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  • Writer's pictureTabitha Tomala

Fluff, Fantasy, and Cocktails Reads The Bitter Crown by Justin Lee Anderson

Witch hat log that says Fluff, Fantasy and Cocktails Reads The Bitter Crown by Justin Lee Anderson

Fluff, Fantasy, and Cocktails is a NC-based women’s book club that formed 5 years ago. We read books in the Fantasy genre including paranormal, mystery, romance, etc. And Fluffy fun books, like cozy fantasy and feel-good lighter reads.

This time around we read The Bitter Crown by Justin Lee Anderson. When we read The Lost War in 2020 it had not been picked up by Orbit yet. We loved book one and sat back eagerly awaiting book two. I might have been frequently checking Justin’s Twitter page for any and all updates to share with the group.

And here we are four years later with The Bitter Crown

Full disclosure, there are going to be loads of spoilers in our thoughts. So if you haven’t read The Bitter Crown yet, close this window now.


The Bitter Crown by Justin Lee Anderson book cover
The Bitter Crown by Justin Lee Anderson


Let’s talk characters


It’s interesting to see a Queen who thinks like a pirate first. But we’re not too sure we’re happy with her. We thought Janaeus might have helped Aranok and the others. But we were never given the chance to see it since Nirea ordered Dialla to kill him. This could have been done in a quieter way, but no, Nirea took a hammer to the situation which is completely her personality. It created a great level of mayhem to read, but poor Dialla had to kill him in front of her parents. Not that they lived long enough to really react to it.

Aranok’s Father

It’s unanimous, none of us can stand Aranok’s father. He is a bigoted asshole. In the first book, he immediately showed his true colors. In The Bitter Crown, he takes it to a whole new level with his refusal to believe the truth. His cutting words and behavior toward his son are atrocious. Justin Lee Anderson did a fantastic job creating this character who is the prime example of draoidh hate in the country.

Whatever happens in future novels we really do not want to see Aranok’s father have a redemption arc. Unless of course, he dies protecting his granddaughter Emelina. Maybe, just maybe he’ll be able to redeem himself a little, but we still won’t like him. Seriously, we can’t stand the guy.


We are at this point extremely worried about Aranok’s niece. It’s been hinted Pol knows she has abilities because of her slip-up at the dinner table. What’s going to happen when Aranok’s family is forced to stay together because of the assassins? Aranok’s father is a definite threat to her. We would love to see more of her in the story but stay safe Emelina!


We all agreed the most disturbing part of The Bitter Crown was encountering Shay and her reanimated daughter. The way she so calmly fed living people to her undead child to keep her fresh was disgusting. Justin hit it spot on with the creep factor. And to show her decline in mentality as she went so far as to feed her own hand to her daughter when there was no living being.

But we were also impacted by what happened to her daughter and the hate that ended her life. Not that we would reanimate our children, but the grief was all too real. It certainly can break a person and Shay’s inability to process her grief was shattering.


We’re still not convinced Aranok isn't under a spell. We agree with Samily that something happened to him when Shay was first given back her tongue on the road. Whether it’s the way she knows exactly how to push buttons to manipulate Aranok, or she cast some sort of curse unbeknownst to him. 

We’re also wondering how Aranok is a draoidh. Korvin passed his ability to Emelina, but which parent gave it to Aranok? Then we had the revelation, what if it’s his father and he’s suppressing it through his bigotry?


Samily is one of the characters with the most potential for change. She sees everything in black or white. But we are wondering if her sense of justice is slowly taking over what she believes God would want. Her behavior certainly took a turn in The Bitter Crown. Even Rasa tried to reason with Samily and make her realize how her actions were hasty.

Also, will Samily’s personality be further impacted by her age? While she’s a skilled fighter, she still has to mature, and that might play a part in her decisions. When she begins to journey further into the country in The Damned King, how will it affect her to see all the blackened unable to be helped? Will it eat away at her knowing she caused their suffering?


There is so much more to tell about Quellaria. We discussed if capturing her again for the betterment of the kingdom would be feasible. But it would be enslaving her against her will. And we think there’s a reason so few memory draoidhs exist, especially if they have to use their spinal fluid to make memory charms. But it raised the question, how did Janaeus make so many? Why was it not hard for him? Did Aranok actually know how the charms were made? Did Janaeus use others and dispose of them? Or is it even the truth about making them?

And is Quellaria the one to blame for framing Aranok? There was mention of an illusionist taking on the appearance of Aranok to execute Rotan, but there’s just some lingering doubt that Quellaria’s departure was lined up too well. Regardless, there has to be more of her story up and coming.


Overall Thoughts on The Bitter Crown

The first chapter summary from book one was wonderful. More sequels need to have this. Since book one was four years ago, it was a huge help! Rachel also read The Lost War and summarized it as she went in our group chat which was amazing! 🙂

The audiobook was well done. The accents for the characters were great!

Now that everyone has their memories back, each character is certainly behaving more in the gray area. And they are all dealing with trauma. Literally, everyone was traumatized in Bitter Crown. Seeing how they recover is going to be interesting. Especially Aranok and what we think is a combination of his depression and grief.

Mynygogg using education to stop new generations of hatred and racism towards draoidh was unique. Fantasy worlds tend to go with the brute force approach, but we still agree with Aranok. Gogg should have done more. Punish those who turn away draoidhs like what happened to Aranok in The Lost War, or at least fine them. Do something, because most people didn’t see a difference.

Vastin learning Glorbad died from a demon attack was heartbreaking. We are thankful he was told his ax was able to avenge him. It stopped Vastin, we hope, from lingering too long on the fact his specially forged shield was unable to block the demon attack. 


Hopes for The Damned King

Step it up Gogg! We were able to see his sincerity at the Reiver trial, but Allandria stole the show. By conversing with Risimfar she helped sway the decision in his favor. Let’s see more of what Gogg is capable of in book three.

And more Reivers! We’d love to learn about the individual tribes, and their cultures, and see them in action. We’re hoping now that Gogg was able to speak with them, they will play a larger role in The Damned King.

We’d like to also learn more about demon summoning. Weyr wasn’t an upfront player just yet, but we’re thinking in book three he will be. There’s so much different lore in fantasy on summoning demons, how is his power going to work? And now that Meristan has the Thorns on Mynygogg’s side, more demon battles seem imminent.


Which draoidh powers we would choose?

Cassie wants to be an earth draoidh to grow all the plants she could want!

Elicha and Rachel would like the ability to transform like Rasa.

Jessica and Tabitha would like the ability to manipulate time like Samily.


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