Having finally gotten my hands on a copy of The Crown by Kiera Cass—the final book in her Selection Series—I’m mostly left wishing that there had been more to the series as a whole. It was a satisfying conclusion as far as the characters and where they end up as their arcs come to a close, but the series could have been so much more than just what was presented. There are hints at the depths it could have explored but it was content to go through the more superficial motions leaving this reader pondering what might have been.
Following her mother’s heart attack in the wake of her brother’s elopement, Eadlyn Schreave, the heir to the throne of Illéa feels the need to step things up when it comes to taking on responsibilities related to running the kingdom so her father doesn’t have to leave her mother’s side—and part of taking on more responsibilities means making some decisions concerning the Selection and narrowing down her choices. Going so far as to get rid of all but six, her Selection has suddenly entered the Elite stage. Still struggling with her public image and her people’s discouraging opinions of her, Marid Illéa—a descendant of a different branch of the royal family dating back to the nation’s origins—steps in to help Eadlyn with her public appeal. But as Eadlyn takes on more formal responsibilities and juggles them with the final stages of the Selection, she discovers she may have taken on more than she realized and her throne is unexpectedly threatened.
Everything about this book felt rushed and superficial. The tension in the wake of her mother’s heart attack at the beginning of the novel is wonderfully nuanced and works well. But everything following her mother’s recovery and Eadlyn’s assumption of responsibility—mainly, the threat of a coup or takeover from a specific corner—feels hollow and forced. The only genuine pressure put on the story is from the “need” to move up specific events related to the Selection and Eadlyn’s rapidly approaching engagement. But she’s the one pushing to move timelines up all the time so it doesn’t feel genuine or as serious as it’s being presented. Similarly, the threat of a coup isn’t as convincing as it should be. The history between Eadlyn’s family and the person who has an eye on her throne is largely glossed over—they got along until there was a disagreement over some policy or move and then both sides said things they didn’t mean and stopped having anything to do with each other; there are no real specifics regarding the exact nature of what it was they fell out over or just how close the two families had been before the falling out. The only reason the audience can get any read on how high the stakes are is because Eadlyn tells us so; we never get to feel it for ourselves.
While I was able to correctly predict which of the young men in her life she would ultimately choose, that relationship suffered in the second half of the book for being similarly rushed and compressed. There were a number of sweet moments between them—and some of the other Selection candidates—but the ridiculous and weakly motivated events surrounding them undercut a lot of what makes their relationship dynamic a healthy and resonating one—again, a lot of telling rather than showing going on. If more time had been taken to develop and world build (something I found incredibly frustrating in Book 2, The Elite, as well), then the plot could have developed more organically and the narrative might have carried more weight through to the end.
The biggest problem the series as a whole suffers from is trying to stretch things out to fill five books where the story being told could easily have been a total of two books—one for America and the selection that takes place in the first three books, and one centered on Eadlyn and the last two books of the series. There isn’t enough plot for five books but streamlined and condensed to two books, I think the series would have been so much more than just another YA Fiction series—albeit an easy-to-read and, at times, entertaining one.