Friday, April 4, 2014

The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

The name Melissa de la Cruz is really familiar to me, but looking at her wikipedia page, it seems like I've never read any of her books before. But if they're as good as The Ring and The Crown, then I've got to remedy this situation as soon as possible.

The Ring and the Crown is set in an alternate reality, where magic exists (which impeded the industrial revolution and created the great Franco-Britain empire). The two main protagonists are Marie-Victoria, the daughter of Queen Eleanor and the heir to the throne of the Franco-Britain empire and Aelwyn, the illegitimate daughter of the great mage Merlin.

In this alternate reality, Merlin has defeated the dark with Joan (aka Joan of Ark) and the existence of magic means that the modern revolution never took off. It is against this backdrop that Aelwyn returns from her place of banishment, where she was sent because of a fire she started that nearly killed the princess.

When Aelwyn comes back, she finds that her childhood friend is betrothed to Prince Leopold. Marie, on the other hand, is in love with her guard Gill. And Prince Leopord's younger brother Wolf is in love with the penniless American heiress Ronan, who's on the hunt for a rich husband.

Personally, I loved this book. Marie-Victoria and Aelwyn are interesting characters who are thrown into situations bigger than their relationships with others. It seems like they're good friends, although this book didn't really explore the friendship dynamic very much. But the discussion on personal happiness versus duty (which included Wolf, who is probably my third favourite character, after the girls) turned this book into something more than light reading. In fact, I would say that the ending is quite different from the "and they all lived with their one true loves happily ever after" I expected at first. It helped this book escape the total fluff label.

My least favourite character was probably Ronan. I'm not sure why, since she's supposed to be the feisty American, but she just rubbed me the wrong way. Plus, her story isn't really related to the main plot (except for her relationship with Wolf), which meant that I never was that interested if she managed to snag a rich husband or not.

If you like alternate history books that feature girls as the heroines (and no, their boyfriends will not be the ones to save the day), you should definitely give this book a go. It's not a deep philosophical book by any means, but it's not total fluff and it's an enjoyable read. I am really looking forward to the next book, because this is a series that has a lot of potential.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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