Review: Servant of the Crown by Duncan M. Hamilton + Giveaway

Review: Servant of the Crown by Duncan M. Hamilton + GiveawayServant of the Crown by Duncan M. Hamilton
Format: audiobook, eARC
Source: purchased from Audible, supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy, sword and sorcery
Series: Dragonslayer #3
Pages: 336
Published by Tor Books on March 10, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The Exciting Conclusion to the Dragonslayer Trilogy Long laid plans finally bear fruit, but will it prove as sweet as hoped for? With the king on his deathbed, the power Amaury has sought for so long is finally in his grasp.

As opposition gathers from unexpected places, dragonkind fights for survival and a long-awaited reckoning grows close.

Soléne masters her magic, but questions the demands the world will make of her. Unable to say no when the call of duty comes, Gill realizes that the life he had given up on has not given up on him.

Once a servant of the crown, ever a servant of the crown...

    The Dragonslayer Trilogy:

1. Dragonslayer
2. Knight of the Silver Circle
3. Servant of the Crown

My Review:

First things first. I just want to say what a treat it was to start a series, fall in love with it, and be able to just read – or be read to – all the way through to the end without having to wait months if not years for the later books in a series. I don’t always have that opportunity, either because I fall in love with the first book long before the others are out, or because I run into the “so many books, so little time” conundrum and have to space things out because of other reading commitments. Because I waited to start the first book (Dragonslayer) until the entire series was out – a happy accident! – I was able to do the whole thing in one swell foop. And wow! What a ride!

Second, this is epic fantasy of the sword and sorcery school, and there just hasn’t been as much of that around recently. I’d forgotten how much I love this end of the epic fantasy pool, so I’m grateful for the reminder and will be looking for more of it.

Third, this story manages to be both epic and not epically long at the same time in a way that just really, really works. In an era when so many epic fantasies are made up of several individual door-stop sized books, it was a joy to get such a rich and complete story in a length (or maybe I should reckon this as height) of just under one doorstop at 1,000 pages in total.

Fourth, but still not last, what makes this series so fascinating to read are its characters, and the way that their individual arcs both fulfill fantasy tropes and subvert them at the same time. Because this is a story where the characters feel like real, flawed human beings – and yet they still manage to be Big Damn Heroes, whether they want to be or not. And it’s definitely not.

I’m specifically referring to Gill and Soléne, because their respective journeys, separately and together-but-not-TOGETHER, form the backbone of the series.

Gill is the failed hero of the previous generation. His character, who is very much a classic archetype, usually becomes the mentor figure in most epic stories, whether fantasy or not, and that character usually dies somewhere in the middle so the “real” hero can take center stage. (One of my personal favorite characters of this type is actually dead to begin with, but that’s another story.)

Obi-Wan Kenobi is a great example. He was a hero in the previous war. He failed, he fell and then he hid himself away in the deserts of Tatooine. He becomes Luke’s first trainer and mentor in the Force, and then he’s killed by Vader. The mentor figure always dies. Like Merlin. And Dumbledore. And every other teacher/trainer of the young hero.

But the young hero in the Dragonslayer series is on an entirely different course than Gill’s. Because Gill doesn’t die. Instead, he becomes the hero, one more time, in spite of his own wishes to die in obscurity at the bottom of a bottle. He is, in the end, the “Servant of the Crown” as named in the title of this final volume. He serves no matter what he, himself might want. And he becomes the hero because no matter how many times he’s struck down, he gets up and tries again. And again. And again. Until the job is done.

If it ever will be.

Soléne is that young hero. Gill’s the one out in front to collect all the glory and fight all the battles, or so it seems. But she’s every bit the hero that he is, just from behind the scenes. Her power is huge, but it is also quiet. She’s the mage who operates in the shadows, not because she’s the woman inspiring the hero, but because the power she wields works best from the dark – and the quiet. He knows that she brought him the victory, and he knows that the best thing he can do for her is to acknowledge that privately and not publicly. Not that the Crown won’t give her its own semi-public acknowledgements. Maybe. If they succeed.

