Review: Coliseum Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #3) by Shami Stovall

Adventure. Competition. A duel to the death.

While on a journey to the famous city of Thronehold, Volke Savan learns of the Sovereign Dragon Tournament. The massive celebration involves hundreds of arcanists competing for fame and glory, and Volke is determined to win.

Dark forces dwell in the city, however, and rumors of the legendary world serpent spread amongst the shadows. Whoever bonds with a god-like mystical creature will gain magic beyond compare, and the queen’s guards suspect cutthroats will use the chaos of the tournament to hide their plotting.

Unsure of who to trust, Volke investigates the terrible rumors while advancing in the ranks of the tournament. Unfortunately, the true villain may be closer than he realizes…


What is Coliseum Arcanist about?

This installment in the Frith Chronicles ages the characters up just a bit and puts them a little further along in their apprentice training. The Frith Guild is given two important missions: obtain the runestone needed to find the World Serpent, and recruit capable arcanists to the guild in order to protect the stone and serpent. While in Thronehold, trying to get the runestone from the Queen of the Argo Empire, a tournament is announced and the apprentices allowed to participate. Each apprentice struggles with something magically, but hope to overcome these challenges in the competition.

Genre: YA Fantasy

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but this series starts off borderline for the MG age range. This novel is absolutely YA, and I wonder if the author wrote the books to age up with readers just slightly.

Tropes: An Organized Evil

Previously Volke and his fellow apprentices have faced threats in the form of arcanist Gregor Ruma, who acted alone but had many contacts who helped him at various times, and Dread Pirate Calisto, who operated his crew but didn’t trust outsiders. This time, the Frith Guild stumbles upon several actors as moving cogs in a machine bent on beating them to the World Serpent.

Plot: A Distracting Tournament

The title and much of the plot presents the tournament as a major event. Four of Zelfree’s apprentices enter, and Volke also befriends an entrant to the final Dragon Sovereign trial of worth, a duel to the death at the end of the entire competition. However, with so much going on, even Volke seems to regard the tournament as a distraction…

The Good

This book really shines in the series. Volke remains a pleasant POV protagonist, even with his newfound interest in romance and the awkwardness he displays when confronted by others’ interest. He is kind hearted, generous, brave, chivalrous, and determined. His powers have grown, his skills have sharpened, and overall Volke is a formidable young arcanist. It’s no surprise to me that at two separate points in the novel other groups try to poach him from the Frith guild. Volke also tends to inspire better behavior in others. Zelfree, an arcanist named Karna, and most of the apprentices at one point or another behave in a way that surprises Volke and offer him as their inspiration. He is admirable and other characters are unafraid to tell him that. Character development, worldbuilding, and the overarching plot of the series all come to a head in this book, working together beautifully.

The Okay

I’d say the only thing I wasn’t thrilled with was the presentation of romantic relationships, but that’s partly because of dramatic irony. It’s safe to say Illia had some form of romantic affection for Volke in the previous novels, and his repeated insistence on their being adopted siblings was his rejection of those feelings. He even states at one point that he doesn’t want to risk their sibling relationship. But the weird competition of Zaxis, once he and Illia start sort of seeing one another, against Volke is annoying. Luckily, Volke doesn’t care about it because he, rightly, is concerned with the more pressing matters of the tournament, runestones, and world serpent. Volke being just as annoyed as I, the reader, was with Zaxis and Illia was pretty gratifying and it meant much less time was spent pondering their relationship.

The Bad

Who am I kidding, I have nothing bad to say about this book.

Final Thoughts

While skimming some of the other Goodreads reviews, I saw a common theme that I find myself agreeing with. Coliseum Arcanist is the book in this series where so much comes together and rises in a huge climax. The world building is at its greatest scale yet in the series, finally showing us the seat of the Empire we’ve been in for three books. The Queen and her character are revealed, demonstrating for us the need for people like Volke to be arcanists–to set things right. Volke’s powers have progressed in an immensely satisfying way, and seeing him charge forward on his quest without paying any attention to competing guild offers and romantic entanglements is so exactly in character. The stakes are high, and the crazy part is this book ends on a note that sets the stakes even higher. I am so immensely excited to continue the series and find out how Volke gets through this.

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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