Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review: Crown Duel

Crown Duel (Crown & Court, #1)Crown Duel

Series: Crown and Court, #1 and 2
Author: Sherwood Smith
Reading Level and Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Firebird
Publication Date: March 1997, April 1998; June 10, 2002 (omnibus)
Source: Purchased for Kindle
Young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, which threatens the very people they are trying to protect. But war is simple compared to what follows, in peacetime. Meliara is summoned to live at the royal palace, where friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms. If she is to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting-with wits and words and secret alliances.

In war, at least, she knew in whom she could trust. Now she can trust no one.
I loved the fantasy atmosphere around this book. At its heart, it's just another coming-of-age/find-your-path-in-life story, with one awesome, head-strong heroine at its prow. This girl, born into relative poverty (especially considering her title), is suddenly thrust into the dangerous world of politics and war with the death of her father and his final wish of dethroning the current king and finding a better one, even if it has to be her and her brother.

I really enjoyed the story, and I found myself aching for more books after finishing. The first book, which involved more adventure, kept me energized and focused. There wasn't any boring section. And the second book, which involved a much more dramatic setting at court, was definitely entertaining. What I really liked about it is that there wasn't any overload of romance, and the bit that was in there was definitely heart-pulling.

There were times when the book was a little confusing. There were many subplots in the second book. Meliara just had so many problems. She had a kingdom to take care of, and her own personal life wasn't exactly a smooth ride. She could also be a bit dense, which added to the mystery romance aspect of the novel, but I think we all figured it out early enough. I wasn't sure why she hated the Marquis of Shevraeth so much. It got a little annoying, and she had no real reasons to keep pushing him away. Clever device on the author's part? Eh, not really. It also seems she, although brave and well-intended, never really did much saving the world on her own. She herself was saved multiple times by aforementioned Marquis and a few others. There's a delicate balance between a heroine who is saved too much and one who saves too much (where the amount of strength and battle prowess just gets a little ridiculous... and convenient), and I'm not sure Smith quite hit the mark.

Another thing. The Fire Sticks gave an intriguing introduction at the beginning of the book, but never really play a major (if at all) role in the novel. The Covenant hardly seemed relevant in the story... except in the beginning.

As I said before, this book involves, fantasy, adventure, romance, and historical fiction, a brilliant combination that I devoured. The author's writing is skilled, although I felt like she felt the need to use as many SAT vocabulary words as possible, and attempted to never repeat the same verb twice. (Or maybe it's just because it's an older book and I'm a newbie?) Fantasy lovers should definitely give this book a short; it'll be worth it.

First Line:
I hope any of my descendants reading this know exactly what the Covenant and the Code of War are, but there is always the  chance that my story has been copied by the scribes and taken to another land that will consider Remalna distant and its customs strange.

Random Quotes/Excerpts:
"[Message] just arrived from Azmus... [King] Galdran has taken his cousin off the command. He'd apparently expected us to last two weeks at most."
     "Well, who is this new commander? Ought we to be afraid?"
     Bran's grain widened when he laughed. "Here's the jest: He's none other than the Marquis of Shevraeth, heir to the Renselaeus principality. Acccording to Azmus, all he ever thinks about are clothes, horse racing, and gambling. And did I mention clothes?"
     Everyone roared with laughter.
     "We'll give him two weeks," I crowed. "And then we'll send him scurrying back to his tailor."

Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does receive books for review for free by publishers or authors. For every book reviewed – whether sent by publisher, author or books purchased, it will be graded with a clean and open mind. A free book received will not influence any opinion of the contents of the book.
Spoilers may or may not have been present in this review. While iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does review honestly, reviews are not specifically checked for spoilers. Attempts at avoiding spoilers are made, but not all are removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement placed on all reviews as a warning to those who read them.


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