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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!

The Conquering DarknessTitleThe Conquering Dark
Author:  Clay and Susan Griffith
Series: Crown & Key Book 03
Publish Date:  July 28, 2015
Genre:  Steampunk Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

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!)

Invested_Ivana 50So, we’re done with the Crown & Key series.  I’m kinda sad.  What about you?

Nervous_Nellie_50Yeah.  I am sad too.  I hope this isn’t the last we see of this bunch.   Who was your favorite character?

Invested_Ivana 50Oof, 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?

Nervous_Nellie_50I don’t know who I’d pick.  I really like Kate and Penny.  The authors did a good job of connecting everyone in one way or another.

Invested_Ivana 50So, 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?

Nervous_Nellie_50I 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.

Invested_Ivana 50I second that sentiment.  I’m eager for all three audiobooks to be out so I can experience them all again.

Nervous_Nellie_100Nervous Nellie says…

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.

badge4v4This 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!

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

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.

badge4v4I 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. 🙂


If you like this book, you might try…

The Undying Legion by Clay and Susan Griffith


The second installment of the Crown & Key series by Clay & Susan Griffith has Simon, Kate, Malcolm, Penny, Imogen, and Charlotte not only working hard to stop a killer, but getting closer as a family.  This is another good addition to the growing steampunk genre.

Title: The Undying Legion
Author: Clay and Susan Griffith
Series: Crown and Key Book 2
Publish Date: June 30, 2015
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s Description: When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart—as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.

But this human sacrifice is only the first in a series of ritualized slayings. Desperate to save lives while there is still time, Simon, Kate, and Malcolm—along with gadget geek Penny Carter and Charlotte, an adolescent werewolf—track down a necromancer who is reanimating the deceased. As the team battles an unrelenting army of undead, a powerful Egyptian mummy, and monstrous serpentine demons, the necromancer proves an elusive quarry. And when the true purpose of the ritual is revealed, the gifted allies must confront a destructive force that is positively apocalyptic.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!)

Nell 100

Nervous Nellie says…

Main characters: The posse is back together again for round two. Kate, Simon, Malcolm, Charlotte and Penny are pulled into a war that involves Gods. Kate and Simon aren’t evolving much, but Malcolm and Charlotte are center point in this story. Malcolm is gruff and a loner, but he is slowly growing to accept these people as his friends. Charlotte is learning to control her wolf, something that is supposed to be impossible.

Other characters: Imogen is brought into the light more after her difficult time with Dr. White. She has mostly healed physically, but mentally she’s broken. This story has zombies just in case you are one of those folks who enjoy zombies. The “bad” guys aren’t really that developed. I’m can’t exactly explain what is happening with the evil characters, but it’s all got to do with taking over the world. Isn’t that typical for megalomaniacal villains?

World: I’ve never really read much steampunk, but this is a pretty cool world. The world in this story is the same late 1800’s steampunk London as the first book.

Story: I feel that this story wasn’t as spectacular as the first, but it was still darn good. First off, Kate and Simon unfortunately don’t progress much in their relationship. Secondly, there really isn’t a cliffhanger. Charlotte comes to Kate in desperate need of wulfsyl. Kate makes the potion and regulates it in an experiment to see if Charlotte can retain her humanity while in wolf form. Malcolm comes across a ritualistic murder in a church in London. He knows there is something wrong when he also encounters a zombie. Kate and Simon encounter an army of zombies when searching for the mushrooms to make wulfsyl. The conclusion made by the scientist, sorcerer and hunter is that the rituals awakened the dead unintentionally. The story centers around the mystery of the killings and the villain’s dastardly (did I really say dastardly?) plan to bring a god back to earth. OH, and Simon figures out the secret of the key.

Cover: I think there could be a better cover for this story out there somewhere. The chick on the cover doesn’t really feel very steampunk-ishly Victorian English. The only thing that really rings true is the sword. It’s the sword that Kate uses towards the end of the book.

badge3v4Overall:  I love this series, really I do, but this book wasn’t as fabulous as the first book. I want to continue the trilogy because I have to see what happens to all the characters. I think this series is a fun read, but it did feel like it could have ended at least two chapters from the end. I will look for the last book because are a lot of questions that I have to have answers to before I’m satisfied. Will Penny and Malcolm get together? Will Charlotte become a real girl? Will Kate and Simon actually move ahead with their relationship? Where is Nick Barker and what’s his place in all of this? Finally, what is going to happen with Imogen? I’m looking forward to the third and final book.

ivana 100Invested Ivana says…

Unlike Nell, I like this second installment of the Crown and Key series better than the first, probably because we get more in-depth mythology and, as this is my second visit with the characters, I’m getting more and more invested in them.

Some mysteries from the past are, if not revealed, then at least coming back to haunt our band of warriors.  Ash and Gaios, two of the original founders of the Order of the Oak, are still in the world and wreaking havoc; Simon, Kate, Malcolm, Penny, and Charlotte are trying to stop the ritual deaths meant to resurrect a god; and escapees from a magical prison are trying to kill them all.

I think the relationship between Simon and Kate is moving forward; they act as if their pairing is a done deal, even in public, and their relationship is acknowledged by their friends.  The relationship between Malcolm and Penny is moving slower, though.  However, the friendship between Malcolm and Charlotte is the real heart-wrencher in this book.  Like a perverse cat, Charlotte is taken by the one person in the group who can’t stand her, but Malcolm is learning to fight through is prejudices against werewolves and see Charlotte as a person and an ally.

We also get one mystery completely solved — what Simon’s key does.  But I’m not going to reveal that here. 😉

badge3v4However, there are still a lot of unsolved mysteries that I’m hoping will be solved in the final book.  Where is Kate’s father? What was his connection with the Order of the Oak and Simon’s mother. What is Hogarth?  Will Imogen heal?  What was the purpose of the key?  And when does the “crown” part of the series’ name come in?

