The Chalice and The Crown is the debut YA fantasy from Kassandra Flamouri. This title is dazzling and oh so interesting!
This novel meld magic, madness, beauty, and visceral imagery into a cohesive narrative that is mind-bogglingly fantastic and dark! Immediately, I felt the influence of Black Swan, a ballerina falling into madness, but I absolutely felt for Sasha. Very quickly, the reader is introduced to the notion that Sasha’s mother had been dealing with a mental illness prior to her death. The descriptions of Sasha’s struggles felt so very real, I almost felt like I was with her in the dream sequence vignettes.
I felt the vignettes were a smart choice to provide some worldbuilding without it being blatantly obvious. I was transported to this dream world that didn’t make much sense until part 2, but it was described so well! The character development was high level, we don’t really know what many of the characters look like, but that isn’t as important in this book. I could relate to Sasha, Emily, James, and the other characters without knowing exactly what they looked like. It was much more important to me to understand their emotional development rather than their physical descriptions.
The chapter titles were amazing! Ballet terms mixed with musical cues that evoke the feeling of the chapter, such a great idea! I also really enjoyed the bits of Russian and Russian culture sprinkled throughout the narrative. I can tell the author has worked hard to provide accurate language and translations.
The romantic element was subtle, rather than overt. It seems like the best choice for this dark, YA fantasy. An overly prevalent and romance-y love plot line wouldn’t fit the mood or theme here. One other thing I really appreciated is the content warning at the beginning of the novel and the goodreads listing:
Although full of magic and love and beautiful things, this work also contains depictions of violence, assault, slavery, family and animal death, and references to sexual and physical abuse. The first half in particular is quite dark.”
This is very respectful for readers and I am so happy this is included!
Final thoughts: This is a fantastic debut novel and something you should pick up this summer! I’ll be getting a copy for my bookshelf!
The Chalice and the Crown is available June 5th! Pre-order using the links below and follow the author on social media for new book updates!
I received an advance copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review!