Book Review : Crown Duel
Crown and Court #1&2
By Sherwood Smith
A deathbed promise to their father sends a daring girl and her brother off to war. Filled with intrigue, romance, and magic, this spellbinding novel is a dramatic coming-of-age story about a girl who rises from impoverished beginnings to take command of her own fate. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I had enjoyed the prequel A Stranger To Command so much that I had to run out and get Crown Duel. What a shock! It is as if A Stranger To Command is written by an entirely different author.
The setting for Crown Duel/Court Duel is set in the kingdom of Remalna. King Galdran has continued his wicked rule and has been influenced by his sister, though we don’t know what the extent of her influence has been. With youthful determination to fix the wrongs in the world Meliara Astiar, a minor noble of Tlanth, begins a guerilla warfare against the King.
Vidanric Renselaeus, the Marquis of Shevraeth, is seen as a court fop. He is given command of the forces set out to squash Mel’s rebellion after the first captain failed in his mission. Mel is captured, by accident rather than design, but that is where the real adventure begins.
Crown Duel features elements of Pride and Prejudice, an extreme misunderstanding between two people, one aloof and the other with spunk to spare. The heroine, Mel, reminds me of women in Anne McCaffrey’s books because she is strong-willed, makes mistakes – repeatedly – and is frequently misunderstood. It is a light read and a lot of fun. One of my favorite images is of this young noblewoman running around in the woods with the talking trees as her companion.
I missed the philosophy and sophisticated writing that I had expected after reading A Stranger To Command. Also having the backstory for Shevraeth made me constantly question what he was seeing in Mel. I think her main attraction was her dismissal of artifice. Mel seems too naive and young for the Shevraeth I pictured, but in the end I was won over to their relationship.
There are funny exchanges between Vidanric and Mel. Generally, Mel is on the attack and Vidanric is always misunderstood. Here is one of the funniest exchanges, which you know is going to work out eventually:
“A wager?” I repeated.
“Yes,” he said, and gave me a slow smile, bright with challenge. …
“Stake?” I asked cautiously. He was still smiling, an odd sort of smile, hard to define.
“A kiss.” My first reaction was outrage, but then I remembered that I was on my way to Court, and that had to be the kind of thing they did at Court. And if I win I don’t have to collect. I hesitated only a moment longer, lured by the thought of open sky, and speed, and winning.
“Done,” I said.”
I liked Mel, but there were moments when I would have liked to shake her. The worst of the dumb things she ever did was play a prank on a captain who is hunting her down for King Galdran. I just wanted to yell at the girl, RUN! I think her antics would appeal to the young adult audience, defying authority.
I thoroughly enjoyed Crown Duel, but my favorite is A Stranger To Command. I would recommend the Kindle version which has some bonus material from Vidanric’s point of view.
Another ebook, that I recommend, features the children of Vidanric and Mel, Remalna’s Children.
The summary: Together for the first time, two stories about Meliara and Vidanric’s oldest children: “Beauty” in which Princess Elestra (the plain one) goes to look at a tree, and discovers a handsome villain, and “Court Ship” in which Prince Alaraec and his friend Nadav, heir to Savona, go to court a princess, but find themselves distracted. The princess does not intend to let them remain distracted for long. (Courtesy of amazon.com)
3.5 out of 5 stars
- the Mother
If you liked this one you might like The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler and The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. For a younger audience try Dragonsinger and Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey.