Monday, June 6, 2016

Broken Crowns by Lauren DeStefano

Broken Crowns is the final installment in the Internment Chronicles series by Lauren DeStefano. Narrated by Morgan Stockhour, this novel picks up where the second one left off. Professor Leander has passed away due to the sun sickness, Gertrude Piper (Birdie) has recovered from her serious wounds from the bombing and asks about her older brother Riles who died in the same bombing. King Ingram of Havalais along with Princess Celeste left six months ago by jet to visit Internment, the city in the stratosphere governed by King Ingram. At the beginning of each month, the king's jet returns to Havalais with a delivery of phosane taken from Internment's soil. The refinery built in Havalais works to process the phosane into fuel. Meanwhile the war between Havalais and Dastor continues.With the arrival of the king's jet, Morgan, Pen, Basil and Thomas speculate on any forthcoming news from the floating city.

The relationship between Morgan and her best friend Pen Atmus remains strained after Morgan revealed Pen's discovery that Internment's soil contained the much needed phosane which fuels Havalais's jets.Instead of the alliance Morgan and Princess Celeste hoped for, King Ingram held the princess hostage and forced King Furlow to supply Havalais with the soil containing sunstone as phosane is called in Internment. While they wait for news, Pen who is now a recovering alcoholic reveals to Morgan her astonishing discovery that Internment is sinking.Pen believes the jet traveling back and forth has disrupted the winds around Internment, causing it to sink. Pen suggests that King Ingram needs to be killed in order to save Internment. Nimble Piper is third in line to the Havalais throne; his father Jack is King Ingram's bastard son. Nimble loves Princess Celeste and he's concerned for her well being.  When they meet Nim later in the evening he tells Morgan and Pen that many people are unhappy about King Ingram. He also reveals that King Ingram doesn't know how to refine the phosane. Pen believes that it is unlikely Internment has given the king the knowledge he needs to process the phosane into fuel and that there may by civil unrest on the floating island.

Morgan suggests that they try to convince King Ingram to send them back to Internment under the guise of helping him. When Morgan tells her betrothed, Basil about her plan, he reluctantly agrees with her and asks to accompany her. That night Nim returns from King Ingram's castle and tells Morgan and Pen that he has arranged for a meeting with a special guest who has returned from Internment with King Ingram. That guest turns out to be Prince Azure who in this novel seems suddenly, strangely adept and not the immature heir to Internment's throne that he was in the first novel. Prince Azure is told about Internment's gradual sinking leading him to agree with Morgan and Pen that they must stop the jet from landing. Morgan tells Prince Azure that they want to be sent back to Internment to work to overthrow King Ingram and his men. But will the prince agree to help Morgan and Pen knowing they disobeyed Internment's strict laws?


The Internment Chronicles failed to live up to its potential hinted at in the first novel. In the span of the three novels that form the trilogy there was little in the way of character development or world building, the pacing often plodding. The main character Morgan Stockhour remains much the same character she was in the first novel; a girl determined to live her life outside the confines of Internment and unsure of her relationship with her betrothed, Basil Cowl. When she is unexpectedly kissed by Judas, Morgan experiences some conflicting feelings but generally insists that she still loves Basil. The same grit that led her to escape Internment also leads Morgan to murder King Ingram when he attacks Pen. The only character we really learn more about is Morgan's friend, Pen, whom we learn was sexually abused by her father. The many minor characters complicate the storytelling unnecessarily and we learn little about any of them. The two minor characters with the most intriguing story, Morgan's brother Lex and his wife Alice, are never really developed.

As for the history of Internment, how it came to exist, and the backstory of Havalais, the reader learns little. The chance to develop more of the backstory, especially with regards to Internment, was in the second book when Morgan and her group have arrived on the ground. The people of Havalais know little about Internment and this would have been a wonderful opportunity for details about the mysterious floating island to be revealed to them and to the reader. The same applies to Havalais, a new setting for the second novel. Instead all readers really know is that it has a weird 1920's speakeasy carnival type culture of Havalais and the main characters are conveniently (but boringly) kept isolated in a home. Of Havalais's war with Dastor we know little but the bare facts. Despite the nearby attack on the city, the Piper family seems largely unaffected by the death of Riles. We are only told how Gertrude feels and never get to meet this character again in the third novel. And as suspected, Morgan's dream of finding something unique and better than Internment is dashed to bits. She escapes Internment with its controls on marriage and births, its forced abortions and its laws against homosexuals to Havalais with its greedy king determined to win a war at any cost. Havalais is no better than Internment.

The trilogy's overarching story of two chaotic kingdoms ruled by two cruel kings both of whom are murdered is depressing, although the novel does conclude the trilogy with a hopeful tone. Broken Crowns is a quick read for those who like science fiction. Don't expect more than just basic storytelling here. DeStefano's concepts for stories are intriguing and unusual but never seem to be developed to their full potential.

Book Details:

Broken Crowns by Lauren DeStefano
New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers    2016
262 pp.

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