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Book Review: Traitors of the Black Crown (Black Crown #1) (ARC)

Expected publication: September 22nd 2021

Author: Cate Pearce

Three women will betray the black crown. A Knight. A Duchess. A Queen.

Raena Schinen narrowly escaped when the Queen’s guard murdered her entire family. If Raena’s survival is exposed, she’ll be next. For fifteen years Raena has hidden as a male Knight, “Sir Rowan”, consumed by her vengeful desire to assassinate the Queen.

The moment Raena is close enough to exact her revenge, she is unexpectedly exiled to a foreign land. There she serves the common-born Duchess Aven Colby, whose suspicious kinship with the Queen further threatens Raena’s delicate secrets.

Just as they become united in a common goal to curb a looming invasion, unexpected heat and romance blossoms between “Sir Rowan” and Aven. The peril demands they set out on a journey to form clandestine political alliances, risking the Queen’s wrath, and drawing Raena and Aven closer together.

But no one in the kingdom could have imagined the sinister foe rising from below the surface. In order to save themselves and those they love, Raena, Aven, and the Queen must recognize who are the oppressors and who will unite against the Black Crown.

Traitors of the Black Crown is the first novel in the Black Crown series and follows three characters, Raena, Aven, and Zarena. After losing her family, Raena Schinen disguises herself as a boy and adopts a new identity as Sir Rowan, a knight of Hawk’s Keep. Together with her best friend and fellow knight, Sir Finley, they are on their way to participate in the Knight’s Trials of Candeo in Candor, one of the lands within Calamyta. Prince Zander, son of the late King Lyam and Queen Zarana, hosts the Trials in Candor. Each land, Candor, East Twin, West Twin, East Shore, and Ediva, all host their own Trials. The story starts right in the action of the trials where forty knights are competing. Unlike other years, this year’s Trials will use real weapons, which automatically creates additional tension in the writing. When Finn and Raena end up on the Prince’s bad side during the trial, the two friends are sent on separate missions. Finn will remain with the Prince’s guard and Raena is sent to serve House Colby.

The main plot is Raena and Finn starting with a mission to take revenge on the queen, but becomes more complex after Raena and Finn are separated with Raena being sent away from the palace. There is a lot of political intrigue in this story with many dangers at every turn. As Raena is disguising her identity as Rowan, there is added tension; although I wish there was more for this part of the story. Although situations do occur where there are obstacles regarding her disguise, I expected it to be a larger source of tension than it was presented. I enjoy how this element comes into play when Raena and Aven interact with their growing attraction to the other. Their developing romance was sweet and I enjoyed reading about the two of them getting to know each other. Their romance skews a little towards the insta-love side, but there is a nice connection between them that I did not mind it as much as I usually would.

There are three points-of-view in this novel, Raena, Aven, and Zarena. With Raena and Aven spending a lot of time together, the events are similar, but just given from two different sets of eyes. When they did not interact, however, I enjoyed Aven’s side of the story as it added some new insight. I loved Finn at the beginning of the story and wish he was present more throughout, although he could be a larger presence in future novels in some capacity. His interactions with Raena were one of my favorite elements of the novel, so I wish there were more. With Zarena’s story, her character grew on me a lot and I found myself more invested as I kept reading. I also enjoyed Zarena’s part of the story as it gave some understanding into Zander’s character. For me, I understood that he was the villain, but I wanted to get more into his head and figure out his motivations and thought process. There is still a lot of potential with the characters as more secrets are revealed, new secrets are created, and plots alter based on circumstances.

Overall, the novel starts very strong with the Knight’s Trial and then slows down a bit thought the middle before picking up again towards the end. It is a roller coaster of pacing, which is on par for most series and definitely increases anticipation for the sequel. The novel does end with the reader having a lot of questions as the story sets itself up to lead into the future sequel. All in all, this novel provides an excellent opening to the series and I am curious to continue and read the second novel, Defenders of the Black Crown.

**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Hansen House, for the opportunity to read this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed are completely my own.**

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