The Conquering Dark by Clay & Susan Griffith
The final book (so far!) in the Crown & Key series gives us more detail into the past events that are still affecting our beloved protagonists today. There are some big reveals here; brace yourself!
Publisher’s Description: The Crown and Key Society face their most terrifying villain yet: Gaios, a deranged demigod with the power to destroy Britain.
To avenge a centuries-old betrayal, Gaios is hell-bent on summoning the elemental forces of the earth to level London and bury Britain. The Crown and Key Society, a secret league consisting of a magician, an alchemist, and a monster-hunter, is the realm’s only hope—and to stop Gaios, they must gather their full strength and come together as a team, or the world will fall apart.
But Simon Archer, the Crown and Key’s leader and the last living magician-scribe, has lost his powers. As Gaios searches for the Stone of Scone, which will give him destructive dominion over the land, monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane, alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther, gadget geek Penny Carter, and Charlotte the werewolf scramble to reconnect Simon to his magic before the world as they know it is left forever in ruins.
Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (Spoilers!)
Oof, it’s hard to pick out just one. But if I had to, I think it would be Charlotte. She’s pretty awesome. Innocent and vicious at the same time. I love how she attaches herself to Malcom. What about you?
So, we also recently read The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr, another steampunk fantasy. Which one did you like better – the Electric Empire series or the Crown & Key series?
I really liked The Diabolical Miss Hyde….. A LOT. It was quite a lot more bold fantasy than Crown & Key, in my opinion. Crown & Key was more subtle. I really can’t honestly choose one over the other – and I’m glad I don’t have to. I had a lot of fun with the Crown & Key family and I can’t wait for them to visit again.
This is a darn good series. To be totally honest, I cannot imagine how these authors come up with the battle scenes. My GOSH! It’s so involved you can practically see the monsters heaved through the air and alchemical vials being tossed, flung and launched by a bow and arrow. Flames are thrown and diverted. Buildings topple. Earth is moved. Trees are uprooted. Strange critters evolve. If you’ve ever watched The Wild Wild West where Will Smith plays Jim West, THAT’s the kind of world that is this book’s world. IT is AWESOME!
This series brings a group of people together that would probably have never found themselves together. There is danger – a lot of danger – and a through it all the group thinks through the problems and works as a team. Kate is human alchemical scientist. Simon is a sorcerer or scribe as he is labelled in the book. Malcolm is a hunter of monsters. Penny is a mechanical engineer genius. Charlotte and Imogen have their own qualities to add to the mix. Then we have Nick Barker. Nick is an unknown equation because it is unclear whose side he is on. I really, really, like Nick so I’m hoping – um…. *Ivana is giving Nell the evil eye* um…. that Nick….. um…. OKAY! I won’t tell them! Geez! The villains are machines converted from severely damaged humans seeking revenge. There isn’t much explained regarding the backstory of the villains, but you get the gist as you read along.
Simon and Kate are the leaders in the group and they have to put their heads together to figure out the key to stopping a raging elemental madman. They’re building a relationship together, but there is not much reference to their romance other than the off hand quip every once in awhile. What I really like is that Kate is just as kick-ass as Simon. Penny’s muscles in her brain are just as strong as Malcom’s arms and just as deadly. There are no fainting couches necessary for these ladies and they are treated as equals in a time when that was not the norm…..not that we’ve (you and me) have ever had a time where there were 1/2 human 1/2 mechanical evildoers…..but it’s fun to think about.
This series is major-league. I suggest – strongly- that you have books 1, 2 & 3 lined up ready to go because even though there are not any serious cliffhangers, these stories drive you to make the jump into the next book. I love these characters and I hope this is not the last we see of them. Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Griffith. It was an adventure!
Now that I’ve read three books in this series, I’m fully invested in Simon, Kate, Malcom, Penny, Imogen, Charlotte, and now Jane. I’d love to see a prequel about Ash, Gaios, and Byron Pendragon in their youth, when they were friends and started the Order of the Oak. Could be interesting to see the events leading up the fall of the Order as well. As villians, these three need just a little more flesh to their back stories, though we do learn a lot more about the past in this third installment.
The relationships between the characters are a primary focus in this series – and not just the romantic ones. The romantic relationship between Simon and Kate is obvious, but I really enjoy how their relationship is based on mutual admiration and respect, rather than “you have such a hot body, you must be my mystical soul-mate.” The sibling relationships between Kate & Imogen and Charlotte & Imogen, and maybe Malcom & Jane are very touching, as well as the parental relationships between Malcolm & Charlotte and Simon & Nick. Malcolm and Penny seem to be developing a romantic relationship also built on admiration and respect, but they are slower to come to it than Simon and Kate. Everyone in the group is family, and the strength of that is what holds them together.
There are no damsels-in-distress in this series, either. Everyone saves everyone at some point, and the women are just as smart and deadly as the men. There is no hint of gender prejudice in any character, actually, which is really nice. I wonder if the grown-up approach to relationships and the blatent gender equality are products of a husband and wife writing team, or if these themes were very intentional. Now that I say that, I have to think it was done very intentionally to contrast with the relationship between Ash, Gaios, and Pendragon, considering this book stated as much in the final chapters.
I guessed at one of the reveals in this book, though that didn’t diminish it in the least. One thing happens and one thing is revealed that I didn’t expect, which is also nice. I appreciate that the main story comes to an actual conclusion (so many books I’ve read lately haven’t had real endings), but that the way is left open for many more stories. I do hope we get to see everyone again in future installments. At the very least, I’ll meeting my friends again when the audiobooks are all released. 🙂
- Interview with the authors at The Bibliosanctum
- Our review of The Shadow Revolution, Book 1
- Our review of The Undying Legion, Book 2
If you like this book, you might try…
- London Steampunk series by Bec McMaster
- Electric Empire series by Viola Carr
- Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger