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The Ring and the Crown

Review

The Ring and the Crown

Remember Joan of Arc? The saintly warrior maiden who saved the French from the invading English? Well, imagine she was a dark witch...and the English defeated her forces, taking over France and creating a giant empire. That’s the world of Melissa de la Cruz’s THE RING AND THE CROWN, where magic props up the Franco-British Empire, and the younger generation of Europe’s ruling families hide their dissatisfaction behind courtly masks and glittering gowns.
 
    De La Cruz mixes in a bit of Arthurian mythology with her historical fantasy. While a clever idea, it doesn’t pan out quite so well. Only readers intimately familiar with Arthurian canon will understand some of her allusions. However, the author balances out the characters of Merlin --- master magician to Eleanor II of the Franco-British Empire --- and his daughter, Aelwyn, with the young aristocrats of the empire.
 
A solid narrative with a very intriguing premise that asks fascinating questions.  
 
If you don’t enjoy multiple narrators, you might find THE RING AND THE CROWN a challenge. The book kicks off from the point of view of Aelwyn, who’s back in London for the first time since her banishment to Avalon years before. An unwanted child, Aelwyn has never been close to her father, but she was best friends with the heir to the throne, Princess Marie-Victoria. Of course, Aelwyn’s a beauty, while her childhood BFF is sickly and doesn’t want to marry to suit the empire. Marie-Victoria could easily come across as a simpering heroine, but de la Cruz does an excellent job of keeping her sympathetic, while not perennially pitiable.
 
Wolfgang, second-in-line to the throne of Prussia, is a boxer who doesn’t want to conform to his family’s expectations. Sound familiar? He falls for penniless American Ronan Astor, who’s out to snag herself a rich husband. As the spare heir, Wolfgang is a pale shadow of his brother, the uber-hunk Leopold VII; Leo demolished the Franco-British forces in a recent battle and is due to marry Princess Marie-Victoria to solidify their treaty. Meanwhile, Leopold’s not exactly Prince Charming; he’s been stringing along his erstwhile fiancée, Isabelle of Orleans --- a member of the French royal family that the Brits defeated long ago. Isabelle has no desire to give up Leo for Marie.
 
If you can soldier past the unending reel of characters, you’ll find a solid narrative with a very intriguing premise that asks fascinating questions. What if magic was the backbone of all society, while science was a mere oddity? What if the English had taken over France and created a lasting imperial structure? While de la Cruz raises these issues, she doesn’t deliver as much as the reader would like in the way of answering them.

Reviewed by Carly Silver on April 8, 2014

The Ring and the Crown
by Melissa de la Cruz

  • Publication Date: February 7, 2017
  • Genres: Supernatural, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • ISBN-10: 1484799259
  • ISBN-13: 9781484799253