Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz


Review: The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
Goodreads 
Release date: April 1, 2014
 Publisher: Disney*Hyperion
Series: Yes, #1 in The Ring and the Crown series
Source: e-ARC via Netgalley
Length:  384 pages
Rating: Well, THAT was a surprise.

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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.

 
I simply cannot pass up a novel about a magical alternate universe Franco-British Empire, even if it is by the author who wrote possibly the worst book I have ever read. Frozen might have been a fluke, after all. The Ring and the Crown could be totally amazing. The concept certainly is. Perhaps her co-author, her husband, was to blame for most of...whatever Frozen was.

So I began reading with high hopes and an even higher sense of trepidation. After a brief historical introduction came the most HILARIOUS JUXTAPOSITION OF PREFACE QUOTES I HAVE EVER SEEN: Emily Dickinson and Beyonce. (Who run the world? Girls!/Who run this motha? Girls!) I also laughed up a storm at the Lorde quote that prefaces part three.

The first ten pages are all TELL TELL TELL, as the first of our heroines, Aelwyn (ugh that name), informs us in third person mind voice about a whole bunch of things that could have been more masterfully conveyed through dialogue or action. But nothing was horrible yet, and the concept was still so intriguing, and the only thing to make me snarklaugh was the Beyonce quote, so all was well. I wanted to love this book, okay? This concept is my catnip. It's like Melissa de la Cruz was seeing into my soul and writing the book I wanted most. I came in expecting the worst but SINCERELY hoping for the best.

I didn't get the best by any means. But... you might want to sit down for this... I enjoyed the hell out of this book.




The prose in this book is still vastly overwritten, with occasionally wavering POVs and saggy description, but there were only a few instances that offended me to my core. So, yay! And while de la Cruz spends a beastly amount of time discussing decor and fabrics and gilded chairs, the result is a pretty sumptuous and visually inviting world. Plus, royalty. Magic plus royalty. I am powerless in the face of this. Settle into this book like the delicious, fluffy, surface-deep historical soap opera it is, and you just might have as much fun as I did.

The concept of this book is super cool, especially if you're a massive European history nerd like me. Are there one or two facts that made me side eye the worldbuilding? Yes, but most of this is just delicious, frothy, royal fun. TRatC (terrible acronym) is set in an alternate fantastical history wherein magic and Merlins exist. The power of the Merlin, aka prime magical dude, is such that a Franco-British empire exists, which obviously includes Britain and France but also covers much of Europe and America. Their greatest enemy is the Prussian Empire, which is kind of like a mix of Austro-Hungarian and German Empires. They are at magical war with one another. It's fun to read about.

I'm not sure people who aren't as TOTALLY NUTSO IN LOVE with this stuff as I am will handle it, but I was basically like this the whole time:





There are five first person points of view in this book. I actually like multiple points of view, especially in third person, where they are much easier to pull off, and they're pulled off here. There's Marie-Victoria, the sickly daughter of Queen Eleanor II of the Franco-British Empire; Eowyn, the daughter of Queen Eleanor's Merlin; Ronan Astor, a not-so-wealthy but oh-so-beautiful American socialite; Wolf, younger prince of the Prussian Empire; and Isabelle, the girl who was once engaged

Does that sound like a lot? It's not, really. I found this book very easy to follow and the characters pretty easy to engage with, though none truly challenged me or burrowed into my heart or anything. The only one who felt a bit blank was Eilonwy Winn-Dixie Aelwyn to me, even though she's the magical magicky one. There may have been a few too many characters of varied purpose, but my two favorites were Marie and Wolf by far.

The plot is fun. There are balls, treacherous plots, gowns, switcheroos, light magic, Big Twists (some surprising and some not), game attempts at romance, sudden but inevitable betrayals, and many other hallmarks of the kind of plots that make me deeply, simply happy. Much of this book is spent on the London Season, aka the social season of the wealthy and titled in London.

Is everything perfect? No, but I went with most of it. One of the writing's biggest flaws is how tell-y it is. All relevant information is conveyed to us in interior monologue and description, which gets a bit boring, honestly. Plus there are a few inconsistencies that exist even in the finished copy, which I totally, unashamedly bought.

She had not seen him in a decade, but Emrys Myrddyn looked exactly the same… “Ah, there you are,” he said, looking up from his paperwork with a distracted smile, as if she had just disappeared for a moment and not been sent away for four years. 

Wait, what? Has it been a decade or four years??  Then there was the dude she described as having a "prominent chin" and then "weak-chinned" a few sentences later.

The writing was not nearly as atrocious as in Frozen (woohoo, faint praise!), though there were certainly some instances where it could have been cleaned up. PSA: STOP putting two semicolons in one sentence, humans of the world. I beg of you. Think of the comma on the bottom as the tear you make me cry whenever you do. In fact, just cool it on the semicolons in general. Three or more per page makes it look like your paragraphs are having seizures. One particularly offensive page in The Ring and the Crown had seven. And the comma splices. Not as bad as Frozen, but oh, humanity, let us band together to rid this comma splice scourge from the earth.

There are some truly yuckily overwritten sentences, like the time Ronan describes her own lips in her interior monologue as  "a proper rosebud, ripe for plucking”. And then there's the moment where Wolf, also in interior monologue, describes his own expression as being "a golden smile that gave charm a new name."

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Herbert? Fitzwilliam? Gertrude? Ducky?

Discerning readers of The Ring and the Crown will hopefully spot my most favorite of all things ever: a Frozen Easter egg! I laughed until I wheezed. The ending is a bit of a fizzle, and I'm not sure what the second book in the series could possible be about, but I'll be there to find out. This book was a total sugary cupcake with a rich frosting and a sparkly wrapper, and I would probably like a second, despite my better judgment.

6 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this one too! I was shocked because I had read such horrible things about Frozen. I'm sad to say but I'd put this author on the meh list. I couldn't resist though because the cover was so inviting, concept so alluring that I had to give it a go. I'm so happy I did--what a surprise! I loved it :-) So happy you had a good experience with this one too.

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  2. This is a really nice review! I'm glad you half-enjoyed it, or at least enjoyed it more than Frozen. I've never even heard of the author or am I a huge fan of european history, but what the heck, I'll give it a try sometime in the near future.

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  3. A cupcake? That could be the best recommendation for this book ever!

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  4. I'm so with you on this one Gillian! I loved the world and alternative history, didn't expect to love the romances and was surprised how addicted I became to this one, haha. I don't really know what the sequel will be about, but I'll definitely be reading it because I love cupcakes too :D

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  5. I haven't ever read a book by this author yet, but The Ring and The Crown has elements that I feel I'd like! I am glad that you wound up at least liking this one, even with all the problems you mentioned in your review. Gives me hope that it might be worth a read after all!

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  6. Awesome review! I am so in love with this book.

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