It is fascinating that both of their personal journeys are the journey to learn to trust themselves. He has to step up, and she has to step forward, but in so many ways it’s the same step.

I also absolutely adored that there is no romance here – nor should there be. It is wonderful to see trust, friendship and true comradeship in a relationship between a man and a woman that has absolutely no basis in will they/won’t they. Because this particular pair really, really shouldn’t – at least not with each other – and the reader is NEVER led to believe that they should. Solene is never Gill’s reward or his prize, nor is she ever fridged. She’s as big a damn hero as he is, just in a different way.

Even Amaury the villain is very, very human. While he is certainly a meditation on the cliche that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, he’s never able to grasp the absolute power he thinks he deserves. And the minute he gets close to it, it does him in. But throughout he’s human and understandable, even if he’s never a sympathetic character at all. And it’s another subversion of trope that Amaury the human is the big villain, while the really big creatures we think will be the villains, those dragons of the series title, actually aren’t. Well, at least all of them aren’t.

Escape Rating A++: I need to stop squeeing at this point. It’s pretty obvious that I adored this series from beginning to end. I began it in audio – every time – but switched to text at the point where I just couldn’t find out what happened next nearly fast enough.

I will say that the reader for all three books, Simon Vance, was absolutely marvelous. I wanted to continue to listen to him, but patience has never been my long suit. If you love fantasy and have an excuse to listen to the full story, it’s a wonderful listen.

I loved this series so much that I decided to include it as one of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week reviews and giveaways. The winner of today’s giveaway will receive their choice of one book by Duncan M. Hamilton (up to $20 US), whether in this series or one of his previous series (and if anyone knows whether they are all set in this same world, please let me know!)

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Early Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway

On April 4, 2011, the very first post on Reading Reality went live. That was back when the blog was called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction” after a saying I found on a t-shirt. At the time I started the blog, the country was still reeling from the “Great Recession” and a book blog was a way to keep my hand in the book world – and give myself something to occupy me intellectually, during a period when we had just moved cities (AGAIN!) and jobs were hard to come by. And doesn’t it seem like the more things change, the more they remain the same?

Nine years and three cross-country moves later, the blog is still going strong!

My birthday happens to be April 5, hence the term Blogo-Birthday was born. I celebrate these anniversaries by giving stuff away – as a way of thanking all of my readers and followers who have found Reading Reality over the years and stuck around to see what happens next.

What happens this week will be a series of giveaways. Today I have two giveaways, one for a $25 Amazon Gift Card and one for $25 in books from either the Book Depository or, for those in the U.S. $25 in books delivered from the book store of your choice. If you have a local bookstore that’s doing mail order, I’ll have the books or a gift certificate sent to you from them. If you don’t have a local of your own, then you can choose from one of the big regional bookstores like Tattered Cover or Powell’s, or get your books from the Book Depository. But books you will get!

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The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 4-7-19

Sunday Post

This was the week where I gave things away. Lots of things. Lots of bookish things. April 4 was the EIGHTH anniversary of the founding of Reading Reality, and April 5 was my (ahem) 62nd birthday. I gave stuff away every day, and the rafflecopters are all still open for at least another week. So you haven’t missed your chance to enter – or to enter again.

Both books I reviewed, the books by the Annes, were both terrific, and I look forward to the next outing in both series, hopefully next year. Maybe in time for my next Blogo-Birthday?

Current Giveaways:

$25 Amazon Gift Card AND $25 Book (2 prizes) in my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Giveaway
$10 Amazon Gift Card OR $10 Book in the Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card OR $10 Book in the Rain Rain Go Away Giveaway Hop
Any book in either the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series or the Daniel Pitt series (both) by Anne Perry
Any book in the Leaphorn, Chee (and Manuelito) series by Anne Hillerman and Tony Hillerman

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick is Danielle
The winner of The Cliff House by RaeAnne Thayne is L Lam

Blog Recap:

Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop
Rain Rain Go Away Giveaway Hop
A Review: Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry + Giveaway
Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway
A+ Review: The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (334)

Coming This Week:

Who Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris (review)
A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian (review)
Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James (review)
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (review)
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (review)

Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway

It’s that time again – time for my annual Hobbit Birthday!

