I just realized that today marked my one year anniversary of having this blog…WOOT! I can celebrate zero readers, but one full year of book blogging deliciousness. YEAH! I’m very excited about this… 😉
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith is and has been one of my all time favorite books since I read it when I was…eleven? I realize that most of you are wondering “why is she rereading books from her childhood?” Well, I’ve missed childhood lately so I’m taking brief trips back…it’s fun 🙂 Now, on to reviewing the book.
This book is actually two books in one. The first part was originally titled “Crown Duel,” the second was “Court Duel.” When they are put together it makes it incredibly long. Especially when read out loud to one’s family (which is what I’m currently doing). However, it captures the attention and the imagination so it doesn’t seem as long as it actually is. The book opens with our heroine Meliara Astiar working on how to pay taxes. Her brother, Branaric Astiar rushes in telling her that their father wants to see them both, a sure sign that he is at his last moments. As their father lays dying, both siblings promise to bring down the tyrannical king currently on the throne, Galdran Mirandar and rule themselves to bring peace and prosperity back to Remalna, the land in which they live. Galdran Mirandar is trying to break the sacred Covenant with the mysterious, magical Hill Folk, who are like humans, but look like trees. Their music speaks to all who listen, but Meliara is especially connected with them because she rides out to them to dance to their music. The small army that Mel and Bran have created at their home in Tlanth prepares for war as Galdran’s army marches on them. The commanders are Baron Debegri and The Marquis of Shevraeth. Debegri is cold and sinister, the Marquis has a reputation as a bit of a fop who cares only for fashion. The mountain plan to make mince meat of them. But not all goes according to plan.
At the start of the war, Debegri uses arrows, which is against the Code of War. So Bran sets steel traps all over for their warriors to walk into. One fateful night, Meliara walks into one. What proceeds is a chaotic mix of rides, embarrassing encounters with the Marquis, facing Galdran, dungeons, and fleeing all over the countryside. Poor Mel! Most of the time she is cold and wet, and the whole time she is injured and limping along. FINALLY, the war ends. I don’t want to give to much away, but an enemy turns into an ally and then Galdran gets his just reward. In the second installment, Court Duel, Mel goes to court and has to find away to maneuver through intricate dresses, fans, signals, tones, curtsies and many other frightening things to decide who would rule best and if she should ever place her heart in anothers hands.
I have always loved this book. I am Meliara’s biggest fan. Mainly because, were I in her shoes, I would react the same way. For the second half of the first book and the first half of the second book (so half the book…lol) she shows remarkable pig-headedness and an inability to see past the faults of others. Her complete prejudice is real. If anyone can read this and feel that they wouldn’t act in the same manner, they are obviously a very forgiving, loving, (cough* perfect), person. She does, however, change. Which really is the best part. For all her faults she recognizes them and struggles to overcome them. It isn’t something that happens overnight; it’s a process for her. And little by little you see her lay aside past experiences that have blinded her vision and see people for who they are. The characterization of all of the main characters, especially the love interest for her is excellent. The man is not perfect (I don’t want to give away who it is…), but obviously has many faults. He sees her faults and falls in love with her anyway. It’s all well done. The love story is not the main focus of the book, the political coups are, which is lovely.
Now, for the faults. As I mentioned, I’ve been reading this book to my family, including my mother. About midway through my mom started commenting on how Meliara always rode in the rain and was always wet on horseback, or otherwise. Of course, she was incredibly sarcastic about it. Unfortunately, it’s true. Every time Mel steps outdoors a sudden downpour arises soaking her to the skin or making her hair wet. It’s a bit ridiculous really. If that happened to me, I’d be severely annoyed. (No wonder she’s so crabby all the time, the author completely screwed her over!). Another thing that really bothers me is that her friendships with men her own age, in the second book, don’t go beyond the surface. Which is completely unlikely for someone with her passion and disposition. I relate to her really well because we are extremely alike and I think that she would have better friendships with the guys around her. However, she is in a dangerous court arena, so perhaps not. It kind of irked me. The only other thing I, as a writer, was annoyed with was her descriptions. They go on forever! I think I do the same thing, so I probably shouldn’t judge, but it seems that she can’t mention anything (a tree, a hat, a river, a rock) without describing what it looks like in great detail. Her descriptions of what people look like is not at all the same. She describes what they’re wearing but not their facial structure or things like that. I mean hair and eye color are noted but beyond that nothing.
These errors notwithstanding the book was excellent. The plot driving and my favorite parts were as funny as they were when I first picked up the book. It’s a timeless tale of Pride and Prejudice in a fantasy realm. So basically, the perfect book for me 😉 Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
“There is no use talking about the plan, because of course, nothing went the way it was supposed to…The Marquis bowed low over his horse’s withers, every line of his body indicative of irony.”
I just love the phrasing of that. It probably doesn’t make much sense out of context. So read the book and you’ll understand it!
“She bowed. ‘We are ready to ride my lady, whenever you like.’
‘Ride?’ I repeated.
She grinned, all of them grinned. ‘We thought you’d want to get caught up on events as soon as possible.’ Her eyes went curiously blank as she added, ‘If you wish we could ride to the city. We’re yours to command.’
An honor guard, then.
I rubbed my hands together. ‘And be left out of the action?’ They laughed, obviously well pleased with my decision.”
That’s just what I would do. And now for my absolute favorite part…
“He shook his head. ‘Never ride in coaches. If you want the truth, they make me sick. How about a wager?’
‘A wager?’ I repeated.
‘Yes,’ he said, and gave me a slow smile, bright with challenge. ‘Who reaches Jeriab’s Broken Shield in Lumm first.’
‘Stake?’ I asked cautiously.
He was still smiling, an odd sort of smile, hard to define. ‘A kiss.’
My first reaction was outrage, but 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.
Obviously, she loses…
“I gritted my teeth, crossed my arms, and advanced on him, my cold-numbed lips poonched below what I knew was a ferocious glare.
Obviously on the verge of laughter, he raised his quill to stop me. ‘As the winner,’ he murmured, ‘I choose the time and place.’
‘You cheated,’ I said, glad enought to have the embarrassment postponed.
‘It was a trick,’ I snarled. ‘And as for your wager, I might as well get it over now.’
He sat back, eyeing me. ‘Wet as you are-and you have to be cold-it’d feel like kissing a fish…’
Oh snap! 😀 That part makes me laugh every time. I hope that all of you who read this (all like 2 of you) decide to pick up this book. It’s worth it…