The Protection of Ren Crown
The Protection of Ren Crown finds us back in the beautifully complex world of Anne Zoelle's creation. Desperate for a break from all the chaos and excitement, heartbreak and personal discovery of her first term at Excelsine, all Ren wants is to enjoy her time off with best friend and roommate, Olivia. Looking forward to a birthday celebration with her closest friends – and in the First Layer, close to her parents – Olivia and Ren travel to city to meet up. Only to be intercepted by the mischievous Constantine and a group of men hell-bent on bringing destruction and mayhem upon the three friends. Unbeknownst to her, Constantine has crafted a device that swiftly turns the tide of the confrontation and solidifies the suspicion surrounding Ren's magical capabilities. Origin magic is the most powerful and most controversial magic within the world, capable of creation ex nihilo and destruction on an unspeakable level. But the confrontation – and revelation – on that back alley street is only the beginning of the chaos brewing within the magical world.
This was my world now. My insane, exhilarating, dangerously upended world.
Tensions are running high among the denizens of the different layers – those with magic wish to keep it, and those without intend to take it. Political outcries run rampant, and splinter groups begin to surface, declaring their intentions to fight back against the perceived oppression the Second Layer has inflicted upon the other Layers. And lurking beneath it all is the Department, the overlords of the Second Layer, answering only to themselves and determined to control the magic within the Layers. As Ren continues to explore her unique magic, some individuals and members of the Department start to notice the new mage with the power to shake the world.
Ren continues her community service and growing her circle of friends, finding new mages with unique skills and talents to form alliances with. Alliances that blossom into deeply committed friendships, with each person finding it enormously easy to fall in with Ren's unfailingly positive attitude and her panache for trying new things and bringing new ideas into the fold. Olivia is right alongside her, every step of the way, slowly chipping away at the icy shield she has placed herself as a means of self-preservation. And as soon as Ren realizes the true reason behind that shield, she will stop at nothing to ensure Olivia remains safe and protected.
When Ren isn't busy building contraptions with Will, creating innovative graphics for the gaming nerds, or developing increasingly questionable concepts with Leandred, Ren can be found patrolling with the one and only, Alexander Dare. Dare is Excelsine's foremost combat mage, and every year there is a combat mage competition between several layers. In anticipation of the combat mage's departure from campus for the competition, the students of campus law enforcement are teamed up with a combat mage to learn more about campus security. And guess who requests Ren as their partner?
And watching someone who was so deadly revive a plant was a little like looking at a calendar of hot Marines holding kittens
Dismayed by the attention, Ren stutters and stumbles her way through interactions with Dare, slowly becoming more comfortable and realizing Dare is actually more than just a beautiful, aquamarine-eyed hunk who just happens to be the most powerful combat mage in the entire layer. Ren easily welcomes Dare into her circle of protection, and Dare is pleased with the opportunity to learn more about her – and her magic. But when the combat mages finally leave campus, the political turmoil between the layers finally comes to a head. Violently.
Desperate to protect her circle of friends, her loved ones, and her entire campus, Ren devises a plan that is sure to go horribly wrong. Yet, with her team by her side, she knows she can face whatever comes her way. But when the unbelievable happens and Ren's world is flipped sideways, she explodes with a ferocity as yet unseen. Secrets are revealed, betrayals are uncovered, barely healed wounds are ripped open once again, and Ren is in the middle of everything. And dead set on keeping everything she loves safe. Protected.
The Protection of Ren Crown is the breathtaking sequel to Anne Zoelle's The Awakening of Ren Crown. If you thought Awakening was a wild adventure and a beautifully written opening to an exciting new magical world, you will be absolutely taken with the profoundness that is Protection. Zoelle continues to grow and expand upon her world building, lending us a greater understanding of the intricacies to be found within the layer system. We finally get a peek into what else is happening outside of Excelsine, and it's not what I was expecting.
So many plans - perceived and invisible - were in motion now, and it just remained to be seen who would be left standing in the end
Protection also gives us a deeper look into Ren's magic. And we begin to understand just what it is that makes her power so astoundingly powerful – and why it matters to very much to everyone around her. And even though all Ren wants is to draw and paint fantastic creatures for her gamer friends, build new contraptions with Constantine, and come up with hairbrained ideas with Will, she is completely aware that what she has is too important to not share. She remains cautious, though, keeping her secrets close to heart as long as she can, and this gives Ren a sense of familiarity that I don't often see with characters. She feels so incredibly genuine, it's as though Zoelle has written a story about a girl who could have been my best friend in another world. Protection takes the characters to a whole new level, almost as though each individual has their own personal layer system, and Zoelle is slowly taking us through those layers – right by Ren's side.
Speaking of characters, can we just take a moment to swoon over Constantine? My absolute favorite person in this entire series, Constantine is the bad boy, devil-may-care asshole that everyone has an opinion about (usually a bad opinion), but is secretly a giant fluffy teddy bear deep down. Seriously, if we were to look into Constantine's soul, I'm fairly confident it would house a teddy bear. But it works. It works so well, because Constantine is only this way (teddy bear way) around Ren. It's as though Constantine spent his life being hated and harmed and has had everything taken away from him, and Ren is the only one who will be able to love, help and give back to him.
And approaching the conclusion of Protection had me hold my breath, fighting tears (and losing, mostly), huffing out unwilling chuckles in the most intense moments, and reading every word as fast as I possibly could to get to the conclusion. Zoelle continues to weave her own magic with the Ren Crown stories, walking that invisible line between detailed and in-depth descriptions, without being too long or wordy or inevitably making me want to skip sentences. I wanted to read everything. Every. Single. Word. And I did. I have. Several times. I think I've read the series four or five times now, and Protection continues to be my favorite. If you haven't been sucked in by the Ren Crown series yet, you need to get started!
Being a mage - when it wasn't terrifying - was wonderful
Click the book covers below to read the reviews for the other books in the series!