Today is the OMG EIGHTH anniversary of the very first post on Reading Reality, back when it was called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction!” I found that saying on a t-shirt, and the other day I found the t-shirt again. I’m not sure whether the shirt still fits, but the sentiment certainly does.

Tomorrow is my own birthday. I call these Hobbit birthdays because hobbits give presents on their birthdays instead of receiving them. That’s what I’m doing this week, giving presents away.

Monday and Tuesday were both blog hops. As part of yesterday’s review I’m giving away a copy of any book in one of my favorite long-running series. I’m calling it one series, although it mostly isn’t, but sort of is. The Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series of historical mysteries literally (and literarily) gave birth to the Daniel Pitt series, as Daniel is their son. Both series are still ongoing, and both are marvelous if you love historical mysteries.

Tomorrow’s review and giveaway will be for another much-loved and long-running series, the Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito series begun by the late Tony Hillerman and continued marvelously by his daughter Anne Hillerman. Just like yesterday, the giveaway will be for any book in the entire run of the series.

I chose both of those series this year because they both have books coming out right around my birthday – it’s my party week and I’ll read what I want to! These are books I wanted to read because I love both series. AND, something I didn’t realize until after I set the calendar, both authors are named “Anne” with an “e”. My middle name is “Anne” with an “e”, so it seemed a bit like fate.

Or at least good reading karma!

But today is the celebration of the start of Reading Reality, eight years, four cities and eight residences ago. (We moved a LOT, but we think we’ve finally stopped for a while).

I always like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, my readers and followers, for making this blog so much fun to do. If I wasn’t having a good time, I’d stop – and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I hope that all of you are having a good time, and hopefully an informative one, reading the posts and reviews. Whenever someone comments that they picked up a book because I raved about it – or avoided one like the plague because I ranted – it absolutely makes my day.

As today is the actual anniversary, today’s giveaway is special. I’m giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card AND a book (or books!) up to $25 in value, shipped anywhere that the Book Depository ships. There are separate rafflecopters for each giveaway, so enter one or both!

It’s my way of saying thanks to all of you. I’m looking forward to spending many more years together, talking about even more books!

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Blogo-Birthday Giveaway

Today, April 4, is the seventh anniversary of the first post on Reading Reality. Tomorrow, April 5, is my 61st birthday. And I’m not sure which I find more astonishing.

The banner above was the original header for Reading Reality, back when it was called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction”, a line I got from a t-shirt. I found the original bear the other day, and he’s sitting on my desk right now. He’s still a good luck mascot – and Freddie has not yet found him and played with him to death. Give him time. Freddie, I mean, not the bear. There’s a reason we call him the Fredinator.

In those intervening years, Reading Reality has published 2,902 posts, most of them mine. It’s gone from a 3 or 4 day a week blog to a daily blog – even if I occasionally find myself scrambling to get a post ready on time. Believe it or not, there have been over 22,000 comments made during those seven years. That’s a lot of conversation.

And it has been, and continues to be, an absolute blast to do. It surprised me to realize that this is the second-longest I’ve ever held a single job. My record is 9 years, and that’s coming up fast.

What makes it all worthwhile are the contacts. I may not respond as much as I should, but I love hearing from readers that they have enjoyed the blog and my reviews, whether through comments here or comments on my Goodreads reviews. And I very much appreciate the way that my reach has expanded over the years, so that I get to read even more great books – as well as the occasional clunker.

This week is my opportunity to give back to all of you who have given so much to me over the past seven years, and I hope many more to come. For Reading Reality as well as myself, this is a Hobbit birthday, where I give presents instead of receiving them. I’m giving away something every day this week, whether through a blog tour, due to the generosity of some of my favorite authors, or out of Reading Reality’s pocket.

