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The Raveling #1

The Crimson Queen

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2016 Ink and Insights Competition - Judges' Favorite
Winner 2017 Reader's Favorite Award for Epic Fantasy
2nd in the 2017 SPFBO 

Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord.

The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.

But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again.

In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age...

A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more...

Something of great importance is stolen - or freed - from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers...

And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing...

The first book of The Raveling, a new epic fantasy saga

423 pages, Kindle Edition

First published November 28, 2016

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Alec Hutson

18 books558 followers

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Profile Image for Petrik.
673 reviews42.7k followers
May 4, 2023
4.5/5 stars

This book should’ve earned more fame and praise. A familiar and utterly well-written start to an epic fantasy series with prose redolent of Brian Staveley’s writing style; I loved it.

Back in 2017-2018, when I was still a reviewer for Booknest, I was one of the judges for SPFBO 3 held by Mark Lawrence. In that year’s SPFBO, The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson won the joint runner-up spot together with Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe. My ex-blog chose this novel as their pick for the best book of the competition. Admittedly, I didn’t get assigned to reading The Crimson Queen, I didn’t know how good it was, but Celeste, one of my co-blogger from back then (and now) did read it, and she occasionally reminded me to give this book a go because she loved it very much. Two years since SPFBO 3 has ended, here I am finally getting around to reading this book, and I will say this: my ex-blog made the right choice. I would’ve personally chosen The Crimson Queen as the top book for SPFBO 3 myself if I had read it back then.

“The arrogance of writing comes not from the finished creation, but from the very act itself. What hubris is required for a single mind to believe that its thoughts should populate the world? What unbridled arrogance is it to disperse ideas like the petals of a dandelion in the wind, allowing them to float free, to germinate in the minds of others like an invasive weed?”

The Crimson Queen is the first book in The Raveling trilogy by Alec Hutson. If you’re looking for originality, The Crimson Queen may not be too suitable for what you’re looking for. Hutson uses familiar premises to tell his story that’s brimming with sword, sorceries, and intellect. For instance, the main character, Keilan, is a fisherman’s son who didn’t realize his secret talent is apparently an aptitude for sorcery. Because of this, circumstances force him to travel far out of his village and he has to undertake a quest to meet The Crimson Queen. Do note that I don’t consider tropes as flaws in my reading experience; tropes became tropes in the first place because they’re enjoyable to read, and I personally think that Hutson has utilized them to his benefit wonderfully. I also really enjoyed reading the themes of love, knowledge, and freedom embedded into the narrative.

“All that a man has in this world is his own will, the freedom to do what he desires. Taking away that is the greatest crime one can inflict upon another. Murder – it is terrible. But it is over in an instant and the dead never can truly understand what has happened to them. They are simply gone. But slavery – day after day, year after year shackled to another’s whims – it is the most heinous of crimes.”

It is worth knowing that The Crimson Queen is not a battle-heavy book. Sorceries are indeed crucial to the overall plotlines, but the story progressed in slow and steady pacing, and the battle scenes occurred only in the middle and final sections of the book. The cataclysmic history that bleeds into the untainted peace of the present timeline doesn’t mean that you’re going to read tons of sorceries being unraveled. However, this doesn’t mean that the book wasn’t engaging, the battle scenes—when they took the central stage—were beautifully written. More importantly, I found the voices given to the character’s narration and Hutson’s writing style more than made up for the lack of heavy battles in this first installment; as I always says, not every epic fantasy novels needs myriad of battles for them to be considered good, and this book is proof to that statement.

“Too often those of us with Talent rely solely on our natural gifts. True power comes from knowledge, and I find researching and writing books gives me the clarity I need to make new discoveries.”

Speaking of knowledge, what’s one of the best source to gain them? Books. It’s not often I find a fantasy novel that puts the skill to read as one of the most advantageous skills to possess throughout the narrative. Keilan is special not only because of his Talents for sorcery but also because of his capability to read. Through reading, he has the potential to access hidden revelations, and as I mentioned earlier, Hutson time and time again emphasized through the characters that the more knowledge you have the more powerful you are.

“Watching Xin progress from forming basic letter sounds–some of which, admittedly, he had already known–to stumbling through simple sentences, to reading entire pages in a book as difficult as the Bestiary had been incredibly fulfilling. He felt like he had revealed a whole new world of wonders to the Fist warrior.”

The depth and details that Hutson imbued into the multi-cultural world-building of his world amazed me. Histories are one of the most important themes in The Crimson Queen. The combination of the Western and Eastern parts of our world fused seamlessly. The behavior, the culture, and the clothing felt authentic. Also, as a Chinese, I loved the Chinese influences rooted in the world-building. There’s acupuncture, flower-infused tea, Chinese musical instruments; Hutson includes things from our real-world like mathematics and physics into the book and it’s incredible how they never felt jarring.

“It was a good reminder, actually, that the progress of man was not merely measured in the mastery of sorcery. Boat-building, architecture, mathematics, art–some called this age the Twilight, but in many disciplines it could very well be considered a dawning.”

Can you tell that I loved reading this book? And I’m saying this not just because The Crimson Queen belongs in my favorite genre to read. I loved reading Hutson’s writing; Hutson’s narrative can be a bit too descriptive at times, but there was no boring moment in this book for me because I’m always eager for the next structure of sentences Hutson crafted. The best comparison I can think of, just so you get the general idea on what kind of prose I’m talking about here, is that Hutson’s prose has a strong resemblance to Brian Staveley’s. It’s lush, lyrical, poetic, and extremely well-polished; the pacing flowed like a single undisturbed line in a calm river, and I’m following the trail with tranquility.

“…a book is the pinnacle of arrogance for it demands to be heard, but it cannot listen. It desires to communicate, yet it refuses conversation. I thought that was the extent of its profundity.”

