Saturday, September 26, 2020

Britfield and the Lost Crown by C.R. Stewart
Narrated by Ian Russell

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Britfield & the Lost Crown is the first book in a thrilling seven-part series for middle school and young adult readers. It will inspire children to engage both their creativity and their critical thinking skills as they encounter actual places, authentic characters, and exciting but realistic events in seventeen action-packed chapters.

Based on family, friendship, loyalty, and courage, Britfield & the Lost Crown and its hero, Tom, take readers on an epic adventure across England – from the smoldering crags of Yorkshire to the heart of London and, finally, to the magnificent shores of Dover.

With help from his best friend, Sarah, and a hot air balloon, Tom flees Yorkshire, escaping from Weatherly Orphanage and the clutches of a relentless detective, in pursuit of the truth about himself and his heritage: Are his parents still alive? Is he the true heir to the British throne? As Tom and a memorable cast of both heroic and dastardly characters unravel a royal mystery that could change the course of history, readers are taken on a breathless journey to a surprise ending that will leave them clamoring for more.

Built on more than seven years of extensive research and development, Britfield & the Lost Crown creates a real world that readers can embrace as it weaves accurate geography, literature, architecture, and history into its fast-paced story. With stimulating language and active writing, Britfield engages the reader from the first pages and doesn’t let go until it reaches its exciting conclusion.


I received an ARC of the audiobook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Britfield and the Lost Crown was a story built on convenience. Tom and Sarah were runaway orphans that seemed to have an endless supply of good luck and favorable outcomes. They relied on the kindness of strangers and people's willingness to help two children they've never seen or heard of before. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it is extremely unlikely they would have made it as far as they did. Another thing: the synopsis gives away waaaay too much about the book, so it doesn't leave a lot for readers to discover on their own as the story unfolds. Very little imagination required. 

As they were leaving the orphanage (where they were malnourished, overworked, and mistreated) everything just clicked into place for them. Sure, they had to struggle and overcome obstacles, but it did seem incredibly easy for them to evade numerous adults and the authorities. I was overly suspicious of everyone they met, but each encounter proved beneficial for the children regardless of their circumstances. They just seemed like "good kids" and people wanted to help. They were even willing to to help Tom and Sarah evade the authorities, which doesn't seem like something people would do.

They just kept running into good Samaritans and stumbling across things that would help them on their journey. For example, they're running through a field and find themselves next to a hot air balloon (not a spoiler; it's on the cover and in the synopsis). What twelve-year old knows how to fly a hot air balloon on instinct? Yes, they fiddle with knobs and levers until the balloon does what they want it to, but they were more likely to crash and explode than fly across the country. Also, they were in the balloon for like 15 hours, yet neither of them had to pee? They were constantly drinking water they found in the balloon, but potty breaks (or more specifically, the lack thereof) weren't mentioned. It caused the story to lose some of it's credibility, even with how easy their escape had been thus far. (Honestly, they should have died or been captured countless times, but managed to barely evade death and everyone else for the entire book.)

Additionally, I wasn't all that invested in Tom or Sarah as characters. They weren't relatable, and we also don't really learn very much about them over the course of the book. Sarah frequently mentions that she "wasn't always in an orphanage," but rarely reveals details about her life before Weatherly. Tom doesn't know what his life looked like before, because he can't remember anything except for the half-formed memories that pop up in his dreams. The detective, professor, archbishop - - they were all a means to an end and didn't really add anything to the story (other than helping hands). 

There's a reveal towards the end that I didn't see coming, but I also thought it's inclusion was taking things a bit too far. The person's behavior up until that point had been atrocious and unforgivable, so I didn't buy their sudden transformation/revelation. To their credit, Tom and Sarah didn't believe them either. As for Tom's big secret, it didn't take very long for me to figure out his history and what it meant (it's also IN THE SYNOPSIS). The clues were not subtle, although it took everyone else a VERY long time to put the pieces together. A Harvard professor and a renowned detective couldn't see what was going on? Really?

I also went into this book thinking it was a standalone (something I apparently missed from the synopsis), so I was miffed when the book ended on a cliffhanger. The other children at the orphanage don't know what happened to Tom and Sarah, but we do get to see how their lives and living situations have changed by the end of the book. Unfortunately, Tom and Sarah STILL don't have all of the answers, and their story was left unfinished. I feel like everything else was wrapped up, so they should have gotten a conclusion as well. Dragging this story out feels unnecessary, and like the author is trying to squeeze SIX MORE BOOKS out of nothing. It would have taken one or two more chapters to resolve everything, so making them work even more for the same goal they've been trying to achieve since the beginning, seems unfair and overly ambitious. Britfield and the Lost Crown isn't a series I will be continuing in the future. 

Audiobook review: The narrator was amazing! Ian Russell had very distinct voices for each of the characters, and I really loved how they were portrayed (especially his accent and cadence for Sarah). At first, I thought it was the same person who narrated The Night Circus, but it's not. (However, if you liked how that book was narrated, you'll probably like this narrator as well!) I look forward to listening to more books read by him in the future. (★★★☆☆)


  1. I'm glad I read your review on this--I love middle grade fantasy, but this series doesn't sound well-written at all. I need more than conveniences, I have to care about the characters, and the characters must be the problem solvers. Excellent review!

    1. Exactly! I want my characters to solve problems, not have every answer handed to them along the way. Tom and Sarah simply ran from one place to the next, and there was always a kind soul to help them on their way. The only exception is the hot air balloon they stole, but it was also convincedly placed in a field for no apparent reason.

      Tom gets separated from Sarah and a taxi driver offered to drive him for free, they're running through a college campus and a stranger decides to feed and lodge them - - no questions asked. It was just too convenient to be believable. No one is that lucky!

  2. That cliffhanger would have turned me off the book too.

    1. Right?? The entire book is about Tom finding his parents, and that's the one thing that doesn't happen. It was incredibly frustrating!

  3. The cover is gorgeous, too bad it was a bit of a let-down.

    1. I feel like it could have been so much better than it was!


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