{Double Review} THE STORM CROW and THE CROW RIDER by Kalyn Josephson

Monday 27th July

Tuesday 28th July

Wednesday 29th July

Thursday 30th July

Friday 31st July

Saturday 1st August

Sunday 2nd August

Monday 3rd August

Tuesday 4th August

Wednesday 5th August
Paragraphs and Pages

Thursday 6th August
Books with Ben

Friday 7th August

Saturday 8th August

Sunday 9th August

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

  Adrenaline ripped through my veins like lightning as I leaned close to the body of my crow, preparing to execute a dive. Iyla's warm, steady heat kept me grounded, even hundreds of feet in the air. Cold wind whipped tendrils of hair free from my braid, nipping at the skin around my goggles and stealing my breath.

(Page 1, US hardcover edition)

“I, like everyone, knew what you were.
A storm. A tempest of lightning and thunder with the kind of heart found only in legends. A heart full of kindness and courage and strength.
And when I looked at you, I saw only the woman you would become. The leader you would become.


Today, I'm reviewing not one but TWO books -- a full duology!  (Keeping it as spoiler-free as possible, of course!) Last year, there was a lot of early buzz revolving around Kalyn Josephson's debut THE STORM CROW. So it was on my radar, but it wasn't until I saw the reveal for the embossed book without its jacket that I really started to pay attention and added the book to my TBR:

 I was even fortunate enough to meet the author at the Book Expo conference and get a signed copy! Then, of course, it's a tale as old as time: Summer slump, followed by a ton of books I had to read for work that took me pretty much to the holidays. And this year has been a bust due to the pandemic -- my brain just hasn't been able to world-build, so I've stayed away from fantasy. But then the final book came out, and I had so many friends talking about how good it was, and I had just started dipping my toes in the waters of fantasyland again, so I figured, why not? And man, on man. I binged these books so fast! I was really intrigued by the world and the magic and the mechanics and just...everything.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the use of elemental magic. I am such a huge fan of the sub-genre, and I sat up and paid attention when the book opens by talking about these amazing crows (I imagine they must be the size of a griffon, at least), each able to manipulate a different ability. So different, so unique! Fire magic and earth magic and battle magic and shadow magic and so many others -- it was fascinating to see the way the crows interacted and made society better.

The duology stars Anthia, who has dreamed her entire life of being a crow rider. Now, the day she gets to choose her egg and finally bond with a crow is here....but what should have been a dream come true quickly becomes a horrifying nightmare. A rival kingdom sets fire to the rookeries and destroys all the eggs. All the adult crows are also killed, as well as many citizens of Rhodaire. Even Anthia's mother, the queen, has fallen, leaving her older sister Caliza to rise to the throne. Six months later, Rhodaire still hasn't recovered, and Anthia has fallen into a fathomless depression. When the kingdom responsible for the devastation, Illucia, demands her hand in marriage in order to keep her country's freedom, Anthia wants nothing to do with it. But then, she discovers a miraculous, solitary storm crow egg and realizes that if she can hatch it, she might be able to save Rhodaire after all. So she will go to the enemy kingdom and pretend to be a docile princess and bide her time. What could go wrong?

At the beginning of the pandemic, all I could read were fantasies where the main characters were bent on revenge and wanted to watch the world burn. Then, I completely lost the ability to read fantasy. Now, I've come full circle and am once more reading fantasy and cheering on characters wild with grief and desperate to save everything and everyone they love. And what a journey it was! Unlike some fantasies, this one starts strong out of the gate and keeps readers on the edge of their seats from the get-go. As the novel progresses, the stakes get higher and higher, and I'm so glad I could dive straight into the sequel upon hitting the end and didn't have to wait to see how everything was tied together. At times, the pacing in the sequel was a little rushed, but at the same time, I didn't necessarily think we needed to stop at every single island for training exercises, etc, and would have started to get bored, so I'm glad this time was skipped over. The big battle was also a little rushed in spots, but it was still full of action and the stakes always felt high, and even almost impossible at times, keeping readers invested in the final outcome.

One thing I really liked that you don't see much in fantasy is tacking serious issues such as depression. Anthia is deeply depressed when we first meet her and can barely get out of bed. She gets mocked by her people as well as other kingdoms for it. People think she's lazy, that she doesn't care. But she has just been through something super traumatic. Her depression comes and goes throughout both books, too, which is awesome in the sense that other authors would just brush it under the table and never bring it up again. Anthia is not miraculously healed and must do the work and battle depression and become healthier again. I loved seeing this in fantasy and wish more books would tackle serious issues that are mostly explored in contemporary novels, especially since not all readers pick up contemporary, but could also benefit from exploration of such topics.

