Cover of Crown of Bones, with a golden castle atop a mountain with a phantom shape looming behind it

About the Book

Title: Crown of Bones (Amassia #1)
Published: 2021
Series: Amassia
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Atlantis?
BFF Charm: Mixed Bag
Talky Talk: Fresh Fantasy
Bonus Factors: Paranormal Creatures, Book Love
Factor: Series Starter
Relationship Status: Feeling Each Other Out

Cover Story: Atlantis?

I know there are birds (?) on this cover, but the overall blue tone and the water (?) coming out of the castle (?) gives me Atlantis (?) vibes?

What I’m saying is that this could have been a lot better.

The Deal:

In a world where savants—people with the ability to raise magical “phantoms” from the ground—rule, non-savants are seen as lesser. Even when they’re supremely talented in their own right, like Ash, a wordsmith who’s been raised among savants and is chosen to record the training of childhood friend and heir to the throne of Baiseen, Marcus Adicio.

Their quest goes awry right from the start, and Ash struggles to keep her mind on the task at hand, especially when charismatic sailor Kaylin joins their party—and when other people’s phantoms begin to take more than just a passing interest in her. (Something, one can assume, is very unnatural and unexpected.)

BFF Charm: Mixed Bag

Brown paper bag filled with various BFF charms

We get to “hear” from 4–5 different POVs in Crown of Bones, and not all of the POVs are main characters. But there’s a little something for everyone in the book, from great BFF potential to possible/cautionary folks to downright nays. I’d definitely give a BFF charm to Ash, though. For the most part, she’s just the right amount of “normal” that we’d actually have a chance to hang—I pretty much always assume that I’d be a total muggle in any fantasy story. She loves books, writing, and storytelling and is mostly a stickler for the rules. She loves to curse in the many different languages she knows, which made me laugh every time, even though I had no idea what she was saying. She’s not afraid to jump into the fray when the situation calls for it, though, and has some internal struggles that I commiserated with. Hanging back with her while the savants actually did most of the dirty work is the kind of role I’d be best at on any quest.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

From the second they meet, Kaylin, a sailor who’s not meant to be a part of the quest, catches Ash’s eye. He’s totally swoonworthy and spends much of the book shirtless and/or wet. But … he’s got secrets. (Thankfully, his is one of the POVs, so we aren’t blindsided when they’re revealed.)

Marcus doesn’t like Ash like that. But that’s mostly because he’s the heir to the throne and a powerful savant, and they were told that they couldn’t be together. But he bristles whenever he sees Kaylin and Ash being more than just acquaintances, and it’s not just because he doesn’t fully trust Kaylin’s motives.

The love triangle aspects of Crown of Bones aren’t too terrible, but I sense a storm brewing in subsequent books.

Talky Talk: Fresh Fantasy

In Crown of Bones, Wilder has crafted a fantasy novel that takes elements familiar to YA fantasy readers and freshens them up. For example, quests are common in fantasy books, as well as people being able to control paranormal creatures that are tied only to them. Wilder makes these tropes her own through throwing her characters into inventive—and sometimes downright dangerous—situations and altering the magical system so that it feels fresh. (No other book I’ve read has folks controlling phantasmic giant warriors who can rip people in half and two-headed snakes that can heal people with their bite in one plot.) The characters, too, seem standard at first glance; the heir who struggles with his gifts, the non-magical friend who’s more than they seem, the mysterious loner dude. But they all leap off the page into one’s imagination and feel realistic even while performing inhuman, magical feats.

The book starts off a bit slow—especially because I thought it was a standalone—but picks up speed and then doesn’t let up, even on the last page. (It’s a tad cliffhangery, but more in an “I’m excited for the next book” way rather than a “RAGE SMASH* one.)

Bonus Factor: Paranormal Creatures

Characters from How to Train Your Dragon; a young boy touches a dragon's face under moonlight

The phantoms people raise in Crown of Bones come in a myriad of forms. They’re kind of like Patronuses, but more physical in form and able to do magics of their own. Or flight like warriors, or heal people, or cause mists to form and winds to rage, etc. I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of phantom I’d like to raise, and I still don’t have a solid answer. Guess I’ll have to be content with just reading about the ones in the book.

Bonus Factor: Book Love

A young boy hugs a pile of books.

At one point, Ash enters a killer library and her reaction is basically the heart eyes emoji (although Wilder puts it in better terms). She’s a woman after our own hearts!

Factor: Series Starter

Stack of Twilight books

When I dove into Crown of Bones, it wasn’t indicated anywhere that I’d seen that it was a series starter. But not even halfway through, I started hoping that the resolution wouldn’t be in the book; it would be wrapped up far too quickly if it were. And I was also enjoying myself, getting lost in and learning about this world. So, for better or worse, I was happy to find out that it was a first, even though I do very much enjoy standalones!

Relationship Status: Feeling Each Other Out

We didn’t start off totally smooth, Book, but we eventually found a rhythm. I’m curious to see what other adventures we can get up to together, but I do hope that you don’t turn out to be just like all the rest of my formulaic dates.

Literary Matchmaking

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

Susan Dennard’s The Witchlands series has a similar magical quest feel.

There Will Come a Darkness (The Age of Darkness #1)

Katy Rose Pool’s Age of Darkness trilogy also has a lot of POVs—some with secrets.

Bring Me Their Hearts (Bring Me Their Hearts #1)

And Sara Wolf’s Bring Me Their Hearts trilogy is another awesome, epic fantasy series with another sassy lady lead.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Entangled Teen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Crown of Bones is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.