Many thanks to BooksGoSocial and NetGalley for the ARC. This book was released on May 6 2020 and is now available for purchase.
DNF at 58%
The Chalice and the Crown is about Sasha, a rising ballet star drawn into a magical world when she sleeps. In this world, she is a thrall, a slave who has no memories and exists only to serve her mistress. As she is drawn further into this world, her body and mind back in her world rapidly decline. As she breaks her mindless thrall state, she also seeks a way back to her real life. This story is dark and contains violent and upsetting content. Kassandra Flamouri includes a content warning right at the beginning, which I greatly appreciated, as will many other readers.
I had a very hard time getting into this book at first. The narrative felt disjointed and confusing. We never see how Sasha first comes to enter the other world and we are only told about her sufferings before being bought instead of actually seeing them. Large periods of time are skipped over during her decline in reality, and I felt it would have been better to see this to truly understand what Sasha loses in all this. Part of the confusion comes from Sasha herself being confused. She loses her memories after being made into a thrall and they only come back in snippets. I understand what Flamouri was trying to do here; the reader is supposed to be experiencing the same confusion Sasha feels. However, I think understanding the events taking place ultimately makes for a better reading experience.
The book started to pick up for me around the 30% mark. Sasha breaks out of the thrall state, regains her memories, and becomes more aware of what’s going on around her. Flamouri has created a fascinating and unique world. I was interested to see more of it and explore the magic system further. I also appreciated the focus on relationships between women. All of Sasha’s most meaningful relationships, at least until the point I stopped at, are with women. She is raised by her grandmother and Emily, an employee turned family, after the death of her mother. In the fantasy world, she has Sadra, who is trying to free her from slavery and befriends her in the process, and Dove, a fellow thrall who has also broken out of the mindless state. I love books that involve female friendships and I’m glad that it seems to be an upward trend recently.
I ultimately stopped reading due to a scene around the halfway point of violent animal death. To be fair, animal death is in the content warning at the beginning. By the time I reached the scene, I had completely forgotten about that. However, it is a topic that I’m very sensitive to and, for me, there is a big difference between regular animal death and violent animal death. With regular animal death, I might cry a lot but I can ultimately make it through. With violent animal death, it upsets me so much that I have difficulty continuing on with the book, especially if it’s an animal I have come to care about a lot over the course of the story. That’s exactly what happened here.
Overall, this is by no means a bad book and I recommend checking it out if you’re interested in dark, psychological fantasy. I may eventually come back to it when I feel I’m in a better state of mind to read it because I am interested to know how the story ends. I’m just not emotionally capable of handling the content right now.