Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith which I purchased way back in July '10 primarily due to the constant pimping of my good friend and blogger Chachic. She continually has good things to say about this book and of course, I was curious to see what goodies it held in store for me. It wasn't until after I arrived home with my used copy however that I discovered I had actually bought a signed copy - even though it had been dedicated to one Ruthie. Maybe I can start telling everyone that's my middle name...
Originally published as two separate books, Crown Duel and Court Duel - but handily combined in my edition, Crown Duel begins with a promising portrayal of the penniless brother and sister duo Meliara and Branaric who swear on their father's deathbed to do whatever it takes - even if it means going to war - to ensure that the king is removed from his throne. As joint rulers of a small province, Mel and Bran don't exactly have the means or resources to defeat the royal army in an uprising, but that doesn't stop them from trying. And despite the highly unfavorable odds Mel and Bran actually seem to be making progress until the arrival of the famed Marquis of Sheraveth, Lord Vidanric. Determined not to let this foppish lord best her on the battle-field or in the high courts, Mel vows to make things right for her beloved country even if it means working together with her worst enemy.
It's no surprise to me now why Sherwood Smith is beloved by many readers. Meliara's world of Hill Folk and court politics is extremely intriguing with hints of magic and full of complex characters. Even though she is stubborn and often blind to a fault, I still could not get enough of Mel's first-person narrative whether running for her life on a broken ankle(!) from royal soldiers or trying to navigate the equally treacherous yet more subtly dangerous parties and teas of court life. I did cringe on numerous occasions as Mel made yet another blunder, but each time, she simply dusted herself off and drove straight back into the fray. That, my friends, is my kind of heroine. As an added perk, running throughout both Parts I and II are Mel's run-ins with the famed Marquis, Lord Vidanric which gave me no end of pleasure. What a great foil these two characters are with their many differences! I do wish we could have seen more development from Vidanric, but I'll be the first to admit that his silences make him that much more compelling. Overall, Crown Duel was a wonderful book and one I'm glad is now sitting on my shelves. Your loss is very much my gain, Ruthie.
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Avid Book Reader review
Book Harbinger review
The Book Nest review
Bookshelves of Doom review
Chachic's Book Nook review
book source: purchased