Book Review: The Lonesome Crown (The Five Warrior Angels, #3) by Brian Lee Durfee

Book Review: The Lonesome Crown (The Five Warrior Angels, #3) by Brian Lee Durfee

Cover art illustrated by: Richard Anderson

The Lonesome Crown by Brian Lee Durfee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Five Warrior Angels (Book #3 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy, Epic fantasy

Pages: 1088 pages (Paperback)

Published: 29th November 2022 by Saga Press

The Lonesome Crown is a massive fiery, brutal, and unpredictable concluding volume to The Five Warrior Angels trilogy.

“One must cease trying to control every little thing. Let the rivers of time flow, let the waters run where they may, for what destiny is yours shall remain the same and polished from the journey.—THE WAY AND TRUTH OF LAIJON”

This is the end of The Five Warrior Angels trilogy, one of the most underrated trilogy I’ve read. I started and finished both The Forgetting Moon and its sequel, The Blackest Heart, in the year 2019. Back then, when I first read it, I still thought this series would become a five books series. And it would’ve been so cool. The number five is crucial in the world-building and lore of The Five Warrior Angels. And then I heard it would become a four books series instead of five. And then, not long after that, I heard AGAIN that it would be crammed into a trilogy instead. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this. A series designed to be five books long suddenly lost two proposed installments; how many contents will be cut out? However, as Durfee said at the end of The Lonesome Crown, this was done in order to make sure he could tell the entire story he wanted without waiting for contract renewals for future books/series, which in the publishing business is always up in the air. And most importantly, now that I’ve read The Lonesome Crown, this move felt like the right decision. A blessing in disguise. I never felt like anything was missing from the text. This novel is almost 1,100 pages long and close to 400,000 words. It is the biggest in the trilogy, and as Durfee said himself, none of his vision was sacrificed in the making of this novel or trilogy. Everything he wanted to write was successfully written and crammed into this huge trilogy. And I am inclined to say I loved this explosive conclusion The Five Warrior Angels trilogy.

“It will not be self-righteous blind faith in Warrior Angels that will save the Five Isles, the Vallè had said, but rather those with humble doubt, those who take it upon themselves to hone the strength of their own will and intellect and fight against the power of suggestion, fight against faith and blind belief.”

The story in The Lonesome Crown continues a few days from where The Blackest Heart ended. And I personally think Durfee has realized many incredible feats with this novel. Without going into spoilers, The Lonesome Crown is a book about preparation, setup, and finally, the long-awaited Fiery Absolution. Fiery Absolution has been teased and prophesized since The Forgetting Moon. The twists and turns, the perilous quest, the epic war, the sacred weapons hunt, the deaths, the betrayals, and more. Everything that transpired in the previous two books and the first half of The Lonesome Crown was all a compelling preparation for the devastating time of Fiery Absolution portrayed in the last 35% of the book. I will talk more about the insane Fiery Absolution later. But first, unpredictability from using familiar tropes has always been one of my favorite aspects of The Five Warrior Angels, and Durfee did not dismiss this notion here. Right from the first chapter of this book, I was taken aback by finding out the identity behind the character in the gorgeous cover art (illustrated by Richard Anderson) of The Lonesome Crown. This kind of twist persisted throughout the entire novel. And even though familiar tropes were utilized constantly throughout the trilogy, it never felt like the story was predictable or less engaging.

“Scripture is naught but insanity and contradictions: love and hate, peace and war. For any man who claims to speak for god is insane. All the time. Every time. Thus religion is naught but allegory and fable, and in the end answers nothing, leaving the mind and soul bereft and empty when it thinks it is full.—THE BOOK OF THE BETRAYER”

I did a reread of The Forgetting Moon and The Blackest Heart in preparation for this book, and I’m glad I did. The ordeals and developments the varying characters went through in shockingly only one year of the timeline were just crazy. I don’t think I would be able to enjoy this installment as much if I didn’t reread the previous two books first. Durfee keeps the story fresh and exciting by including not one book of prophecy but multiple scriptures. This created contradictions and obsessive clashes of faith with heavy consequences while at the same time keeping readers glued to the page, thinking about which one of these scriptures is the right one. War being waged in the name of religion and faith is not a rare plot device in epic fantasy. And I am sad to say it is also a common conflict and occurrence in our world. This shattering war brought forth by people acting as if they were the avenging words and swords of their gods resulted in the inevitable conflagration, The Fiery Absolution. It was all handled deftly. The ending was satisfying enough and fitting to the trilogy, and Durfee, at the same time, left room for a sequel series should he ever choose to do it in the future. It’s not truly necessary because I am satisfied with what I’ve read here. However, if it happens, I will be intrigued to find out how the events in this trilogy shaped the future of The Five Isles.

“Our stories of today will be written down and twisted in the name of someone’s future ideology.”