The Crimson Queen is one out of many examples of superbly-written indie fantasy. It’s an incredibly captivating debut with an intricate world-building and a meticulously beautiful writing style. I’m so damn happy that I have the entire series to read; that means I have two more novels of Hutson’s enchanting prose for me to read. The Crimson Queen feels like classic epic fantasy written with a modern epic fantasy voice. Hutson’s debut has all the indication of a great beginning to an epic fantasy trilogy. I look forward to reading the next two books, The Silver Sorceress and The Shadow King, in the series very soon.

“But I’ve wandered this land for more years than you’ve drawn breath” – much longer, he silently added – “and I can swear to you before any god you can name that having a home where others care for you is what brings true happiness, not jewels to pin in your hair or servants to draw your bath.”

Picture: The Crimson Queen by John Anthony Di Giovanni

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My Patrons: Alfred, Devin, Hamad, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas.
Profile Image for Celeste.
904 reviews2,339 followers
May 4, 2018
Full review now posted!

Original review can be found at Booknest.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I’m completely blown away. This book completely obliterated my expectations. It was fantastic! I’ve not read as many self published books as some of my friends and fellow reviewers have, but I’ve read enough to see that they are just as hit-or-miss as traditionally published books. As far as I can tell, there are more self-published works of fantasy and science fiction than in any other genres, which means there are lots of misses out there. Thankfully, there is also a plethora of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. Alec Hutson’s The Crimson Queen is undoubtedly one of those. While I’ve loved other self-published novels, this is the one that left me flabbergasted. I’ve read a multitude of traditionally published fantasy novels that didn’t hold a candle to this debut, and I truly don’t understand how or why a publishing house hasn’t jumped on it yet.

As soon as I started reading, I was excited. So excited, in fact, that I messaged friends recommending the book to them before I was even a quarter of the way in. Hutson created a varied, interesting world that gripped me from page one. We see many facets of the world, from the islands to the forests to bustling cities to ruins of lore. Each of these places is populated by vastly different people, with different gods and myths and customs. There are also multiple empires in this novel, some fighting subtly for dominance while the others choose to keep their focus turned inward. I loved getting a tour of the world of the Raveling through the eyes of various characters.

There were tropes in this book, but they felt fresh to me. Hutson wasn't leaning on them so much as finding new ways to make them shine. Tropes become such because we love them, otherwise they would never stick with the genre for so long. I love when authors take tired tropes and breathe new life into them, and that's exactly how I felt Hutson handled the tropes he utilized. There's a lot of exposition in this novel, but I never felt bogged down by it.

Hutson’s characters are also a diverse lot, ranging from your quintessential chosen one, a gifted but ignorant boy on the cusp of manhood; a man who awakens one day to realize he’s actually immortal and is missing nearly a thousand years worth of memories; a Fist warrior, who is as one with his four brothers to the point that they feel each other’s emotions and hopes and fears; one of the Pure, the warriors sent out into the world by a god to eradicate sorcery; a self-absorbed emperor and the courtesan who leads him by the nose without him realizing that he’s relinquished his control; a sorcerer and his knife, the woman who keeps him safe; and many more.

And then, there’s the title character: the Crimson Queen. For more than half of the book, this Queen is almost a creature of myth, unseen but ever present in the minds of the people. She is loved and hated and feared, but is rarely understood. There’s a level of mystique to her character that I absolutely loved. I won’t say anything else about her, because I want other readers to be able to experience that mystique for themselves.

This world faced cataclysms in its past, and is desperately trying to avoid them in its future. But there are some characters who seek to recreate these cataclysms to their own ends. Hutson did a great job of creating a villain who was intriguing but self-absorbed to the point of evil. I found said character fascinating to read about, though the further I got into the book the more I curled my lip while reading this person’s perspective.

Something I really loved about this book was the handling of magic, and its unapologetic presence. I feel like modern fantasy novels often either shy from magic, keep it too mysterious to understand, or develop an almost scientific system for it. This book did none of those things. Magic was present, those gifted enough to wield it, but it wasn’t formulaic. There were also mythical creatures who weren’t fully explained, but who were very present in the story. I just felt that Hutson did an excellent job of balancing the mystery of magic and the presence of magic, without compromising either aspect for the sake of the other, and it’s something that I really appreciated. The magic was also widely varied, with different facets shown by the various methods used by the divergent groups.

Hutson’s writing style is also to be applauded. He managed to develop prose that is so highly readable that it almost disappears as you read the story. His words painted pictures in my mind instead of catching me up in the loveliness of the wording. I appreciate both methods, but Hutson’s choice of readability over profundity worked best for this story. Not that there weren’t profound statements made, mind you. I have to include a few pieces of his more philosophic dialogue, because they stuck with me. Here’s what he had to say about free will:

“All that a man has in this world is his own will, the freedom to do what he desires. Taking away that is the greatest crime one can inflict on another. Murder - it is terrible. But it is over in an instant and the dead never can truly understand what has happened to them. They are simply gone. But slavery - day after day, year after year shackled to another’s whims - it is the most heinous of crimes.”

PREACH. It’s good stuff, right?! Free will is one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given, and stripping another person of that free will is one of the greatest wrongs we can inflict.

Here is one of the character’s thoughts on the written word:

“A book is the pinnacle of arrogance for it demands to be heard, but it cannot listen. It desires to communicate, yet is refuses conversation. … The arrogance of writing comes not from the finished creation, but from the very act itself. What hubris is required for a single mind to believe that its thoughts should populate the world? What unbridled arrogance is it to disperse ideas like the petals of a dandelion in the wind, allowing them to float free, to germinate in the minds of others like an invasive weed?”

I. Love. THIS. Seriously, I’ve always been held in thrall by the power of the written word, but I don’t know that I’ve ever considered the arrogance of writing. I’m not positive I agree with the spirit behind the words, but it’s definitely an opinion that makes sense and has merit. It’s a theory that will stick with me. But if writing is arrogance, I’m incredibly thankful that so many people have chosen to give into that arrogance and share their stories with the rest of the world.

I'm so glad I read this. The plot was compelling and incredibly enjoyable. I loved the characters and setting, as I stated above. And the book had just enough ending to be satisfying, while leaving enough up in the air to make me almost desperate for the second installment. I’m incredibly impressed, and highly recommend this book to any and everyone. I’ll leave you with one final quote from the book:

“We make our own destiny. Believing otherwise abdicates responsibility for what happens, and I refuse to do that. Failure or glory, the result belongs to us.”
Profile Image for Will Wight.
Author 47 books6,451 followers
February 7, 2017
All of the epic fantasy elements you know and love are here: spider-filled dungeons, holy paladins, ancient forces stirring, dark wizards plotting. But these old, familiar pieces are made to serve a beautiful new story.

I have no caveats to offer, and that's not something I can say about many other books. If you're looking for a new epic fantasy story, read this one. Full stop.
Profile Image for Nimrod Daniel.
143 reviews258 followers
December 30, 2017
Summary: In short, I'd say that it's a captivating classic epic fantasy with a few twists, that is set in a really interesting world. I did this as an audiobook and I'm glad I did because Guy Williams did a great job in narrating most of the characters. ($1.99 for audiobook upgrade btw).

I'll break this review into a few sections:

Writing-style - I really liked Alec's writing-style, the book is really well-written with vivid descriptions. Plus, his storytelling technique is great, so it was a really fun to read and very easy to be fully immersed in the story. Actually it's quite surprising that it's his debut.

Setting/world-building - The Crimson Queen is set in a fascinating world that might appeal to all fantasy fans. The world has an interesting history, that unravels before the reader as you go along. History has a very significant impact on almost everything that happens in the book, but I'll keep this in mystery and won't reveal tool much :)
There are mages from different disciplines, holy paladins with cool powers whose mission is to keep the world clear of mages, ancient order of assassins with cool abilities, warriors with great skill,cool monsters, demons, ancient deities that reside in the world but stay away from everyone, lurking, and a shapeshifter. A lot of things to keep you intrigued and curious to learn more about the world.

Plot - To be honest, the book is full of fantasy tropes, some tropes have a twist, but the tropes are evident everywhere. The main character is a young boy and you may call it a coming of age story, but the book focuses on a few other characters too and they're not young kids to say the least ;)
With that being said, the book definitely has some modern touch to it, as things aren't black and white, and there's no dark lord that should be defeated, it's more about ancient and new powers of sorcery. Plus, he loyalty of some characters is not entirely clear, they seem to have their own motives and not only to their faction and that makes things more intriguing as you are wondering about their true motives. There are some interesting plot-twists and revelations that will keep you captivated.
The story is well-paced from the get go, but the pacing in the second quarter felt a bit uneven. You won't get bored:)

Characterization - Even though there's an interesting cast of characters and the characters are pretty much well-portrayed most of them lack depth. It's the only weakness that I find in this book.

All in all, it's a very good debut that lays the foundations of a series I'd be interested in reading.
I'd highly recommend it to classic epic fantasy fans.
Profile Image for Alec Hutson.
Author 18 books558 followers
June 18, 2017
I've been waiting all day for my 999 ratings to click over finally to 1k. I can't take it anymore!
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,936 followers
February 15, 2018
This is my final read for the #SPFBO and I am happy to say it finished up on a high. I think this is definitely the sort of fantasy read I enjoy, and although it does fall into some of the stereotypes and cliches I've come to know from fantasy, it still felt fun and original at times too.

This story follows Keilan Ferrison, a young fisher boy from a small village in a remote part of this world. Keilan's village is small and disconnected, but even as far from the thrones as he is he has heard the tales about terribly evil sorcery and the Pure who hunt down those with powers. Keilan believes in a kind of magic, because he himself may have some. He's a young boy who doesn't use his magic often, but when he and his father go to fish they can usually call the fish to them and end up with a good haul. Keilan doesn't really think of what he does as magic, more it's just a talent he has and one he and his father keep quiet about, but when a Paladin turns up to take him away Kelian's life is irrevocably altered as it seems there's a lot more to his magic than meets the eye.

What I liked about this story is that it's a multiple pov book and nearly all of the threads we follow were pretty exciting. We have Kelian as our main character throughout, but along the way we get to see inside two empires/kingdoms, follow the Sword of a sorcerer, follow Xin the warrior, follow a man who may very well be immortal, and much more. Each of these people brings something interesting to the story, and I felt like the balance of time given to each was just enough to flesh out the world and shape the character's plots.

My quibbles with the story come from the slow start, this is definitely drawn out more than it needed to be and I feel like it's only the last quarter of the book where the stakes are suddenly really high and exciting. Although there is action and magic along the whole way, it only really becomes deadly later on, and I think I would have liked things to move at a quicker pace overall.

With that being said, I think that the magic of this world is a lot of fun and we have a world where there's not too many explanations for the magic, it's more just about what the magic can do and what it's capable of in the hands of crazy powerful sorcerers who may be returning to the world. We see spider creatures, shape-shifters, explosions of magic, an underground library which I would like to visit, despite the 'being' that lives there. There's a lot to enjoy in this book.

I think in the end it comes down to this feeling like a solid 3.75 out of 5*s (or for #SPFBO a 7.5*s). This is the beginning of a series which, with the next book, shows real signs of promise, but this one feels more like a set up than a book in its own right. I think this author is for sure one to watch, and I enjoyed the read-through of this so would recommend it :)
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
673 reviews602 followers
April 5, 2021
Power, no matter how great, does not ensure wisdom.

I'm starting this review by saying this book is not YA, I don't know why GR shelf it as YA, though the protagonist is a teenager, the contents of this book is not YA, it is more of coming of age.