The romance was both fantastic and frustrating. Fantastic because it has that amazing hate-to-love that adds great tension to the story and has readers rooting for the couple to finally get together and kiss already! Frustrating because just when you think you know where the book is going, a love triangle develops and a more insta-love relationship enters the mix, so the book doesn't quite go in the direction you were expecting. I went into the sequel not knowing who she'd wind up with, because I wasn't sure it would be who I initially expected, and I really liked that couple, so I was unsure about it. It wasn't possible to introduce the triangle sooner, but I think if I had known there would be a triangle going in, I wouldn't have attached right away to one character and let myself be swept away by both of them and the epic question of "Who will she choose?" There's also a great secondary romance featuring Anthia's best friend Kiva, who falls for their servant Auma, and their relationship is full of secrets, but much more straight-forward. There is also a seemingly throwaway line at the end of the series that makes me wonder if a companion novel could be in the works featuring Kiva! It's a small loose thread, and if it goes nowhere, readers won't be too disappointed, though it would, of course, be wonderful to revisit this world through new eyes.

There was also great original mythology in both books. There were ancient immortal gods called Sellas who once existed and created the crows, but they were also cruel and vicious. The myths are touched upon in the first book and really fleshed out in the second book -- and you know I love original lore and the way it manipulates the world of the book, whether the gods were real or not. In some ways, the myths had the feel of Stephanie Garber's FINALE, where you learn more and more throughout the books until everything comes to a dangerous head and what you thought you knew is turned upside down. This element really elevated the book and added more reader intrigue.

If you're looking for a new fantasy world to get invested in (Maybe you even are just craving  more elemental magic after binging Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix), this is a great duology. Both books are out, so you don't have to wait and can read them back-to-back!


~The Storm Crow~

We dipped lower, children chasing Iyla's shadow in the hopes of catching a stray feather to wish upon.” (Page 9)

“I, like everyone, knew what you were. A storm. A tempest of lightning and thunder with the kind of heart found only in legends. A heart full of kindness and courage and strength. And when I looked at you, I saw only the woman you would become. The leader you would become.” (Page 74)

I shall endeavor to be more infuriating.” (Page 96)

~The Crow Rider~

So I was dumb and even though I bought the hardcover, I read a library e-book edition to give the book an extra check-out. Plus, it's easier to pull quotes and do the content ratings, etc. 

HOWEVER, technology is imperfect. The book just glitched and disappeared and came back, and now all of my highlights are gone. I'm really sad, too, because there were definitely some great quotes I wanted to share with you!

(And it's weird because if I return a book and check it out again, all my notes come back, but nope, it's not playing nice at all!)


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG13 ( Kissing; there is one scene at the end where there is a throwaway comment about the male love interest having seen her nude plenty of times, but no other innuendo and nothing happens on-page. )
Language: PG13 ( Light cursing such as SOB, Damn, Bastard, Bloody Chicken, pain in the ass, crap; name calling such as prick and whore. )
Violence: PG13 ( A lot of characters die through various battles, especially via neck slicing. Not overly graphic, though sometimes it is noted that characters have blood on their face or clothing. There is a scene where a character is punished by whip. There is a scene where a character punches something until fists are bloody.  A character is burned by fire, and also sees people burned alive.)
Other:  --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I already talked about the embossed cover above, but I'm still completely smitten with it! I was really bummed THE CROW RIDER didn't also have an embossed case. I heard it was supposed to, but plans changed due to the pandemic, so boo to COVID19 for taking one more thing away from us this year.

I like that on both covers, you can see Anthia's crow. At first, I was trying to figure out if everyone was human size with huuuuuge crows, or fae sized with normal size crows. These covers help bring what they look like to mind, and also promise an intriguing, unique fantasy you haven't seen before!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Kalyn Josephson
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Received: For Review


In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life...until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother's death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them. 


Author: Kalyn Josephson
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Received: For Review

The thrilling conclusion to the epic Storm Crow duology that follows a fallen princess as she tries to bring back the magical elemental crows taken from her people.

Thia, her allies, and her crow, Res, are planning a rebellion to defeat Queen Razel and Illucia once and for all. Thia must convince the neighboring kingdoms to come to her aid, and Res' show of strength is the only thing that can help her.

But so many obstacles stand in her way. Res excels at his training, until he loses control of his magic, harming Thia in the process. She is also pursued by Prince Ericen, heir to the Illucian throne and the one person she can't trust but can't seem to stay away from.

As the rebel group prepares for war, Res' magic grows more unstable. Thia has to decide if she can rely on herself and their bond enough to lead the rebellion and become the crow rider she was meant to be.


Kalyn Josephson is a fantasy writer living the California Bay Area. She loves books, cats, books with cats, and making up other worlds to live in for a while. THE STORM CROW is her debut novel.

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