Becoming queen is not the end of a fairytale; it is the beginning of a nightmare.
When the queen is exiled, every beautiful young woman in Florencia is forced to become kingsmaids – royal concubines – but one lucky girl from those gathered will be chosen as queen.
Or maybe not so lucky.
Roxana Willows, a wingless fairy with the rare ability to read minds, has seen King Frederick’s cruelty in the stories her uncle tells, and fears that the only thing worse than being a kingsmaid is being the king’s wife. While her heart already belongs to another, she feels obligated to obey her uncle when he tells her to hide her heritage as a fairy in hopes of being chosen as queen.
But becoming queen is the last thing Roxana wants, and it will cost her everything…
A Crown of Chains is a fantasy retelling of the Biblical story of Queen Esther, with fresh twists based on the original context that is sure to thrill in this timeless tale of miracles in the midst of forgotten faith. Filled with political intrigue, forbidden romance, and dire stakes, A Crown of Chains is perfect for fans of Red Queen, The Folk of the Air Trilogy, and The Selection.
Gahhh oh my freakin’ goodness this book was so stinkin’ great!!! Where to even begin?! I can honestly say I never imagined the story of Esther being told in such a way. Phillips wrote this book with unflinching courage and grace, diving into the dark side of history and bringing it out into the redeeming Light of God’s love and forgiveness. It was so emotionally difficult to read at times, because of how deeply painful the story gets, but there was healing in walking through Roxana’s trials with her as she found the strength to survive some of the darkest things people can go through. I cannot say enough good things about this book.
“… Bravery in the face of fear is to be admired as much as anything.”
Phillips did a great job of sticking to the facts the Bible gives us while also making this a unique and creative retelling, full of vibrant and lovable (or, in some cases, despicable) characters. I’ve heard the story of Esther well over a hundred times and can tell it in my sleep, but even I still spent most of the book wondering how it would pan out and what would happen to the characters. THAT takes talent! And there are some really cool ways Erin threw in subtle biblical bits, like weaving in a nod to Daniel and the Lion’s Den. This revelation just hit me a minute ago, but a fun fact about the book of Esther in the Bible is that it doesn’t mention God (weird, I know!), and Roxana herself also never hears from Ehyen (God) in the story. So, God doesn’t make an appearance in the biblical book and He doesn’t make a direct appearance in Phillips’ book- what a cool parallel!
“Horns or no horns, wings or no wings, I guess those things don’t matter in the end. We can all find faith, or… perhaps faith finds us.”
Just in case it wasn’t obvious from my earlier allusions, this story does get very dark. It confronts rape, sexual assault, and general non-consensual behavior, as well as racism, sadism, and sexism. As a survivor of a lot of those things, I can genuinely say that Phillips handled these painful topics with grace and tastefulness, while not backing down from the raw reality of them. She struck the delicate balance between telling the unadulterated truth and further exploiting or glamorizing each of those acts of sin, and that’s a really tough thing to do. She absolutely deserves strong kudos for such an accomplishment.
“Faith is having courage, even when everything seems impossible, isn’t it?”
All in all, I can without hesitation say that this book is one of my favorites of the year. It managed to get me out of my reviewing slump, too, if that tells you anything about how much of an impact it has had on me! So, if you like dark tales, fairytales, biblical retellings, books that confront real-life issues, or even simply good writing, I would definitely consider A Crown of Chains! It will probably make you cry, but it will also make you better.