Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date of publication: June 13th, 2023
Series: The Middlemist Trilogy
A Crown of Ivy and Glass—Book 1
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adult, Fantasy Romance, High Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction, Adult Fiction, Magic, Young Adult Fantasy
Trigger warnings: Suicidal Ideation, Self-Harm, Panic Attacks, Chronic Illness, Emotional Abuse, Child Abuse, Death, Grief
Lady Gemma Ashbourne seemingly has it all. She’s young, gorgeous, and rich. Her family was Anointed by the gods, blessed with incredible abilities. But underneath her glittering façade, Gemma is deeply sad. Years ago, her sister Mara was taken to the Middlemist to guard against treacherous magic. Her mother abandoned the family. Her father and eldest sister, Farrin—embroiled in a deadly blood feud with the mysterious Bask family—often forget Gemma exists.
Worst of all, Gemma is the only Ashbourne to possess no magic. Instead, her body fights it like poison. Constantly ill, aching with loneliness, Gemma craves love and yearns to belong.
Then she meets the devastatingly handsome Talan d’Astier. His family destroyed themselves, seduced by a demon, and Talan, the only survivor, is determined to redeem their honor. Intrigued and enchanted, Gemma proposes a bargain: She’ll help Talan navigate high society if he helps her destroy the Basks. According to popular legend, a demon called The Man With the Three-Eyed Crown is behind the families’ blood feud—slay the demon, end the feud.
But attacks on the Middlemist are increasing. The plot against the Basks quickly spirals out of control. And something immense and terrifying is awakening in Gemma, drawing her inexorably toward Talan and an all-consuming passion that could destroy her—or show her the true strength of her power at last.
I never liked visting my sister, Mara, though I loved her so desperately that sometimes I found myself convinced the feeling was not love at all, but something much fouler: guilt, bone-crushing shame, a confused defensive reaction.A Crown of Ivy and Glass by Claire Legrand
Gemma seemingly has it all: wealth, beauty, and no end in suitors (male and female). But, underneath it all, Gemma has a secret. She gets painfully ill by magic, so she is bedridden and suffers anxiety attacks. Her bright spots in her life are her visits to her sister, Mara, in the Middlemist and the parties Gemma plans. She is also bone numbingly lonely. Her father has avoided her since her mother left, and her older sister, Farrin, is embroiled in a blood feud with the Bask family. Then she meets Talan, a mysterious young man whose family has destroyed themselves in serving a demon, The Man With the Three-Eyed Crown. Gemma soon finds out that the same demon is behind her family’s blood feud and sets off to end it. As she gathers her allies and makes plans, she finds out some earth-shattering news. News that shakes her to the core and threatens to end everything. What does Gemma find out? How does it tie into her quest? Will she overcome her body’s objections to magic, or will it kill her?
A Crown of Ivy and Glass is the first book in the Middlemist series. It goes without saying that this book can be read as a standalone (it’s the first book in a series).
There are trigger warnings in A Crown of Ivy and Glass. There are a couple that I am going to list but not give an explanation because of spoilers. They are:
- Suicidal Ideation: Gemma tells her best friend that she thinks her family would be better off if she kills herself. There is a reason why she mentioned this, but because of spoilers, I will not say.
- Self-Harm: To deal with her panic attacks, Gemma cuts herself. She is ashamed when her best friend sees the marks and is dismayed over it.
- Panic Attacks: Gemma suffers from severe panic attacks throughout the book. There is a reason behind her suffering from them, but it is given later in the book and is a huge spoiler. So, sorry!!
- Chronic Illness: Gemma suffers from a chronic illness throughout the book. She cannot be around magic or magic users without getting significantly sick. She lives in pain daily.
- Emotional Abuse: Spoiler, I can’t write anything here!!
- Child Abuse: Talan details abuse from his parents and sisters growing up. There is another huge detail of abuse to a child, but it is a spoiler.