Before I discuss The Fiery Absolution and the action sequences, it is mandatory to talk about the characters and their development. It is worth writing a bunch of unlikable characters. I think one of the reasons why The Five Warrior Angels remains an underrated and underhyped trilogy is because The Forgetting Moon did not click with readers. It is understandable. Despite some loud opinions and demand for more morally grey characters, it is still, at its core, essential for many readers that the characters are still likable. The characters in this trilogy did not start off that way. Stefan and Beer Mug was the only truly kind-hearted and morally good characters throughout the trilogy. The rest, from the first book to the end, are doing their best to survive at every expense. There are no heroes here, except for Beer Mug, just survival. However, this is not to say the characters stayed unlikeable constantly. Starting your series with unlikable characters left room for rich character development and growth. That is what has been achieved here.

“We cannot change the past… We can only accept where we are right now and forgive what wrongs were done us and move on. If anything good can come of this Laijon-forsaken mess, it is that I have changed into a less prideful person. I hold no malice toward Nail, and I can only hope those I have wronged hold no malice toward me.”

In The Lonesome Crown, the number of characters in the series with their respective arc has increased further. We have main or supporting characters like Nail, Tala, Jondralyn, Jenko, Ava, Liz Hen, Dokie, Hawkwood, Krista, Val-Draekin, Gault, Enna Spades, Stefan, Lindholf, Lawri, and more. It will require another separate review if I pursue explaining EACH character’s arc in detail. It would be a very spoiler discussion, and plus, I don’t have the time to do that right now. Let’s say this instead, the character’s arc of these morally grey characters is incredibly rewarding. I think, sometimes, it is more paramount for readers to feel invested in the character’s journey rather than being fixated on whether they are lovable characters doing good or not. Plenty of characters I despised in the past two books became characters I am so invested in here. For example, I talked about the shift in my investment in Liz Hen in my review of The Blackest Heart. I mentioned how Liz Hen was a character I thought I would thoroughly hate until the end, and The Blackest Heart proved me wrong. Well, The Lonesome Crown proved me wrong further. Liz Hen became one of my favorite characters in the trilogy. And then, characters I thought I was going to until the end of the trilogy betrayed me. It is all so good and unpredictable. Redemption, renewed purpose, or an attempt at one, is there for the characters. And there is Beer Mug, one of the best animal companions in the entire fantasy genre.

“But it wasn’t until now that she fully understood the lure of forgetting, for this was the worst thing she had ever seen, and she wished to forget it immediately. A hundred thousand bodies buried underneath a hundred thousand more. Piled, stacked, crushed and torn asunder, then set aflame by dragon fire. It was death on a staggering scale.”

Due to my growing investment in the characters, Durfee managed to make the blistering final 35% of the novel more gruesome and immersive to me. Time to talk about The Fiery Absolution. I’ve read more than 600 fantasy novels now. The Fiery Absolution has to be one of the craziest and most massive war scenes I’ve ever read. It is more or less 350 pages long of relentless carnage and savagery. And I am not exaggerating when I say the imagery Durfee portrayed in The Fiery Absolution made The Lonesome Crown one of the darkest and most violent books I’ve read. Honestly, some noticeable plot armor was involved, but I think they were balanced out but ultimate deaths for plenty of key characters. The explosive bloodbath instantaneously increased the death toll to exceed tens of thousands. Exactly. Tens of thousands of dead and burnt bodies twisted and smolders under the prophesized Atonement Tree. And then, there is also the crimson horrors of Tin Man Square. It is amazing. Nobodies, assassins, Valle, oghul, dragons, and the beasts of the underworld transformed The Five Isles into literal hell. It was, all in all, easily one of the finest war sequences I’ve read.

“War is destruction. War is death. But once war is over, royals will again sit their broken thrones, villagers will return to their burnt villages, daughters will bury their fathers, and humanity will carry on and rebuild. Hope will flourish. The dead will sleep. Life goes on for the living. Just remember that when all hope seems lost.—THE CHIVALRIC ILLUMINATIONS OF RAIJAEL”

I am amazed at Durfee’s talent to weave such a sweeping epic fantasy revolving around plenty of familiar tropes and twist them until unpredictability became a part of the series’ main charm. This is an epic-scope trilogy about characters doing their best to survive against all odds in every circumstance. It is a story about blind belief and its irreversible consequence. However, though not touched upon as much as the other, I strongly believe The Five Warrior Angels is a series about finding the possibility of forgiveness and redemption after executing awful decisions and actions, whether forced or not. The Lonesome Crown is a climactic concluding volume to The Five Warrior Angels trilogy. I am grateful I took a chance on this series. It is a criminally underrated trilogy. And I look forward to reading whatever Durfee decides to write next.

“The only way peace and happiness can be had is if we do unto others as we would have done unto us.—THE WAY AND TRUTH OF LAIJON”

Series Review:

The Forgetting Moon: 4.5/5 stars
The Blackest Heart: 5/5 stars
The Lonesome Crown: 5/5 stars

The Five Warrior Angels: 14.5/15 stars

You can order this book from: Blackwells (Free International shipping)

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