Book Review: The Crimson League, by Victoria Grefer

I can’t remember if Victoria actually asked me to review this, or if I picked it up for free one day and decided to write a review, but either way, on with the show!

The Book

The Crimson League (Book One in the Herezoth Trilogy)

The Genre


The Author

Victoria is a New Orleans girl, born and raised, with an appreciation for the charm of the Deep South. She has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and English and a master’s degree in Spanish literature, all from the University of Alabama. She started college as a journalism major and worked a year as a staff reporter for the Alabama student newspaper, “The Crimson White.” That experience that helped her realize, once and for all, that her love for writing lay with fiction. She started enrolling in creative writing classes the following semester.

The Plot

What would you do if you were seventeen, a woodworker’s daughter, and your kingdom’s sorcerer/dictator was determined to see you dead?

Join Kora Porteg in the kingdom of Herezoth as she aids her homeland’s organized resistance. Opposing the sorcerer who slew the royal family, Kora soon discovers she’s a sorceress herself, as well as the unwitting subject of an old and often mocked legend. Though she accepts she can have no place in Herezoth after civil war should end, she fights alongside the usurper’s sister, a thief, a scholar, two telekinetic brothers, and other members of the group that calls itself the Crimson League. As their prospects deteriorate, the League has no choice but to make a final stand against its foe and the army that supports him.

The Review

I enjoyed this book, although I do admit I have mixed feelings toward it. I definitely enjoyed the magic system presented in the book — shouting magic words and making awesome things happen is a hallmark of the fantasy genre. I loved the villain, Zalski. I thought he was suave, and clever, and weirdly honourable despite him being totally evil, and if he hadn’t killed so many people I would have wanted him to succeed and become supreme dictator. His motives are very real, very complex, and he was all around a great antagonist. Kora (the protagonist) was feisty, which I liked, and by the end of it she was doing pretty much whatever she wanted, and to heck with anyone who got in the way. I wish more female protagonists were like this! And there were some really excellent scenes that I’ll remember for years to come.

Now for the things I didn’t like so much. This one is purely personal taste, but I would have liked more romance in the book. Romance is brought up a few times, but it never felt … real for me. More like it was added as an afterthought. I’m sure it wasn’t, of course, but that’s what I took away from it. The other thing that struck me as a bit odd was that, when reading the book, I kept reaching the end of conflicts and thinking, “This pretty much wraps up the current plot arc, this must be the end of the book”. Except then I would look at my little progress bar at the bottom of my eReader and discover I was barely 25% through the book. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that the plot is very undulating. Instead of having a slowly building rising action, it kind of goes lull, dramatic moment, lull, dramatic moment, lull, etc. Things got a bit more intense when people started dying off like flies, but overall … I don’t know, I feel like this novel could have been split into two books, and then the author could have added more character development or something to flesh out the world more.

In conclusion, The Crimson League was a fairly slow yet entertaining read in the tradition of classic swords and sorcery fantasy.

The Rating

4 out of 5 stars

Check out Victoria’s site here.


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Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Crimson League, by Victoria Grefer

  1. Your point about the “undulating plot” is interesting. Working through my novels with my critique group, I sometimes get comments like, “So that happened — so what? Your guy always wins in the end. He’s Superman.” I try to explain that these episodes are minor incidents working up to a climax, and that if my guy doesn’t succeed, the book may as well end right there. Maybe the author of this book was trying to deal with similar advice — the protagonist has to struggle, suffer and strive every step of the way.
    I love your reviews, Michelle. They’re so methodical and organized. Mine often devolve into random ramblings.

    • It’s very possible. And the protagonist definitely does struggle and suffer. There was just maybe … too much struggling, and not enough reward at the end?

      And thanks! I organize my reviews because otherwise I will, as you say, ramble 😀 Which is a perfectly legitimate way of reviewing, of course. Interestingly, reviews are pretty much the only thing in my life that are organized. Why do you think that is?

  2. Great review.

    I’ve awarded you The Versatile Blogger Award
    You can go here for the rules.

  3. She desperately needs a new picture for her cover. The design is fine, but that picture does not say fantasy or fight-to-the-death-against-evil. It doesn’t even have any red in it! (If your book title features a color, it’s a rule somewhere that said color needs to appear in at least one design element on your cover!)

    In fact, I have to be blunt and say that’s probably the most boring picture I’ve ever seen on the cover of a book.

    Getting pictures that work for fantasy covers is hard. I was very lucky that I found an artist who was willing to let me use her picture for the cover of my short story, “The Last Golden Dragon,” for free. Victoria might try perusing the art at DeviantArt to see if there’s anything she likes, then contact the artist to see what kind of deal she can work out. If she’s got some money to spare for cover art, then she might even see about commissioning a piece specifically for her book by an artist whose style she likes. Many of the artists on DeviantArt are high school and college students (I’m so jealous of how talented they are!), so you can actually afford to buy art from them.

    Or, if money is non-existent (know the feeling), she should look at royalty-free photos from Wikipedia or, my preferred destination, MorgueFiles. I got the photos for my book trailer primarily from MorgueFiles. There are also a lot of Creative Commons pictures available on Flickr. Photoshop or a photoshop clone (I use befunky, an online Photoshop clone) can be used to make the picture black-and-white, change the hue, give it a color wash, erase background elements… whatever needs to be done to make it better match the feel or the elements of the story.

    But right now this cover says, “boring road to nowhere,” when it needs to be saying “dark, scary highway to a potentially messy death.” In red.

  4. Createspace cover! I miss that program, miss making covers even more!

  5. Pingback: The Next Big Thing Award: Q&A about Shifters | The Read Room

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