- Death: There are references to Roses being killed patrolling. The undead that Gemma encounters later in the book (and who save her) dies while protecting Gemma. Gemma’s mother is presumed dead. Tying into the child abuse trigger, a more metaphysical death also happens.
- Grief: Gemma’s father is overcome with grief when her mother leaves them. Gemma grieves over the deaths of her allies.
If any of these trigger you, then I suggest not reading this book.
The main storyline for A Crown of Ivy and Glass centers around Gemma, her illness to magic, her relationship with Talan, her family’s feud with the Basts, and Talan’s mysterious background. The author did a fantastic job of detailing how Gemma’s illness affected her life and how she lived each day in pain. It broke my heart to see how lonely she was also. Her father and Farrin were constantly pow-wowing over how to attack the Basts next, and they spent little to no time with Gemma. Actually, Farrin spent more time with Gemma than their father. It was easy to see why Gemma got so attached to Talan right from the beginning.
There were a few things that I wished the author had been more clear about right from the beginning. The first one is the blood feud with the Basts. Nothing got explained until almost the end of the book, and even then, I was a little confused about it. The other was Talan’s background. I wish, wish, wish that the author divulged his background sooner. I don’t like being strung along and thinking one thing about a character and then only finding out something different.
I was fascinated by the lore and how magic worked in this book. This book was full of lore, and I would have loved to have seen some guide at the beginning or end of the book. I also loved how the author explained how magic came to be in this universe. It was fascinating to me, and I couldn’t read enough about it.
There are several sub-storylines that added immensely to the main one. These sub-storylines filled in holes and gave explanations for things that were referenced earlier in the book.
I thought that Gemma was a very solid character. She did come across as vain and spoiled at the beginning of the book, but by the middle, the author made it clear that it wasn’t the case. She hadn’t been dealt the easiest hand in life. Her panic attacks along with her constant pain drained her. Also, her loneliness was very palpable at the beginning of the book. Her character’s growth was amazing, and I was in awe of what she did for Talan during the final battle. Actually, what they all did for him (it was a group effort).
I liked Talan, but I will admit, I was as suspicious as Gemma’s best friend. There was something about him that didn’t seem quite right. Also, there were too many deaths when he was around, and his magical ability (an empath) was almost too good to be true. I was a little grouchy when the author unveiled him, but at the same time, I got why she did it. I loved the turn she took with his character, though. I could never trust him enough to put him on the good guys’ side. It wasn’t until Gemma did what she did at the end that I finally was able to fully trust him.
There are several secondary characters that make an appearance in this book. I liked them all. As with the secondary storylines, they filled in gaps and added some extra oomph when needed. There were a couple that I would love to see more of and a couple that I could see having a relationship (Ryder and Farrin!!).
The romance angle in this book is spicy. If I hate to rate it on a scale, I would say that it is between a jalapeno and a cayenne pepper. Gemma and Talan had good sex if I am going to put it bluntly. I also liked that the author chose to have them do the dirty first and then fall in love. It messed with Gemma’s (and mine) head when it revealed Talan’s intentions. And as I stated above, I did have a hard time believing him when he finally told her his feelings.
I went through such a range of emotions during the last half of the book. I was enraged by what was revealed by Gemma’s father and Farrin’s reaction. But at the same time, everything that was revealed made sense. I wish I could say more but I can’t. There are major spoilers there, which would ruin the book if you haven’t read it.
The end of A Crown of Ivy and Glass was action-packed. There was a point where I was worried about Talan and Gemma. The author didn’t end the storyline but left it open with a hint of what to expect in book 2. I cannot wait to read book two because I hope it answers some questions that were brought up in the second half of the book.
I would recommend A Crown of Ivy and Glass to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and explicit sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning list.
Many thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca, NetGalley, and Claire LeGrand. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of A Crown of Ivy and Glass, then you will enjoy reading these books:
Other books by Claire Legrand: