Friday, December 29, 2017

The Ring and the Crown by Melissa De La Cruz

🌟 I read this for the Yule Bingo Challenge, for the category of Ollivander: books with spells. For more info on this challenge, click here. 🌟

This review is dedicated to my critics who think I'm too biased/snobby: I fully went into this book expecting to hate it, but I changed my mind. (My mind can be changed, occasionally - it's only that few books are up to the task.) I had good reason to be suspicious of THE RING & THE CROWN - not only did some of my trusted friends not like it, I had also tried and loathed the author's Blue Bloods series (a sad attempt to cash in on the TWILIGHT craze, with a dash of Gossip Girl thrown in for good measure). Also, what is up with the cover? It's beautiful, but also completely ridiculous - like an Instagram model with a weird hat decided to take a selfie in a macaron bakery in downtown L.A.

The plot of THE RING & THE CROWN is a bit difficult to explain, because it has, like, four main characters and about twenty secondary characters who play a significant role in the plot. My friend Khanh made an excellent flowchart showing the relationships of the characters in this book in her review, and I actually referred to that chart a few times while writing my own just to make sure I had everyone straight. Main character #1 is a mage named Aelwyn, a bastard mage of significant power who was friends with the princess but then sent away for nearly setting the palace on fire. She's been living on a magical island for several years, but is now being sent back to court to take her position as court mage. Main character #2 is the princess, Aelywn's friend, Marie-Victoria. She's kind-hearted, but weak, and the bulk of her childhood was spent in a variety of contraptions designed for her health and posture. She's about to be married to the prince of another country, but feels ambivalent about the match because she thinks he's a creep (he is). Main character #3 is Ronan, a girl who comes from a noble but now impoverished family in America; she's traveling to Europe in order to meet a rich husband. If you looked up "spunky" in the dictionary, you'd probably see her picture there. Lastly (but not leastly), main character #4 is Isabelle. Isabelle is a dauphine, who was supposed to marry the same prince that Marie-Victoria is now engaged to; she's also been the prince's mistress for several years, and has been sexually abused by her guardian. The upcoming marriage to the princess is just the latest straw on her sore back.

I guess the main plot is RELATIONSHIP!DRAMA. Which should have annoyed me, but in this book, De La Cruz has captured that light, frothy narrative style that works so well with YA historical. It's flowery and ornamental, and paired with the constant promise of scandal, really made the pages fly by. I ended up staying up until 3am reading this book. There's also magic, attempted murder, and court intrigue - three things that never fail to get my heart singing. I also liked the alternate history element: this is set in Victorian England, but in this version of history, the Americas relied on artillery during the Revolutionary War, whereas England used its mages. The Americans lost the Revolutionary War, so America is still part of England and there are castles and nobility there.

I was totally psyched for the sequel, THE LILY AND THE CROSS, but apparently the sequel isn't happening. Or at least, it's not going to be published. On her blog, the author said this: "[the book] didn’t quite go the way I imagined it would.  After I finished, I realized I liked where the story ended in book one, that it was complete and perfect as a stand-alone. So the sequel is not going to be published." I guess she had an early draft of the story available for purchase for a while, too (I'm not sure if it's still active, or if that was a limited time deal), but I didn't really look into that too deeply. Okay. But then in a response to a question on the book's page, the author said this: "Hey guys, seems to be some wrong assumptions about an author's "choice" to end a series. IT IS NEVER AN AUTHOR'S CHOICE. All my series that were canceled were canceled by publishers and the reason is often the same: poor sales of prior books." So I'm a little confused, after all, because the blog post makes it sound like it was her choice to end the book, but her response to the question seems to be putting the blame on the publisher. So I don't know what the deal with that is, but it's disappointing.

It does sort of work as a standalone - the last chapter sort of wraps up everyone's narrative - but several people I wanted to end up together didn't end up together, and Isabelle's storyline was so depressing that it almost felt like she was being punished for her precocious sexuality. I wanted to see her destroy her abuser and end up with someone who loved her, so that was depressing AF. Ronan didn't get a very good ending, either. If you enjoyed Richelle Mead's THE GLITTERING COURT, I think you'll probably enjoy THE RING & THE CROWN, as they are very similar in many ways and there's a lot of crossover appeal, although TR&TC definitely leans more towards historical fantasy.

P.S. I took a bookstagram of this book.

4 out of 5 stars

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