Moving on, I had a bit of hard time reading this book, the beginning and ending was amazing whilst the middle was a struggle, that's the only reason why I'm not giving this book 5 stars. Despite the slow middle this book is more than your average read.

The Crimson Queen is set in a world where magic is condemned because some sorcerers used magic to destroy two big kingdoms, another kingdom called Menekarian raised some sorcerer hunters called the Pure to kill anyone with magic. Hundreds of years later, anyone suspected of having magic is caught and the magic is purged out of the person, the person either becomes a Pure or dies in the process.

Cein is a queen in Dymorian who is not only a sorceress openly but gathers others of her kind to her, she is known as the crimson queen. Keilan is a village boy whose life got turned around because he is suspected of having magic, Jan is a thousand year immortal with amnesia and Alynna is an immortal that will do anything for power. They are other players at work, I still don't know their intentions but I doubt it's any good. The other characters that I like are Xin, Senacus, Vhelan and many others.

What is civilization but man’s attempt to separate himself from the animals, which are ruled by base impulses.

The magic system is great, even though I don't know how it works most of the time, it's not really elemental but have hints of it, throw in some darkness and light magic. The writing is easy to comprehend, the book is written in third person multiple POV. I adore the friendship and politics in this book, the quest for power by Alynna was also well depicted.
Profile Image for Shreyas Deshpande.
155 reviews11 followers
June 19, 2020
Great new author and story

The start of an epic fantasy that has mystery, action and magic. Most of the themes will be familiar to epic fantasy readers. The world building is very good, the characters are fully fleshed, if a little cookie cutter epic fantasy tropes. Overall a solid and enjoyable story.

Ratings:- 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Profile Image for Mihir.
645 reviews296 followers
December 8, 2017
Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic

Author interview for those interested.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson is at first appearance a book that might cause your eyes to glaze over it. Its cover has an unusual shade of yellow in its background along with a generic appearance of an old city. That however would be your first mistake. This book since its release in late 2016 has been slowly making waves and was slotted in to the 30 books afforded to us. Of the first batch of books that I read, it was the best and hence was our first semi-finalist.

The story blurb again talks of an old cataclysm which shaped in the world into what it is currently. The main story opens in a very Wheel Of Time fashion with the prologue showcasing someone or something that is old, possibly immortal and talking of events that will change the world. The story then opens us by showcasing the life of Keilan Ferrisorn who lives in a small fishing village and has a sorrowful past that impedes his village life. Janus Balensorn is a person who we quickly learn has more to him than just a honeyed voice and an arresting manner. Senacus is a paladin of Ama and one of the Pure, a sect of Templar-like knights who have powers and seek to stamp out magic. Senacus’ path brings him in conflict with certain wielders of magic and his path to Ama will be sorely tested. There are a few more characters but that’s the gist of the protagonists who power the main plot threads.

The book has a strong mystery to almost every aspect of it. Firstly there’s the mystery of the world itself which is mentioned in the blurb. Secondly there’s the two characters Keilan and Jan (as he refers to himself constantly). Both these characters have mysterious tragedies in their past which fuel their behavior and there’s also the titular character who’s as slippery as they come. In fact the author builds up her mystique by not introducing her until the last quarter but at the same time we are constantly hearing about her exploits and her fame. Then there’s the other characters in the book who take on POV roles and are as intriguing as our two main protagonists. Even though it’s his debut, Alec Hutson has managed to write some solid characters. Sure they stick to fantasy tropes (orphan village boy, unknown traveler, and deadly warrior) but he writes them with a fresh perspective and make sure that they don’t seemed jaded. Case in point the book’s main protagonist (at least by POV chapter count) Keilan who is a half-orphan and pretty soon discovers how ignorance plays out among the scared rural populace. While this seems very generic in the fantasy landscape, Alec Huston has imbued enough freshness in to Keilan that you want to root for him and get invested in his past.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Alec has a real solid knack for writing engaging characters. Be they villains, heroes, or merely misguided ones, nearly all the folks we meet are fully formed personas who act and behave with their own agendas in mind. The book also has female POV characters and in fact they are the real mysteries of the story. One of them is the titular character and the other one, well you’ll have to read the book to know more about her. I must point out that at this point I’m very, very curious to know more about Cein d’Kara the noted Crimson Queen. Plus kudos to the author for presenting her as a multi-faceted person who depending on which angle you view her from, can be a tyrant or a savior or both. So very much like Dany if she had already conquered Westeros and now was eying Essos & Southros.

What I also thoroughly enjoyed about this book was the way the author introduced the world. There’s a solid mystery afoot about what happened over a millennia ago and how it has impacted the world that we are currently introduced to. The world map showcases the different regions and most fantasy readers will be easily be able to recognize the real-world facsimiles. Plus the author makes sure to slowly unveil aspects of the world and there are no big infodumps that threaten to derail the plot or the pace of the book. The story also visits quite a few locations listed in the map and while that seems very trope-ish, it doesn’t feel forced at all. The author also mentioned in his interview with us (to be posted tomorrow) about where he got his influences from but the world he creates is his own with touches of our world here and there.

In our current atmosphere of solidly grimdark books, this fantasy debut takes route less soiled. Alec Hutson’s world isn’t necessarily grim but neither is it a bed of roses. He doesn’t really take the gritty route but manages more of a traditional heroic fantasy route. This works to his favor as I believe writing a grimdark story just for the heck of it, would certainly fall flat. Here I believe the author set to write a fantasy story more in line with the late 80s & 90s fantasy titles which were epic in content, but not grimdark as the current trend is. I can’t exactly say that Alec Hutson’s writing is like certain author X or writer Y but what I can surmise is that he brings to the table certain elegant qualities.

