I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
Series: The Ring and the Crown #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion on April 1, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Historical Romance, Young Adult
Amazon・ Good Books・Book Depository
Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve?
Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world's only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.
But even with the aid of Emrys' magic, Eleanor's extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen's Guard.
Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie's face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she's always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she's always dreamed of--the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor's court: trust no one.
The Ring and the Crown. Huh. Huh.
This is…a tough book to review. Did I like it? Yes. A lot? No. But maybe? I’m not sure. So let’s dive into these unsure feelings, shall we? I found the book very put-down-able. I enjoyed reading while I was reading, but I didn’t think about the book throughout my day, nor was I ever itching to get back to it. But while reading, I’d think something like, “Oh, this is very pleasant. Why do I keep putting this down? Magic and gowns!”
So let’s talk about what this book DOES have going for it. First: sexy times. While not explicit in any way, these characters don’t shy away from talking about or referencing their desire for sex. I found this refreshing for characters living in a society such as the one presented in TRATC.
There’s another plus for this book: the setting. It takes place in a reimagined early 1900s (maybe-ish), in a world where magic exists and has thus halted the progression of science. So in slightly-more-progressive America, science is still kind of a thing. But in England and Prussia, where the story takes place, magic has ensured that there are still princesses and princes, balls and invisible-horse-drawn carriages, corsets and chaperones. And while everyone is sneaking around with everyone, as one would expect, it’s not as secret or frowned-upon as one might also suspect, which is a nice modern twist. AND there are gay couples, which I reeeally wasn’t expecting, but was so glad to see represented. Yay!
See, TRATC covers some real issues, including abusive relationships (even touching upon rape), identity, independence, perception (as in, how we hope to be perceived by others/how we perceive others), and more. But it lacks focus, which draws your attention away from the smart, refreshing points Melissa de la Cruz is trying to make. Instead of thinking about these issues and why they’re important, I found myself mostly trying to figure out who’s who and where the story was going/which was the most important plot arc. I never knew what to pay attention to; I just always wanted more Ronan/Wolf sexy time. Shallow, but true.
(Just make out already!)
I think the root of the problem with TRATC is the hundred thousand POVs. Okay, there aren’t that many, but there are a bunch. At first, it’s very difficult to remember who is who. Everyone is certainly interesting and their POVs, for the most part, sound different and authentic. And while what’s going on in each of their timelines is interesting to read about, I couldn’t quell the nagging question of whether or not their particular point of view was essential. I mean, when I think about it, each individual person added something different to the story, but could the story be told regardless? Was this an effort of laziness on the part of Melissa de la Cruz? Or a brilliant stroke of genius?
I think another flaw lies in the main character/main POV. Princess Marie-Victoria is a sickly princess with no desire to rule, but with an obligation to marry Prince Leopold (instead of her true love, Gill) to unite their two countries and finally put an end to their feuding. First, that name is too long to read over and over again. But anyway, Marie-Victoria is fine and nice. I felt bad for her and wanted her to be with Gill, sure. But besides that, I didn’t really care about her. She’s kind of boring and you can see her “idea” coming from a mile away. The really interesting POVs are those belonging to Aelwyn (though we don’t see nearly enough of her fiery personality through her own chapters), Ronan (the American girl visiting for the season to secure a husband), and Wolf (Prince Leo’s younger brother). Isabelle (Leo’s ex-fiance) is a formidable woman and her chapters are heartbreaking, but they do seem like chapters that could have been cut. Yes, then we wouldn’t have known about Leo’s true personality…but that would have created more suspense and mystery. Also, are you keeping up with all these names? Sorry if you’re not, but honestly, neither am I. And I’m sure I’m forgetting people.
Sorry for inundating you with what feels like a very long rant. I can’t seem to organize my thoughts about this book. I’ll sum things up this way: is it an entertaining read? Yes. Can you live without it? Most likely. If you’re feeling like you’re kind of in a rut or you’re slogging through a book you don’t like, maybe try this one. It’s at least different. And the positives seem to generally outweigh the negatives.