Overall, I think this was a good installment in the trilogy, and it set up some good things for the final book.

Other reviews:

If you like this book, try:

The Shadow Revolution by Clay & Susan Griffith

shadow revolutionTitle: The Shadow Revolution
Author: Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
Series: Crown and Key 01
Publish Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Perspective: Third Person

Publisher’s Description: They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.

As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!)

Nell 100Nervous Nellie says…

Main characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Simon Archer is the hero of this story. He is the bastard son of a great scribe that belonged to the Order of the Oak. Kate Anstruther, daughter of a powerful and knowledgeable alchemist is the heroine. She is tough, knowledgeable and still soft-hearted. Nick Barker is Simon’s mentor, a powerful magician who hesitates to call himself a scribe or mage. Nick claims to only be a dabbler, but as the story unfolds he is nothing if not very powerful. Nick found Simon and could see he was meant for greater things so be began teaching him as much as he could.

Other characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ Imogen Anstruther, sister to Kate, is a foolish little twit.  She’s a selfish young woman who wants excitement. Hogarth, the ever present protector for the Anstruther sisters. Charolotte, a freshly turned werewolf child. Penny Carter an ordinance designer as well as all makes and models of weapons. Malcolm McFarlane, a werewolf hunter. Arch Villain Dr. William White and Great Werewolf Leader Gretta Aldfather are the bad guys trying to further their agendas — White to transform humans into monsters and Adlfather to take revenge on the Anstruther sisters.

World: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ This world was extraordinary. It is full of magic and mechanics. Potent aether keeps the the last scribe fighting the good fight and Alchemists that can create potions that increase vitality. There are designs to light the simplest gas lamp to a translocation device. There are werewolves and vampires for sure, but we meet things called homunculi.

Story: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Darkness is slowly encompassing London. Some sort of darkness that is not really ever explained, but Nick is very afraid and willing to do almost anything to keep in the shadows and away from anything that would draw attention to him and Simon. The majority of the fight scenes occur in Bedlam. A maniacal villain running experiments on patients and criminals. It all hinged on a key that supposedly opened a device for instantaneous translocation. I enjoyed the heroine in this story. She was tough and only wanted to save her sister. The hero is unsatisfied with his life and finds purpose when he and the heroine are thrown together to save her sister and unravel a mystery their fathers worked to design. The world is set in a steampunk London. Alchemists and Scribes are what keeps this story moving along. Magic and potions are the lifesavers to the band of mismatched associates.

Overall: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The story is interesting. There are some pretty horrific fight scenes and a sacrifice or two from the characters. I will not categorize it as fluffy. It’s not as dark as it could have been, though the werewolves are not nice guys and there is no lovin’ going on. It was more mystery/thriller with magic and creatures thrown in. It’s going to be a great series, I think. The first book is always about setting the tone, the world and the characters. From what I read, I like the characters and the world. I will pick up the second book because I want to know what the secret of the key might be.

ivana 100Invested Ivana says…

Main characters: ♥ ♥ ♥  I really like Simon and Kate. They seem to work well together and respect each other’s skills. It’s refreshing to see a male character in an Urban Fantasy setting who doesn’t first try to be overprotective with a female. But right from the beginning Simon is fascinated with Kate’s abilities, especially her physical prowess. After this first book, I don’t feel as if I know Malcolm or Penny well enough to comment on them as main characters, but I’m looking forward to getting to know them better in the upcoming books.

Other characters: ♥ ♥ ♥ Dr. White is your standard megalomaniac mad scientist, and there’s not much more depth to him. But he serves his purpose. I would’ve liked to known more about Gretta and the werewolves. I’m very glad, though, that Charlotte has joined the group. Perhaps we’ll learn more about the wolves through her. Hogarth has to have an interesting back story; I hope we learned this in subsequent books, too. Nick is an interesting character who sometimes plays the coward and sometimes plays the warrior. I’d be curious to learn more about him as a young man. Though they technically aren’t characters in the book, I would really like to learn more about Kate’s and Simon’s parents. It sounds like there could be many interesting stories with them.

World: ♥ ♥ ♥ Knowing this is the first of three books published within a short time frame, I can be at patient; but, if this were a standalone book, I would be more frustrated with the world building. There is so much that we didn’t learn – about the Order of the Oak, about the time of Simon’s parents, about scribes and magic in general, or about the culture of the werewolves. We also didn’t find out what Simon’s key is for or how his mother came to possess one of Kate’s father’s artifacts. However, we did learn that magic exists, that werewolves exist, that mad scientists exist, and that the world is very dangerous.

Story: ♥ ♥ ♥ In an attempt to establish his own self-worth, Simon Archer assists a virtual stranger, Kate Anstruther, in retrieving her sister from the clutches of a madman. The madman has ties to a werewolf and a crazy doctor who in turn have ties back to Simon’s and Kate’s parents. A werewolf hunter, a weapons inventor, a reluctant magician, and a werewolf child also join the party. Steampunk shenanigans ensue.

Overall: ♥ ♥ ♥ While I can’t claim this is a particularly original story, I will say that I enjoyed it. I think there is a lot of information left out about the world itself and the system of magic that I hope we learn in the next books. I enjoyed the characters very much and the relationships being built among them. I would certainly suggest this book for any fan of steampunk fantasy.

Other reviews:

If you liked this book…

You would probably like the book Maplecroft by Cherie Priest. Maplecroft sets Lizzie Borden in the world of Lovecraft. Also try the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.

Review copies of this book were provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.