There will be spoilers for the manhwa series The Crown's Shadow.
Trigger Warning: Kidnapping, abuse, and sexual assault/rape could be discussed as it appears in the manhwa.
A random boy from Korea finds himself in another world. While traversing this foreign land, he comes face-to-face with someone who looks and sounds identical to him, like his otherworldly doppelganger. It turns out that this person is Daniel, prince of Rowen. Rowen makes the other-worlder an offer: I’ll take care of you if you become my shadow.
Having nowhere else to go, the boy accepts and is given the name Rael. Rael and Daniel trade places constantly, playing the prince’s role and sharing the burden all of that entails. This goes on for years, with no one catching on, including Daniel’s closest family. Things start to go awry, though, when the kingdom’s emperor comes for a visit.
The emperor is immediately entranced by Rael, who is playing Daniel, and becomes obsessed with him. When Rael and Daniel switch back, the emperor notices immediately but only becomes more intrigued. Finally, on the day the emperor is set to leave Rowen, he goes to Daniel’s father and asks him for a single night with his son, and in exchange, he will give him trade routes and mines. It is an offer the kingdom of Rowen cannot refuse. Daniel, of course, does not want to do this, so Rael, thankful for all that Daniel has done for him, offers to go in his stead.
Rael goes and ends up spending three nights with the emperor before they part ways, and even Rael has to admit that he fell for the emperor, but he admits they may never meet again and moves on. However, he is thrust back into the emperor’s lap when Rowen is suddenly overcome by a noble uprising, and Daniel is murdered. Forced to take the role of Daniel permanently, Rael rushes to the only person he thinks can help him: emperor Lionhart.
Unfortunately, Rael doesn’t know that while the emperor is happy to open his doors to Rael, he won’t be so keen just to let him leave again.
First off, there is no build-up to the relationship here, which I really appreciate. This is meant to be a romance, and the emperor wastes no time establishing his feelings and getting the relationship going. So, if you don’t like fluff and want to get right to the love, then this is right up your alley.
Something else I really like is the fact that Rael doesn’t hesitate to admit his feelings for Lion, the emperor. They both readily admit their feelings, which is a nice break from the standard trope of “do they, don’t they” shyness between the main couple. There is no question between them that they are attracted to each other, which makes the exciting part all about how they ultimately end up together when already knowing each other’s feelings.
The ending and epilogue are also some of the best I have seen in any manhwa. Rael becomes the empress, which is just everything – we love breaking gender roles, and we get treated to an alternate timeline. What would happen if Rael had never returned to the other world and instead returned to his original world? I loved it so much. It was so fun to see an alternate reality built in the canon.
The art, though, is not the best. I have to mention it since I am such a stickler when it comes to the art in comics. It is entirely passable, though, and I think for how fun and funny this story is, the art almost fits it better because of its imperfections. Regardless, though, it is by no means terrible, and the premise is good enough, in my opinion, to forgive any rough patches of art.
I do have to also mention how toxic the relationship is between the emperor and Rael, though. That was not the best, and this was partly why I appreciate the alternate universe so much, as it took out some of the more toxic portions, though they were still toxic regardless. The emperor kidnaps Rael and holds him hostage, goes on a bloody rampage to recapture him after he escapes, and even kidnaps Rael’s brother for a time and forces him to imitate Rael so that he can pretend Rael is there. It is beyond toxic, so I have to discourage anyone who is impressionable in that way or who may be triggered by such things to stay away.
Overall, this was a super fun read. I really enjoyed it despite the toxicity of the relationship. However, I do think they made out the toxicity as just a joke to enhance the comedy of the series, and for that reason, I can’t readily recommend it to anyone. I would be lying, though, if I didn’t admit that I did really enjoy their romance and fell in love with their love in the end.
Have you read The Crown's Shadow? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!