REVIEW: Savage Crowns by Matt Wallace

Last Updated on March 8, 2024

In Savage Crowns by Matt Wallace (Savage Rebellion book 3), the empire of Crache is on the verge of crashing down, and its every defence is writhing to maintain its iron grip over its people. The Skrain are out in force to put down the Savage Rebellion, the Protectorate Ministry continue their shadowy machinations to keep the people under Crache’s boot heel, and the Ignobles continue their bloody quest to wrest back control of Crache. In the concluding book of the Savage Rebellion trilogy (Savage Rebellion, Savage Bounty), all will collapse—it’s just a question of who is left standing to claim the rubble of an empire.

Spoilers for books one and two to follow.

Cover for Savage Crowns by Matt WallaceThe Sparrow General wakes up in a bird cage, the Skrain laughing at her. The battle is lost, she has no idea if her friends live, or how much of her army survives. A Skrain captain gives her a reason to fight.  Taru has rejoined the Savage rebellion, having led a devastating charge to save it. Finding out Brio is alive, they have purpose once more. Dyeawan shares control of the Planning Cadre, but that sits in open conflict with the terrifying denizens of the Protectorate Ministry. And in the Bottoms, the Ragged Matron lurks, giving the poor and dispossessed a central figure to fight around and take on the privileged Crache from the bottom up.

In Savage Crowns, Wallace does a great job of wrapping up the story arcs in a satisfying way, drawing together the characters we care about in a way we can care about. The action is visceral, the characters diverse, interesting, and engaging, and it’s certainly, for the most part, a book that is hard to put down. As with the first two books, there are plenty of contemporary problems and themes woven into this fantasy world. However in this book we really see what you’d hope would be modern solutions. Whether those solutions in this context lands with you is going to be entirely up to your tastes in fantasy.

Viewing this through the lens of somebody who prefers their dark fantasy to trickle over into the grimdark side of things, there were a few bits that didn’t land for me for this very reason. The key part for me, and one I feel grimdark readers are unlikely to enjoy, is one of the final twists. It felt like a far too positive outcome was applied to a situation where it just didn’t seem feasible at all. Juxtapose that with a wonderful betrayal (which was brilliantly delivered) earlier in the book as we were building up to the denouement, and it just felt like a forced unrealistic outcome to both provide a moral message outcome, and to link two sections of the book together when perhaps all else had failed.

In addition, one of the secondary character’s deaths really fell flat, in my eyes. And while I recognise that not every character can die on screen, with the pantomime villainy rampant throughout the series it just seemed really lacklustre to not put that particular death on the page in a more engaging way (not that gridmark requires violence on the page, it just seemed weird in the context of the representations of evil in this book).

In Savage Crowns we get the action packed ending that we’ve been waiting for. Wallace delivers both a chaotic and satisfying ending, mixing brutal dark fantasy with modern morality to deliver an enjoyable contemporary-styled medieval story. While certain parts didn’t land with me because of my own personal preferences, I can definitely see a large part of the fantasy community getting a huge kick out of this series.

2.75/5

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.