking design of the chase from clue to clue is far more dangerous than it's meant to be.. and that's saying something, because it does seem to be made to really challenge the competitors with hopes of finding the right person to lead. And while all they're chasing all over the empire, there are indications of sinister machinations elsewhere, making you wonder what the real outcome is going to be.
I will say, I saw a couple of major plot points coming early on, but that's normal for me as a seasoned reader and I didn't mind at all. There are plenty of surprising moments spread throughout the story along the way and Coffindaffer did make me tear up a couple of times, especially in a certain inhospitable atmosphere.
From my perspective, the author felt heavily influenced by Star Wars and Aurora Rising. In particular, in the way the characters interacted with each other and the ambitious attempts at steady banter in the dialogue. This is the one thing I think could have been improved upon. Sometimes, whether or not you intentionally draw comparisons between your own writing and such distinctive works from other authors, if it happens.. you have to work twice as hard to pack the same punch.
In this case, the dialogue just felt a tiny bit too much like mimicry for probably the first half of the book or so. But as the tale evolved, so did these exchanges.. and by the middle of the tale.. the author was coming into her own.. or perhaps.. I was settling into the story. Either way, I expect the second book will be even smoother.
That's really the only small criticism I have. Overall, it's a relatively fast-paced story that I didn't want to put down. I read it nearly straight through in just over 3 hours and I really enjoyed it.
Both the space battles (even the more complex ones) and the personal altercations were exciting and easy to visualize, the characters were distinguishable from one another.. generally likeable where they were meant to be, and I was fully invested in how things were going to go down.
I cannot wait for book two.