A short summary: To expert thieves are commissioned to steal something from the castle, little do they know that they are to take the fall for the murder of the king. When faced with the executioner's block, they are approached by an unlikely person to commit another crime which will possibly save their lives and possibly the kingdom. I hate to tell you any more than that lest the story be spoiled. The author has gone to such great care to weave this tale with just the right amount of suspense as to keep the reader glued to the book. As far as the fantasy aspect of this novel, I was thrilled that true fantasy was very rarely employed. Sure there is a bit of magic, and an elf or two, but they are simply background to an excellent tale about a kingdom in trouble that seeks help from the unlikeliest of its subjects.
The characters are almost instantly loveable, they are all stereotypes but I wouldn't really hold that against the author. Sometimes a good stereotype is what a book needs. We have the benevolent thieves, the whore with the heart of gold, the reluctant prince, the evil nobleman... so much of this book will be very familiar to the reader, but for some reason this really didn't bother me. I did feel that there were are few areas which could have used a little more umph, or a bit more follow through, however I feel that this is probably the first of at least 3 novels following our new king and his thieving friends. If that is the case, then there is still plenty of time to wrap up these dangling ends.
Would I read these follow up novels? It is highly likely. This is by far one of the most well written independent novels I have had the pleasure of reading. I highly recommend it to both lovers of fantasy, and also those who like stories along the lines of the King Arthur legends, and the tales of the Green Knight.
As far as age appropriateness, there is violence however it is not overly descriptive, there are prostitutes but their job is never detailed and then there are the questionable jobs of our heroes. I would say that this is probably readable by the 12 and up crew, however I would read it first to determine if it would be okay for your specific 12 year old. I would guess that by 15-16 they would be capable of fully enjoying the intrigue that is entailed. Again I highly recommend this book.
5 of 5 medallions
The Crown Conspiracy
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Paperback: 310 pages
Publisher: Aspirations Media Inc (October 1, 2008)
Additional notation from reviewer Stephanie J: The cover art is exceptionally well done.