Imagine the best of Robert Jordan’s worldbuilding skiils, laced with Terry Brooks’ fluid characterization and topped off with a pinch of David Gemmell’s heroic fantasy escapades. Then you get an indication of the fun that awaits when you crack open The Crimson Queen. I’m sure Alec Hutson might disagree with my estimation but honestly it’s very clear that he’s his own writer and wants to write a certain kind of story. Were there any drawbacks to this story, yes there are some flaws. Plot wise this story doesn’t offer anything new that fantasy readers haven’t seen so far. The author incorporates lots of fantasy tropes and that might be a turn off for certain readers. One can even make a premise that the book’s pace falters a bit in the middle but it’s only a mild stumble and then picks up the pace as it hurtles towards its conclusion. Another point might be that there’s a lot of unexplained things introduced but since this book one of the Raveling series, I can’t really hold the author to that.

CONCLUSION: Alec Hutson's The Crimson Queen is a rare indie gem, sure nowadays we are unearthing more and more of them than say 4-5 years ago but it doesn’t take any sheen off the efforts that have gone into completing this one. The Crimson Queen is a fantasy debut that will have the reader rooting for its main characters, enjoying the plot mysteries and wanting the next book desperately. That is a hallmark of a true winner and I don’t think there’much more to say beyond that.
Profile Image for Laura Hughes.
Author 5 books254 followers
February 4, 2018
Really enjoyable yarn in the epic fantasy tradition of Feist and Eddings. Hutson's use of familiar tropes to spin a tale that is nonetheless compelling and new is truly commendable, and I for one can't wait to dive back into this series when the sequel is released later this year.
Profile Image for Zitong Ren.
504 reviews153 followers
May 9, 2020
Ok so look, I do think that this is a great book and is also great fantasy and considering that it is self-published, it does make it stand out even more. However, due to personal taste, which is what my ratings are based off and not necessarily an in depth analysis on the many aspects of the book, I really can’t give it more than three for now. So yeah, there you go, that’s my little disclaimer.

The thing with this book thus far, is that it is full of all the standard fantasy tropes, amongst other things commonly found in fantasy. It does do some things quite well, and I felt that even though the worldbuilding was quite good and was fairly refreshing in that there were both Western and Eastern aspects in it. However, I felt that the overall plot and some character elements and relationships did drag the book down for me.

It largely follows Keilan, who is the son of a fisherman and a mother who comes from somewhere else. Ahh, thus begins the mystery. Keilan then gets magical powers and explores the world and basically becomes the Chosen One. Much of the earlier plot points is essentially the same as a load of other fantasy series. A series that I actually drew many similarities with was the Wheel of Time. As I’ll try and keep spoilers out, I won’t really say exactly what is similar.

Keilan for me personally didn’t really stand out too much as a character and to be fair, he really is and acts like the typical chosen one character and gets thrown into the world yet ends up being more powerful than everyone else just because he is.

We also have the typical classical fantasy romance between two side characters that reminded a lot of Nynaeve’s relationship from WoT. What I mean by this is that it goes from meeting for a little while to oh my god, I love you in about no time at all with no development between them expect that they touched a few times. Like please, what is up with fantasy and the most unrealistic relationships and these weren’t even hormonal teenagers lusting after everyone(though this is evidently present, it has yet to amount to anything yet), but adults in their mid-twenties.

The world building was definitely good, and it was certainly interesting and unique. There’s a lot of intriguing and mysterious aspects about it that are still hidden to the reader. I would say that the world itself it probably one of, if not the strongest aspect of the book. Whereas the plot and characters are largely more from the traditional side of fantasy, the world building here leans much more towards modern fantasy, which I appreciate. Like I mentioned above, it features a blend of different cultures, which I liked. The magic was interesting, and it is a world where the magic has been gone for ages and it is just resurfacing back into the world.

While the plot for most of the book was largely centred around travelling from one place to another, which did make it, not boring, though not overly engaging either. While it was fun to explore the world, nothing also really happened for a fair while. However, the ending managed to really change things up and really changed things up a fair bit. Just because of that ending, I am interested in reading book 2 fairly soon. It really transformed the book and it suddenly became much darker and far more interesting. It went from the typical traditional fantasy to modern in no time and it really hit hard super quickly. If book 2 continues to be like the ending of this book, then I could totally see it becoming much better. If it instead is again filled with travelogues, then it may not end up being overly amazing, but I guess I’ll see! 6/10
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,307 reviews209 followers
September 22, 2017
Two months ago I opened Crimson Queen and DNF-ed it after few pages. I’m not sure why. Evidence suggests I have some undiagnosed neurological issue because once I opened it a few days ago I couldn’t put it down. The world sucked me in and characters were so interesting and well written that I was anxiously followed their fates.

The story starts familiarly. Our main character comes from a small fishing village. His mother was a stranger saved from the sea by his father. Her past is unknown, her fate was cruel – villagers killed her after accusing her of sorcery. It seems Keilan has her power. Actually, it seems he has a lot of power as in the beginning of the book he almost wakes up a sleeping god. It wasn’t unnoticed by other forces presented in the book. It seems everybody’s interested in Keilan – an Empire who hates magic and wants to Cleanse him, a brilliant and cynical immortal who has her plans for him, Crimson Queen who plans to bring back magic to the world.

The book is told through few POVS and we get almost all the goodies fantasy can offer. There’s a Paladin, swords with names, a holy empire that hates magic, shape shifters, demons, mysterious assassins who move through shadows and use blades made of the night. There’s also an immortal wizard who pulls all of the strings from behind the scenes. Personally, I love these tropes, especially when they’re done well.

The story is quite complex and immersive. I’m satisfied with all reveals and twists. I can see that some readers may accuse the book of being based on tropes but personally I don’t mind. I like tropes.
The writing style is flowery in places and rich and I liked that. The writing, unveiling the pot and the world through the eyes of multiple characters kept the story fresh and interesting. I rooted for all characters, even the evil ones who are quite fascinating. The character I somehow relate most to was, unexpectedly, Jan. I really wonder what plans Alec Hutson has for him? I’ll be sure to check it once the sequel hits the shelves.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect – some events weren’t fully explained. In some moments the story felt too rushed, in others possibly interesting times were summed up in few pages (Keilan stay at Scholia, students interactions). It won’t change my rating though as the book was hard to put down and never failed at keeping up the tension.