As the actual anniversary, today’s giveaways are special. I’m giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card AND a book from the Book Depository up to $25 in value, shipped anywhere that the Book Depository ships, which is a tremendous number of places.

It’s my way of saying thanks to all of you. I’m looking forward to spending many more years together, talking about even more books!

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The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 4-1-18

Sunday Post

Happy April Fool’s Day. Hoppy Easter, Happy Passover, and welcome to the first day of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week!

Officially the celebration is April 4 and April 5, but over the years it’s gotten bigger and bigger and now it’s a whole week. I will be giving something away every day this week. There will be books, gift cards and even some swag! Stop by every day to see what’s in store.

Here’s what’s coming up this week, as well as all the goodies that are usually a part of the Sunday Post.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the April Book of Choice Giveaway Hop
Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop is Tari
The winner of the $10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the March into Madness Giveaway Hop is Judith
The winner of the $10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the All About Diversity Blog Hop is Adik

Blog Recap:

A- Review: Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai + Giveaway
A Review: To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear
B Review: The Morcai Battalion: The Pursuit by Diana Palmer
B+ Review: The Awkward Squad by Sophie Henaff
A- Review: Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood
Stacking the Shelves (281)
April Book of Choice Giveaway Hop

Coming Next Week:

Counting on a Countess by Eva Leigh (blog tour review)
The World Awakening by Dan Koboldt (review)
Blogo-Birthday Giveaway
Cyborg by Anna Hackett (review)
Head On by John Scalzi (review)

Sixth Annual Blogo-Birthday Blast

On April 4, 2011, Reading Reality, as “Escape Reality, Read Fiction”, posted its first post. 2011 seems like the proverbial long time ago in the galaxy far, far away. Although it wasn’t THAT far away. At the time, we were living in Gainesville, Florida, and planning a move to Atlanta. Our first move to Atlanta.

Between 2011 and now, we moved to Seattle for a couple of years, and then right back here to the Atlanta suburbs. We even live in the same burb we lived in back then, just at a different address. It’s still near Galen’s work, and now mine as well. And we’re both immensely glad not to need to take the Atlanta not-so-Expressways to work every day, especially after that disastrous fire and collapse on I-85 last week. It’s going to take a long time to clean up that gigantic mess.

As much as we like living here, one of the big things I miss about both Chicago and Seattle is their efficient public transit systems. Maybe this will be a wake-up call for the Atlanta region, but I doubt it. We’ll see.

But this isn’t a traffic blog, or an Atlanta living blog. It’s a book blog. Six years and counting.

In those six years there have been over 2,500 posts, most of them reviews. And over 17,000 comments. I know I need to do way better at responding to comments. Ironically, I usually know just what to say when I’m reviewing a book, but still come over self-conscious when responding to an individual. We all have our quirks.

But speaking of reviews, this week I decided as a present to myself (my birthday is tomorrow) that  I would only review books I really, really wanted to read. So it’s all science fiction and fantasy this week, because those are still my go-to genres. Both The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek have a lot to answer for when it comes to my reading preference.

And, in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings, this is a hobbit birthday. Meaning that instead of getting presents, I will be giving out presents this week to you, my readers, followers and friends. I hope that you enjoy the books and gift cards every bit as much as I have enjoyed writing this blog.

Live long, and prosper! And read LOTS of books!

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Fifth Annual Blogo-Birthday Blast

Blogo-BirthdayThe teddy bear and I welcome you to my fifth annual Blogo-Birthday celebration! I still have the original bear somewhere in the house. I’m sure he’s holding down a bookshelf somewhere, as he should be.

booksbear.jpg

Today is Reading Reality’s 5th birthday. Tomorrow is my 50-something birthday. Here on the blog, I celebrate birthdays Hobbit-style, meaning that I give away presents instead of getting presents. Today’s prize is a $15 Gift Card or a book of the winner’s choice, up to $15 in value, shipped by the lovely folks at The Book Depository. The rest of the week I’ll be giving books away, either courtesy of the publishers, the authors or my own self. There should be something to tickle every reader’s fancy.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 whole years since I started this blog. And also the fact that none of this technology was even a gleam in an inventor’s eye when I was born, 50-something years ago tomorrow.

