the shepherd king rachel gillig one dark window two twisted crowns

This Duology About Magical Card Decks Left My Jaw on the Floor: The Shepherd King by Rachel Gillig Series Review (One Dark Window, Two Twisted Crowns)

one dark window rachel gillig

One Dark Window

by Rachel Gillig

SeriesThe Shepherd King #1

GenreFantasy, Horror, Romance, Fantasy Romance


Release Date: September 27, 2022

Pages: 399

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Elspeth needs a monster. The monster might be her. But the monster in her head isn’t the only threat lurking. Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder–she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets. But nothing comes for free, especially magic. When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. Except the highwayman just so happens to be the King’s own nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason. He and Elspeth have until Solstice to gather twelve Providence Cards–the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly, darkly, taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.

one dark window rachel gillig

Two Twisted Crowns

by Rachel Gillig

SeriesThe Shepherd King #2

GenreFantasy, Horror, Romance, Fantasy Romance


Release Date: October 17, 2023

Pages: 437

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Elspeth and Ravyn have gathered most of the twelve Providence Cards, but the last, and most important one remains to be found: The Twin Alders.

If they are going to find it before the Solstice and cure the kingdom of the dark magic infecting it, they will need to journey beyond the dangerous mist-cloaked forest that surrounds their kingdom.

And the only one who can lead them there is the monster that shares Elspeth’s head. The Nightmare. And he’s not eager to share any longer.

This dark, haunting, magical tale will leave you bewitched.

If you’re interested in magical card decks, monsters living in people’s minds, and that one bloodbending episode from Avatar: the Last Airbender… then you’re going to love this.

My expectations for this duology were pretty high going into it—I’ve been looking for more dark fantasies lately, and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about these books. While One Dark Window didn’t necessarily blow me away, Two Twisted Crowns completely shattered my expectations!

The Shepherd King duology tells the tale of a kingdom choked by dark magic and ruled by an oppressive monarchy, and a compelling cast of characters who just want to make things right.

The world-building is brilliant—the atmosphere was eerie, with a constant ominous feeling. I loved the lore behind the Providence Cards and the history of how magic came to be in this world. The explanations for the Cards did feel a bit info-dumpy at times in book one, but everything else is smooth-sailing once you get past that.

The story was actually high-stakes and thrilling. You’re not necessarily wondering who the real heroes and villains are or anything, but you’re always going to speculate on what their next moves will be. The twists were genuinely shocking and were well thought-out.

The grumpy-sad-sad-sunshine(?)-grumpy cast of characters will steal your heart.

Elspeth—sad1. Elspeth was a pretty decent character, though she felt more like a plot device rather than a main character. Everything she did was just to move the story along, or to help another character develop. She herself never felt like the main act.

Ravyn—grumpy1. I made fun of the name Ravyn and couldn’t take him seriously for the entirety of the first book, then we got his POV in Two Twisted Crowns and I was basically in love. He had a lot of depth to him, was very thoughtful and mature, and was overall a menace (I’m saying this lovingly).

Elm—sad2. I would love a spinoff with just Elm’s POV. I would marry this guy. He’s sweet, funny, loyal, and has a heart of gold. He’s not the most mature character out there, and he can make some stupid decisions, but he’s just so pure that I was still all over him. It doesn’t get more Golden Retriever Boy than this. 🥺💖 Among the three POVs in book 2, it was his that I was always the most eager for.

Ione—sunshine(?). I’m not going to elaborate on the question mark to avoid spoilers. But! Ione was an intriguing character, and she had such strong virtues and clear intentions. I wish we got more of her! Her POV would have been interesting.

The Nightmare—grumpy2. I can’t believe I got attached to this character, but I did. Book two in particular gave us a lot of his background, and you’ll come to understand all of his whys and hows. He didn’t always feel so serious despite being one of the deeper characters, which was a nice surpise. I enjoyed his banter with the rest of the cast, especially with Ravyn.

This series will take you on an emotional rollercoaster.

This series made me feel, and I think it’s because the relationships between the characters were so beautifully crafted.

We have deep familial and brotherly loveI was particularly invested in the utter devotion and adoration Ravyn and Elm (and a few key side characters) felt towards each otherand we have angsty, the-yearning-is-real romances between Elspeth and Ravyn, as well as Elm and Ione (guys, I was so invested in their romance that I had to hide under the covers to read their scenes)! There’s also the interesting attachment between Elspeth and the Nightmare, which made me shed a few tears as well. 🥲

Were both books equally amazing? Absolutely not. But they’re both so worth it!

The first half of One Dark Window felt… lazy, to put it not-so-nicely. It was a bit formulaic, very much your typical YA paranormal romance from the 2010s. The second half picked up a bit, and we finally got plot.

Two Twisted Crowns, on the other hand, had me from page one to the end. I was actually a bit shocked that the two were part of the same story because of how different the quality of the second book was to the first!

One Dark Window felt like it was just used as a build up for the epic tale that is Two Twisted Crowns. But if you’re even the least bit interested in this story, I promise you won’t regret giving this duology a shot. 😳

Let’s chat!

Have you read this duology? If you haven’t do you want to? What would make a dark fantasy epic for you? Do you have any dark fantasies to recommend for me? 😉

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Should you read One Dark Window and Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig? @aimeecanread reviews the duology and says YES! Share on X

10 responses to “This Duology About Magical Card Decks Left My Jaw on the Floor: The Shepherd King by Rachel Gillig Series Review (One Dark Window, Two Twisted Crowns)”

  1. […] by Rachel Gillig (⭐⭐⭐⭐½): I absolutely LOVED this book (and was so surprised that I did)! I did a series review for this one and the first book, so please check that out if you haven’t yet. I hope I can convince you to read this duology. […]

  2. blodeuedd Avatar

    I have book 1! Soon, soon!

  3. Jodie | That Happy Reader Avatar

    Wonderful review Aimee! I know someone who would love this book!

  4. Melina Elisa Avatar

    I’ve been thinking about reading this one. It’s super highly rated and highly recommended. I’m glad you agree! I’m currently working my way through books I currently own, but I will 100% be getting this one next time I purchase books xx

    Melina | http://www.melinaelisa.com

  5. Louise Avatar

    I’ve seen the cover for One Dark Window around but not felt particularly drawn to it. Your thoughts on the second one is making me reconsider though.

  6. Veronica Palacios Avatar
    Veronica Palacios

    I love this series so much. Elspeth, the Monster, Elm, Ravyn, Ione: I love them all so much (cringy names and menaces notwithstanding lol ) I fully agree that book 2 is better than book 1 as well 🙂

  7. buffywnabe Avatar

    That’s awesome that even though the first one didn’t blow you away, when you went on to the second you loved it! That’s great when that happens, because so often it doesn’t seem to. Great reviews, thanks for sharing these!

  8. hena Avatar

    I have been meaning to read this series..thanks for the review.

  9. Lisa @TenaciousReader Avatar

    Glad you loved this overall. Sometimes its hard to overcome a slow start like that, happy to hear it pays off! I have these on hold at my library, so may give them a read

  10. Susy's Cozy World Avatar

    This is such a great review! I saw this series around but I wasn’t really interested in it. Your review changed things because now I’m pretty curious to meet these characters!

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