It’s also worth noting Crimson Queen has a great balance between darker and lighter tones. Personally, I dislike books that try to be ultra-grim just for the sake of it. In Crimson Queen we experience tragedy and loss of characters we may start to root for and yet there’s still hope and some light left.

Well done Mr. Hutson. I want a sequel. Right now.
Profile Image for Jody .
201 reviews133 followers
May 12, 2021
“We make our own destiny. Believing otherwise abdicates responsibility for what happens, and I refuse to do that. Failure or glory, the result belongs to us."

The Crimson Queen is a nice start to a fantasy series that got better with each chapter. The first 80 pages or so were slow, but once the story began to develop I really enjoyed it. The story has some familiar fantasy tropes, but Hutson employs them well.

The world building was nicely done also. The reader gets glimpses of the history of this world and its different peoples throughout the story. This really drew my interest into the current timeline and how some of the characters have affected the history over the centuries. The ancient cities and factions are all very interesting. Many of the factions are still around in present time and the details of each are intriguing. They play vital roles in the story and I'm looking forward to seeing how they are involved throughout the rest of the trilogy.

"Sorcery is power, and power blackens all souls. Yes, I murdered empires. But I freed the rest of mankind from the yoke of sorcery, from those who dominated and enslaved and sucked pleasure like marrow from the bones of their inferiors."

My favorite part of The Crimson Queen was the characters. Hutson does a very good job of including varying types, and developing each one. Sorcerers, holy paladins, warriors, scholars and many others with or without there own powers are part of this world. Each one has a part to play in the story at some point, and their differing personalities was a great mix for each story arc. For me, characters drive a story more than anything. I can't wait to see how the characters evolve in book 2 and if there is anyone new that will come along to enhance my enjoyment of this trilogy.

Hutson has developed an attractive fantasy setting with a rich history and well thought out characters. The Crimson Queen is a well done first book. There was very little that I didn't enjoy and I only see this story getting better with book 2. I would recommend this to all fans of fantasy and any readers who enjoy a good adventure with a wide variety of intriguing characters.

"After all, what is civilization but man’s attempt to separate himself from the animals, which are ruled by base impulses."

Actual Rating: 3.5 stars ***
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,811 followers
May 25, 2021
I liked this one and have started the second.

I go only 4 stars here as the beginning of the book struck me as a bit disjointed and took just a bit to draw me in. It was a bit touch and go at first whether I'd stay with it. However it does "pull together" and is well done. At first the switches between character arcs is a bit muddy. That straightens out however as if it took a little for the writer to "find his feet."

I will say one other negative thing here but it's only about the Audio version I have. The reader is good...but for some reason does atrocious accents.

The book's story picks up 1000 years after a great cataclysm that killed millions. I seems to have been caused by two great sorcerous powers that had held each other at bay with a sort of MAD (mutually assured destruction) type balance...until someone "pressed the button". The world now is one where sorcery is found in many places while one "religion" has made it it's mission to wipe out all sorcerers and sorceresses. They send out "paladins" to kill them.

We find fairly early on that these "paladins" are not "Paladins" (this is not a spoiler as it shows up pretty quickly.

By the way this bugs me as I like the classic paladin character and it so seldom actually shows up. Mostly when people use a paladin he or she turns out to be evil, a caricature of the class or simply a buffoon.

Anyway, this is a good read and drew me in quickly after it found it's feet. I can pretty much recommend it. Enjoy.
Profile Image for Julia Sarene.
1,251 reviews131 followers
June 22, 2018
This one was a bit tropey, but tropes aren't there by accident, but because they usually are what a lot of readers do enjoy to see in a book. So I won't take any star for that - just mention it, so if you are looking for a very original book this one might not be for you. If you do not mind some tropes on the other hand, this might well be perfect for you!

I myself am quite fine with a bit of genericness, as long as I like the characters, worlbuilding and plot - and all of those worked out well for me.

The prose was consistent and well edited. The world was interesting and I liked exploring it!
The characters were a bit of a mixed bunch. While I did like to read about most of them, I did have a hard time to keep some few of them apart, especially in the second POV thread. It took me a while to get those straight in my head.

The story on the other hand was really good, and had me hooked pretty quickly!

Over all a really good read that kept me well entertained all the way through!
Profile Image for The Nerd Book Review.
153 reviews70 followers
December 14, 2017
Arighty then, I hope to do an interview with Alec at some point but I will be giving a full review since this is a SPFBO finalist this year.