I helped build my first PC from a kit in 1979. The joke was that the first program most people wrote for their new computers was a program to calculate the payment schedule. Home computers were very much a niche item, and they weren’t cheap. The other joke was that one’s dream computer cost around $5000, and it probably still does. But we’re able to dream a lot bigger when it comes to computers than we used to be. And $5,000 isn’t what it used to be either.

I’ve written a lot of posts in 5 years, and a lot of book reviews. There have been over 2,000 posts on Reading Reality in 5 years, most of them written by yours truly. While I’m sure there’s a word counter somewhere in the Jetpack Site Stats, I’m not sure I want to know. There have been not quite 13,000 comments in 5 years. And over 120,000 page views. I’m not sure whether this is a “time flies when you’re having fun” kind of comment, or something about how big the numbers get if you just leave them alone awhile to multiply. It’s still staggering.

My best day, at least so far, was November 15, 2015. The Gratitude Giveaways Hop had just started, and that brought in oodles of traffic. My best month, at least since I got Jetpack, was January 2016. Hopefully there will be even better days in the year ahead. No matter how the stats add up, there’s no statistic that measures just how much fun it is to write every day, and how much joy (and occasional frustration) I’ve gotten from all the books I’ve read and all the comments I’ve received.

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey. Stay tuned for more exciting adventures and fun books in the year ahead!

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4th Annual Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been doing this for four years!

On April 4, Reading Reality turned a proud four years old. And on April 5, I turned a few times that many. My birthday.

Which is where the term “blogo-birthday” comes from. The blog has a blogoversary, and I have a birthday and a new word is coined. Ta-Da!

I was kind of hoping to have a bloggish makeover to reveal, but since I didn’t think of that brilliant idea until mid-February, I couldn’t get on the waiting list in time. Soon. Soon-ish.

But this is definitely a day to celebrate. As usual, this is a Hobbit birthday. Which means I give presents to people who come to the party. Because it’s Reading Reality’s fourth blogoversary, I’m going to give away four $10 prizes. It will be the winners’ choice whether they want an Amazon or B&N Gift Card, or a book from The Book Depository, which makes this an international giveaway.

Because this is an anniversary for the blog, it’s time to look back and forward. The question in the rafflecopter will be me asking you for suggestions or pointers. What do you like? What sort of things would you like to see that maybe I don’t do, or don’t do often enough? I would love to hear your suggestions and comments!

Thank you so much for following Reading Reality, and especially for stopping by to celebrate with me!

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Stacking the Shelves (83)

Stacking the Shelves

Today is my birthday, so I’m not going to say much, just go off and celebrate.

If you want to celebrate with me, my annual Blogo-Birthday giveaway started yesterday. I’m giving away a $15 gift card and a selection of books. I hope you’ll take a look!

For Review:
2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Grim Shadows (Roaring Twenties #2) by Jenn Bennett
Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFevers
Shaman Rises (Walker Papers #9) by C.E. Murphy
Tanya by Rebecca Rogers Maher
The Keys to the Realms (Dream Stewards #2) by Roberta Trahan
The Marriage Pact (Brides of Bliss County #1) by Linda Lael Miller
The Perfect Hostage (Super Agent #5) by Misty Evans
The Promise (Thunder Point #5) by Robyn Carr
The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane (Life in Icicle Falls #5) by Sheila Roberts
Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell
The Well of Tears (Dream Stewards #1) by Roberta Trahan

Purchased:
A Dance of Cloaks (Shadowdance #1) by David Dalglish
Thunder Mountain by Dean Wesley Smith