Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Solomon’s Crown by Natasha Siegel, which is out next week. This also happens to be the two year anniversary of this blog. 🙂 When I started this journey, I never could have imagined all the wonderful people I’d ‘meet’ or that I would read 350+ books in two years. I’m so grateful to everyone that visits this site, and you all are truly the reason I haven’t given up on it yet. lol. Now… on to the review!
Two destined rivals fall desperately in love—but the fate of medieval Europe hangs in the balance.
“A pair of thrones between us, and my heart clutched like a rosary within his hands …”
Twelfth-century Europe. Newly-crowned King Philip of France is determined to restore his nation to its former empire and bring glory to his name. But when his greatest enemy, King Henry of England, threatens to end his reign before it can even begin, Philip is forced to make a precarious alliance with Henry’s volatile son—risking both his throne, and his heart.
Richard, Duke of Aquitaine, never thought he would be King. But when an unexpected tragedy makes him heir to England, he finally has an opportunity to overthrow the father he despises. At first, Philip is a useful tool in his quest for vengeance… until passion and politics collide, and Richard begins to question whether the crown is worth the cost.
When Philip and Richard find themselves staring down an impending war, they must choose between their desire for one another and their grand ambitions. Will their love prevail, if it calls to them from across the battlefield? Teeming with royal intrigue and betrayal, this epic romance reimagines two real-life kings ensnared by an impossible choice: Follow their hearts, or earn their place in history.
***Thank you to Random House Publishing Group for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience. All quotes were taken from an advanced copy and may not appear in the final book.***
I had super high hopes for this one after seeing it compared to The Song of Achilles and finding out the setting was medieval France. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I still thought it was a mostly enjoyable read. The best way I can describe my general reaction is that I kept waiting for more to happen. The premise of the book was interesting, and the author did a good job of crafting both romantic and political tension. There just never felt like any payoff to all that tension, though. The writing was beautiful and did a good job of setting up the time period, but it did feel repetitive at times with how often the men would commiserate over their feelings of not being able to be together. I also think it is important to note that this book is not at all historically accurate, which the author is up front about at the beginning. I’m sure some people will be turned off by the lack of accuracy, but I was totally down for a queer re-imagining of Philip and Richard’s relationship.
Kisses do not a kingdom make, nor love a conquest end. I loved him, but that was not enough. Perhaps it never would be.
The plot of the story was largely focused on two things: the budding romantic entanglement between Philip and Richard and the family drama between Richard and the rest of his family. I enjoyed all of the political maneuvering, deception, and tense interactions. The author did a wonderful job of infusing the relationships and conversations with wit, subtle sensuality, and believable interpersonal dynamics. The problem was that there was little else to the story other than a string of conversations. The characters talk about wars, rebellions, and other things happening, but the reader rarely got to see them. Instead we just got to read the characters talk about them, which isn’t very exciting no matter how great an author is at crafting compelling conversations. This also made the world feel a bit too small for my liking because we didn’t get to see much of it.
“I will destroy you if you permit it. I am a coward, but I am also cruel. I will always prioritize my own gain, France’s gain. I am a throne wearing the face of a man. It is all I will ever be.”
The characters were the highlight of the book for me. I loved Philip and Richard. They were both so intense in completely opposite ways, and it made their interactions fun to read. Philip was anxious AF, ambitious, calculating, and constantly worried about building his legacy and returning France to its former glory. Richard never desired to be heir to the English throne and just wanted to live his life and love who he loved. He was rash, hot-tempered, and larger than life. The two of them spent the book carefully balanced between being brutal enemies and passionate lovers. There was plenty of mutual pining, and both men struggled to fight their feelings for the other. I enjoyed their romance and loved seeing how they helped each other grow, especially Philip who needed to learn that it was okay for him to be a person rather than just a crown. My only quibble with the romance was the lack of steam. There was plenty of tension, but once again felt like there was little payoff. Everything was fade to black, which I’m sure plenty of people will like. I just wanted more. It didn’t need to be super explicit but just something.
“You cannot know the depths of my bitterness. That is only natural, at your age. Each time you love someone, you carve part of yourself away, so that they might have it. There is very little left of me. I have been butchered quite thoroughly. But you -” she sighed. “You have so much of yourself still.”
I also really loved Philip’s wife, Isabella. She was forced into marriage at a very young age, but she and Philip developed such a sweet friendship. She made the best of a bad situation and became a true partner to Philip even though they weren’t in love with each other. Philip also showed a great deal of patience and respect for her and her desires, and I just really enjoyed reading the two of them together.
“I have gained all the glory there is to be gained. And there is one thing, above all else, that I have learnt.”
“And what is that?” I asked.
“That none of it matters,” she said. “None of it has ever mattered at all. That is what is so extraordinary about it, this game we play. In the end, the winner is of no consequence. All we can hope for is that we are entertained in the process; and that, perhaps…” Her smile blossomed wider… “Perhaps,” she said, “we might find something of meaning, in the moments in between.”
Finally, the journey of Philip and Richard showed how love can overcome even the bitterest of rivalries. I liked that they both learned from the mistakes of their parents and chose not to let their love fester into resentment. All in all, this was a good story with great characters. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations, and I wanted a bit more from the plot and world-building. However, I still enjoyed following the political and relationship drama as it unfolded. Therefore, I rate this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.
I accepted that it did not matter what I did. I would be kind of England someday. My father was no longer my greatest enemy, and he had not been for some time. Nor was it Philip, despite our thrones. It was the man I could become, years from now, sitting on the throne with hatred in his heart. I had to prevent his arrival. I had to ensure I did not let myself become as my parents were, embittered and resentful.