I really enjoyed this book, it was a no question 5/5 for me. I thought it was fast paced and wildly entertaining. I want to read the 2nd book immediately and can promise I will read it as soon as it is available.
I also have to mention that it really reminded me in some ways of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. As someone who has read the entire WoT series more than a few times I say this as a positive. One of the PoV characters, Alyanna really reminded me of Lanfear, but a better version of her. Lanfear always seemed to me to be a character who could have been much more in the series, I mean she was a millennia old sorcerer who was renowned for playing others from the shadows but she never took risks and Alyanna is a really fun character who lurks in the shadows but is willing to strike when necessary.This series is much more fast paced than WoT, which was written in the older style of epic fantasy where there were a ton of campfire stories and lulls as characters journeyed. TCQ was always entertaining and didn't take chapters off to talk about chairs no one would ever sit in as Jordan was infamous for. Most of Hutson's characters are far more nuanced and aren't usually pure evil or purely good. There is no Dark Lord to defeat.
The only thing I didn't like was that we don't get the full version of songs that people are singing. One of our characters is a great bard and we only get to see part of the songs he sings. We also don't tend to get full stories. I know some people can feel like they bog a story down but if done right I really enjoy listening to the stories within a story.
So now to the story itself. At its' heart this is a book about a coming conflict between the idea that wizards and sorcery is evil and that it can be helpful and do good if it is properly wielded. A thousand years ago the age of sorcerer kingdoms was ended through a great cataclysm caused by magic. A man claiming to be the prophet of the god Amon, along with his followers, were given the power to become immune from magic and the ability to sense those who use magic. They became known as the Pure and have rooted out magicians and purified them for the last thousand years.
On the other side of this is a nascent power led by a sorcerer queen named Cein who is called The Crimson Queen. She won't have any PoV chapters in this book and we won't directly meet her until the last third of the book, but her influence is everywhere in the storyline.
There are several PoV characters but Keilan is our Main POV character. When the story begins he is a young boy from a fishing village who has some extra "talents" that help his father catch more fish than the other villagers. The other villagers do not appreciate these talents and they consider sorcery evil. Once the mendicants of Amon find out they send a member of the Pure to bring Keilan to be purified. Keilan is going to be important to a lot of groups thanks to his Talent. This is the beginning of one heck of an adventure that will be pretty much non-stop action once Keilan is taken from the village.
We also have a couple other PoV characters who get a fair amount of page time. Jan is a thousand year old bard (not much of a spoiler since we find this out in his first chapter). The aforementioned Alyanna will have a fair number of chapters and her chapters are the most illuminating on the background of the world. There are a couple of characters who get a few chapters. Xin, pronounced Shin, is a fist warrior. They are slave fighters who are trained to fight with 4 other brothers and are considered the best swordsmen in the world. Xin was a great character and I loved that he always refered to himself as "This One". Seneca is the Pure who takes Keilan at the beginning and is an interesting and insightful character. He might be the character I am most intrigued by as he moves forward into more books.
This is a book that is both character and story driven and I will not be surprised if it wins the SPFBO competition. It has a traditional fantasy coming of age story that people love so well but written in a modern style with a fast paced plot that doesn't take chapters off. The map is easy to follow and I was easily able to superimpose ancient Europe in my mind as a way to follow the movements of the characters. I thought of the Menekarian Empire where the Pure are the elite soldiers as the Byzantine empire and then we journeyed west until we hit Dymoria and a people that reminded me of the Celts. This is obviously over simplified but helpful in giving me a nice mental image of the peoples in the world as I imagine the story in my mind.
I just finished the novel and I will try to update this once I've had time to think it over a bit
Profile Image for Hannah Ross.
Author 26 books51 followers
December 5, 2016
Lately I have read quite a few books by indie authors, and sometimes I find myself saying forgivingly, "well, this is pretty good for an indie book". But The Crimson Queen is an excellent book by any standards - epic fantasy at the best of the genre, with a captivating plot, engaging characters and intricate world-building. This is a beginning of a high fantasy series which has the potential of becoming very successful - and certainly deserves to be so. Alec Hutson has put a lot of work into crafting his tale, and it shows.

I would recommend The Crimson Queen to fans of books written in the style of A Song of Ice and Fire, with multiple POVs that let us experience the world through the eyes of each character in turn, with plenty of backstory, intrigue and deadly twists and turns. Let's just hope the author, unlike George Martin, produces the next book in the series soon!
Profile Image for Satya Prateek.
42 reviews
February 25, 2017
The Crimson Queen I felt, had all the ingredients of a good story but totally faltered in its execution.
The book takes the standard fantasy tropes of paladins, magic hating villagers, sultry witches, bar-wenches, etc and tries to wrap them all in a complex plot with several character points of view.

All of this however is bogged down by an extremely exposition heavy writing style. If you asked one of the characters in this novel if they remembered to get milk, instead of a yes or no answer you would get a long tale about how the aisles in the store reminded them of the great Kalyuni castles and that the milk sweets of Min Ceruth were made of a secret recipe that was passed down through the ages by saints who specialized in a special form of culinary dance that was only taught to the 3rd son of the 3rd sibling.

Ok I exaggerated a bit there but this is an actual sentence from the book
"He had always been the curious brother, the one most likely to try the sour and spicy camel soup of Kesh, or to let the fluttering hands of a Lyrish courtesan administer the Ceremony of a Hundred Needles"
Building an interesting world is crucial for a fantasy novels but just throwing names onto the pages is a terrible way to convey it.

I wouldn't mind this as much if it weren't for the second major problem with this book. The action felt really anti-climatic. Battles involving magic basically boil down to waves of magic versus waves of magic with no nuance, strategy or any form of understanding of how magic actually works. Sword fights are just "move from the fourth form to the seventh form to the fourth form" and characters (2 in particular) are hyped up in the story-line as having mysterious backstories or hidden strengths and then killed off almost immediately.

That said, some of the characters in the book are genuinely cool and the plot really opens up at the end with a lot of tantalizing possibilities. With the world-building responsibilities out of the way I suspect the next book will be quite intriguing.
Profile Image for kazzmere.
14 reviews4 followers
November 8, 2017
Pros: Excellent freshman effort, non-annoying teen protagonist, good plot twists.

Looking forward to #2
Profile Image for Ryan Mueller.
Author 9 books80 followers
June 22, 2017
This was a very good beginning to a series and author I'll be watching closely. It's classic fantasy done very well. Fans of The Wheel of Time will find a lot to like here. It isn't a copy by any means, but it gives the same vibe.

The best thing about this book is the sense of mystery throughout. You get the feeling that there is always something more beneath the surface of every interaction, every place in the world, every revelation. That sense of mystery propelled me through the book.

The characters are mix of the likeable (Keilan, Nel and Xin), the conflicted (Senacus), and the mysterious (Jan and Alyanna). This mixture in the characters really worked for me because it provided a lot of variety and had me interested in every point of view.

