Book Review: Vanity in Dust (Crown & Ash Book 1) by Cheryl Low

Vaun Dray Fen, the prince of the realm, has spent over a hundred years living a life that has no real purpose or meaning and whiles away his days with drugs, parties, gossip, and sex. But someone has been distributing bad dust (the drug of choice), causing madness and violence. But for Vaun it leads to a clarity he hasn't felt in a long time, and he finally starts to realize there are things very wrong in the realm.

Book Review: Vanity in Dust (Crowns & Ash Book 1) by Cheryl Low | reading, books, fantasy
Title: Vanity in Dust
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 384
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*

I’ve never watched a soap opera, but this book was what I imagine a soap opera would be like, just with a fantasy setting and more drugs. It started out decadent and sexy with the characters pretty much just having sex, drinking drugged tea, gossiping, and caring about nothing more than what was fashionable. By the end, it was full of scheming, conniving, treachery, and murder.

My favorite thing about this book though was the main character himself, Vaun Dray Fen. That’s an awesome name. It’s so awesome that it screams “trying too hard,” except that’s what makes it so perfect for this book and this character. Vaun was one if those characters who shouldn’t have been likeable but kind of was anyway. He was a jerk, but the author really nailed his voice and managed to make it sound different from the others, so he was interesting and, at times, entertaining. He spent a hundred years living in this realm where there was no real meaning to anything anymore, so he got high and had orgies and partied and ate cake and had his photos plastered all over the newspapers and just didn’t care about any of it. The only things he did care about were 1) his body, 2) good jackets, and 3) always being alone in bathrooms. But as the story went on, some things happened, and he started to care more about some things and people. In many ways, he was still a jerk, so it was a small enough change to be believable, but still a big enough change to make him a little more likeable.

Other random things you should know about this book:

– The characters all had lots of tea parties.
– Except the tea was spiked with a drug that was literally made of magic.
– Murderous pixies.
– Immortality.
– Duels.
– Ghostly wolves that steal people’s souls.

I only have a couple complaints. One is that there were quite a few POVs, all of which might not have been necessary, but, taking into account the whole soap opera thing, it makes sense that the author was trying to show us what was going on with all the different characters and make sure we got the important information. My other complaint is that the plot felt a little aimless. It was a good story, but I like to know what the goal is so that I know the characters are getting closer, and I never knew what the goal was. The pacing was also kind of slow for most of the book.

Overall though, this was a decadent, unique, magic-and-intrigue-filled book with an oddly likeable main character!

*Note: I categorized this as high fantasy since it was set in another realm, but it’s not your typical high fantasy and has more of a paranormal/urban fantasy vibe in some ways.

*Updated to add: GUYS. THE SECOND BOOK WAS AMAZING. All the complaints I had about this book were fixed, and I absolutely recommend this series if it sounds at all interesting to you!


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  1. Danya @ Fine Print

    Can confirm, that’s basically exactly what a soap opera is like. Actually, the classic soap Passions has magic in it too! Hahaha. I like the sound of the urban fantasy set in a different world vibe, and I love that cover!

  2. Greg

    Murderous pixies? How often do we get THAT? Definitely has that going for it. 🙂

    Sounds like a lovely city lol. Glad it was good though despite the plot/ pacing issues.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Actually I’ve read about nasty little pixies in multiple books, so maybe that’s part of their lore? Or it’s just become a thing? But they didn’t have as much a part in those other books as they did in this one.


  3. Rachel @ Chocolate and Chapters

    This made me laugh: “I’ve never watched a soap opera, but this book was what I imagine a soap opera would be like, just with a fantasy setting and more drugs.”

    Whenever I go to the doctor or somewhere and there’s a soap opera on, I’m reminded that soap operas are seriously train wrecks to watch! It kind of confuses me why people watch them?? To each their own, of course. I’m sure the things I like would confuse them! But the crazy, unrealistic shenanigans people get into on those shows are just insane. haha

    1. Kristen Burns

      I almost included that it was like a soap opera, but without the face transplants and evil twins since those are the types of things always joked about lol. But yeah, this book wasn’t a train wreck like that, it was just very full of betrayal and intrigue and conniving characters and whatnot.

  4. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I mean, the soap opera element sounds fun. Sometimes crazy sauce over the top drama is hard to resist… but then it makes it sounds like this book is about really awful people. I mean, I don’t always have to like a character, morally grey characters can be some of the best, they have to be well written and you have to get where they’re coming from, though. I don’t know. It sounds like a different read at least and you seem to enjoy it.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was pretty fun. I mean, yeah, most of the people were pretty bad, but some of them turned out to have redeeming qualities, and I liked the MC. Like, he was unlikeable, but also likeable.

  5. Lola

    The main character sounds very well written in this book. And that name is kinda awesome, lol. That’s nice he got a bit more likeable as things changed. And that sounds so random and fun with how they had so many tea parties. The cover gives off a bit of an Alice in Wonderland vibe for some reason. I think that as long as the character is well written, is interesting or feels realistic they can still be fun to read about even if they are a bit unlikeable. This does sound like a very unique book.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s so awesome, right? Lol. Yeah the tea parties gave it a kind of whimsical vibe, I thought. Same with the cover. And I did think he was a fun character to read about!