Gav Thorpe – The Crown Of The Usurper

With The Crown Of The Usurper (2012) the The Crown Of The Blood Trilogy by Gav Thorpe comes to an end. It is a military fantasy although Thorpe varies the setting sufficiently so it isn’t too dominant and keeps himself from describing extensive battles, keeping them constrained to the essential ones.

Like the previous two novels The Crown Of The Usurper is set up in a standalone way in the sense that it contains a storyline of its own with a beginning and an end although knowledge of previous events does become more important to understand what is going on as the greater storyline takes over as this novel takes the greater story also to a conclusion. This is however one of the flaws in the novel. As I mentioned the novel has a storyline of its own but it hardly gets developed. It pretty much gets ignored from the moment the greater storyline needs to finish. We get hardly any insight in the what and the how. Thorpe provides some minor insinuations but does nothing with it. At the end of the novel I still had no clue.

Unfortunately this is not the only missed opportunity. In fact this novel contains a number of them. Every time Thorpe gave a hint of some possible twist I had my mind racing ahead thinking about the possibilities about what might happen or how it would influence the story. It was a lost exercise as nothing was done with it, every time.

The missed opportunities were quite vital in my opinion in regard to the character development as there was little of it. Several times I had the feeling that Thorpe needed to rush ahead to conclude his story within the trilogy format. The pace at some points was even more relentless than previously. Only the essential scenes were there and like the previous novel I had sometimes the feeling I had lost the sense of the time in the story. Now they were here, then they were somewhere quite distant. I don’t say that there had to be some traveling in between. It was just that nothing happened to give some feeling op time passing. Of course other novels have the occasional time jump. They are just not as frequent as here as this is still one connected story and not a collection of events that paint a greater tale. One could think that perhaps many of such scenes had been written, only to be cut out later, possibly for the reason that the novel became too large. Personally I don’t think that would be such an issue with many heavy fantasy tomes reaching close to a 1000 pages.

All these were only minor annoyances. I could live with them, they were only missed opportunities. However, there were two things that were kind of major annoyances. The first one was like the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. Thorpe created a convergence for some very interesting scenes. I was quite interested in how they would turn out. Instead he put in a very convenient rabbit with a most dull resulting scene which even gets cut short. I was really disappointed. Things were really going too easy.

Now to the final annoyance. Thorpe spent two books creating a threat of great impending doom. And in the last book he simply puts it down the drain. I have to be a bit spoilerish a bit, but I hope it might help provide some focus so you might be able to discover what I couldn’t. To say it like this: I did not understand the motive or the resulting actions of the bad guy. Was he in control or not? There seemed to be some contradictions. If he had been in control then he did a very poor job, but many signs said that he wasn’t. Thus it went off and on. In the end it did not really matter. The main character said it early on in the novel already. I won’t quite him but it reflects the essence of this type of fantasy novel.

So it sounds by now if I was quite displeased with this novel. That was not really the case. Overall it was quite enjoyable and the pages turned easily. It was just in the details that it failed on many fronts. If you didn’t look too much at those it was a fair read. Nevertheless I have to conclude that in this trilogy the first book was the best and most solid one. The second did well for me too, although it was more straightforward and had some minor flaws. Quality wise this third novel dropped considerably. I am still not sure if Thorpe (or his editor) cut a load of scenes or that he simply decided not to pursue the many opportunities he created. The story simply falls short and it lacked some explanations to the what and how. The sad thing is that after reading two books of a trilogy a reader really wants to know how it ends and thus will do so in the expectation it will stay on the same level . That this then doesn’t happen leaves not a good aftertaste and damages the trilogy as a whole. I am doubting now to recommend it. A solid foundation and conclusion is important for a story. If you put both on quicksand then it is no good.

Here I should add a personal note. Before I got the first novel I was aware that Thorpe was an author for the Warhammer universe. My opinion on those books is negative. It is only a gut feeling, but that feeling has always proved right for me. Now that he was stepping away from it I was hoping that it would also give me some incentive on the rightness of that gut feeling. First a single novel and perhaps the rest of the trilogy if it could prove itself. At first it was better than I expected. I did not stand corrected but at least I had the idea that I could pick up some other works of the Warhammer authors for some entertaining reads. Now I am not sure anymore. This is not a case of bad writing. Thorpe does a fine job. The story contains much but often Thorpe chooses the poorer (and easier) route to follow. I have often read fantasy books that mainly took the easy route, leading to a poor predictable plot with little imagination. Thorpe does not take the easy route. He often sets off a steep hill or dangerous path, but strays before he reaches the end. So it is almost like a twist that often turns back on itself. And I will leave it with that.


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