ARC Review: Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig

Today’s review is about TWO TWISTED CROWNS by Rachel Gillig. It’s the conclusion to The Shepherd King duology. Ravyn and the Shepherd King warily team up to embark on a singular mission: to unite the Providence card deck to free Blunder of the curse of magic.

Author: Rachel Gillig
Series: The Shepherd King Book 2
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Orbit
Publish Date: October 17, 2023
Print Length: 480

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Official Synopsis

In the dark, spellbinding sequel to One Dark Window, Elspeth must confront the weight of her actions as she and Ravyn embark on a perilous quest to save the kingdom–perfect for readers of Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf and Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching.

Gripped by a tyrant king and in the thrall of dark magic, the kingdom is in peril. Elspeth and Ravyn have gathered most of the twelve Providence Cards, but the last–and most important–one remains to be found: the Twin Alders. If they’re going to find the card before Solstice and set free the kingdom, they will need to journey through the dangerous mist-cloaked forest. The only one who can lead them through is the monster that shares Elspeth’s head: the Nightmare.

And he’s not eager to share any longer.

My Review

I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

TWO TWISTED CROWNS picks up nearly where ONE DARK WINDOW ended in a cliffhanger. The Shepherd King now controls Elspeth’s body. Ravyn feels helpless watching Elspeth disappear, relegated to the depths of her own mind. However, Ravyn and the Shepherd King have the same goal: to unite the deck of Providence Cards to lift the curse of magic from Blunder. They embark on a mission through the misty forest to retrieve the Twin Alders, the last card needed to complete the deck. But the Spirit does not give freely, appeased only by balance.

This conclusion to The Shepherd King duology has three points of view: Elspeth, Ravyn, and Renelm (Elm). Elspeth’s POV is interesting because she has to slowly find her way in her own mind after succumbing to the Shepherd King. Because two minds occupy one body, this allows for snippets of the king’s history and attachments to surface. I particularly liked reading about the origin story behind each Providence Card. The internal banter between Elspeth and the Shepherd King provided some minor comic relief on the occasions he communicated for her to Ravyn.

I did not feel as invested in Ravyn’s POV. Perhaps this is because he could no longer connect to Elspeth directly and has to keep his emotions tucked away. This makes it, at least for me, harder to empathize. He certainly thinks about his family and their safety, but he avoids mentally broaching the topic of Elspeth to get through his mission.

However, I really enjoyed Elm’s POV and often couldn’t wait for the book to switch back to him. There is some instalove, but Gillig incorporates it well and it’s not cloying or unbelievable. This provides another avenue for Elm to open up outside of his internal monologue, which allows the reader to connect with him more. His POV also keeps the reader in the castle, where there’s tension between Elm and those loyal to his sadistic brother Hauth.

With respect to the magic system, I’m not quite sure I fully understood it by the end. The use of the Providence Cards is easily understood. The importance of uniting the deck before Winter solstice was unclear to me , though (or perhaps I just missed it). And while I enjoyed this book, I didn’t feel as engrossed as I did with ONE DARK WINDOW.

However, TWO TWISTED CROWNS is a fitting conclusion that wraps up centuries of a perceived curse. The characters work to right wrongs and begin a new reign free of discrimination against those with magic in their veins.

Rating: 3.75
Content warnings: sexual content (consensual), violence, blood, death, gore
Reading format: Kindle e-book

8 thoughts on “ARC Review: Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig

    1. Nope, it’s a duology, thankfully! I am always so happy when something is a duology or shorter. It’s so hard to find that, I feel, in the fantasy genre.

  1. I haven’t read this duology as for some reason, the first one didn’t appeal to me. I like the sound of this though so will probably pick them up if I see them at the library.

    1. Agree…maybe I also just wasn’t in the *perfect* mood to read it and so I wasn’t as into Elspeth’s storyline anymore. Loved Elm, though.

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