I'm not sure what to expect from the magic of this world yet. A lot of it still remains a mystery, but that's okay. There are definitely a lot of competing factions, both magical and non-magical, that make things interesting. You have immortal sorcerers, demons, magical assassins, paladins that hunt sorcerers. It has a lot of the great ingredients that make me love a fantasy book.

It also had some good action scenes. There weren't a lot of them, but they were good when they did happen. I won't quite put them up there with my favorite action scenes, though. I also thought at times that Hutson got a bit too descriptive, but that's about my only major complaint with this one.

Rating: 9/10
Profile Image for Beth York.
90 reviews9 followers
September 19, 2017
A truly thrilling ride with fantastic characters, addictive plot and a world that opens up and becomes so real to the reader. This is the kind of fantasy that keeps me up reading past my bed time, that I love to read and just can't put down.

Is this a stand alone? I hope not. Felt like a lot of development, that could easily roll over into many more volumes. There are still many threats left to stand against and deep old magic to develop. I hope there's more to this adventure that's published.. soon!
Profile Image for David Estes.
Author 86 books2,387 followers
October 7, 2018
Fans of George RR Martin and Will Wight will love The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson. Hutson's prose is lyrical and spellbinding and will whisk you away to a world so vivid you can almost imagine you are living the adventure as it unfolds. A mesmerizing and grandiose tale that readers of epic fantasy will not want to miss!
Profile Image for Vanessa.
14 reviews1 follower
February 5, 2017
I'm so impressed with this book. I don't know why it hasn't received more attention - I stumbled across it by chance myself - but if it manages to reach enough people I think it will catch on in a major way. I highly recommend this book and hope it gets the recognition it deserves. Can't wait for the sequel!

Profile Image for Karen  ⚜Mess⚜.
724 reviews45 followers
July 23, 2022

What did it for me was little Miss Peter Pan up in the trees. A little girl, tougher than any knight, with her pointy daggers. One dagger called Chance. And she would never rely on Chance alone. That's why she also had Fate! Ah-ha!

Peter Pan Disney GIF

And I'm out of here....
Profile Image for Dianna.
683 reviews11 followers
February 26, 2017
Note: spoilers ahead in this review

I have mixed feelings about this book. It took a while for me to get into, since the story is told from multiple POVs and I had a hard time adjusting every time we were introduced to a new narrator. There are also a lot of names and kingdoms and explanations of old history thrown around which was hard for me to follow. The author clearly has an impressive vision in his head of this world and how the various kingdoms and other players are intertwined together, but it comes out on paper a little bit jumbled.

For much of the book, I struggled to understand where the author was going with the story and what the main conflicts were. This became clearer after the first half or maybe even 2/3 of the book, when the separate POV characters are slowly brought together and you start seeing them interact and the truths start coming out.

The key players are:
Keilan, the son of of a fisherman and a woman who drifted onto his shores, he turns out to have an impressive magical Talent which hasn't been seen for centuries except for...

Cein d'Kara, the Crimson Queen and the first Talent born in centuries. Due to lack of masters, she was forced to teach herself magic and has since then come up with her own unique form of magic. Her goal is to change the world so that magic can be used openly and without fear.

Alyanna, an immortal thousand year old sorceress who poses as a concubine in the Menekar emperor's harem. She caused the cataclysm from a thousand years ago in her greedy ploy to use the souls of all those the cataclysm killed to extend her own life and the lives of 6 other sorcerers. She employs some fell creatures such as the Chosen and a shapeshifting demon called a gethyaki to carry out her goals.

Jan, another sorcerer made immortal through Alyanna's sacrifice of countless souls through the cataclysm. He doesn't remember retain much of his memories through a memory block placed on him by Alyanna. When Cein attempts to remove this block, she triggers a trap placed there by Alyanna that causes a huge physical explosion and almost kills Jan. By the end of the book he is locked up in the dungeons as Cein no longer dares to take chances on him.

There are some secondary characters such as Xin, one of the Fist brothers who Keilan befriends and eventually gives his life protecting Nel, Nel, the knife of one of Dymoria's magisters who saves Keilan on multiple occasions, and Senacus, one of the paladins of Menekar called the Pure who starts questioning himself and his order.

Overall a solid 3 stars from me. I would have given 2 stars except the last third of the book picked up in terms of the action and I found myself having trouble putting it down. I'm looking forward to reading how everything plays out after the ending we had here. How does Cein and Keilan move forward past this incident? What will befall Alyanna at the hands of the gethyaki? (even though I never liked her, I can't help feel sorry for her in her current situation) What will Nel and Senacus discover together?
16 reviews29 followers
August 22, 2017
Eh. A bit boring and pretty confusing, lots of elements that didn't make sense. Also, dueling perspectives with no introduction to who was talking? Could not take it. I HATE THAT. It confuses you when starting a chapter, like who is talking, this one or that one or the man on the moon, no one knows!
I couldn't really get into this and mostly skimmed it, have to many other good books to read without this one putting me in a slump.
Yeah, with my semester starting and between homework and all the other books I have read to read, I think I am not going to continue this series. Maybe I will come back to it later. But given my record of procrastination and laziness, I would say no.
Anyway hope any of you guys who might read this have better luck, but this poorly executed book which seemed like an anecdote was not for me.
February 4, 2017
Wow! Intense fun. I am so ready for the next book.

This is exactly the kind of fantasy I love. Perfect escapism. Classic style of sword and sorcery, with some standard tropes, yet not formulaic. Good balance between expected and unexpected, stuff going wrong and stuff going right. The balance is exceedingly important for fantasy escapism. The reader needs to feel real concerns for the people in the world, yet if characters to whom one becomes deeply attached constantly die off in horrific or heartbreaking ways, the whole thing is no longer enjoyable, just depressing. I get plenty of awful in the real world and I am grateful to Alec Hutson for providing a realistic and appropriately complex and intriguing fantasy world I thoroughly enjoyed visiting.
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