This retelling of Cinderella from the Once Upon a Time series is like most of the books in the series, taking a short fairytale and expanding the charThis retelling of Cinderella from the Once Upon a Time series is like most of the books in the series, taking a short fairytale and expanding the characters and plot, but still managing to keep the heart of the original story intact. In order to tell the tale more believably, it’s split into the tale of Cendrillion and Raul, automatically complicating the plot, but helping to lead the tale to a satisfying conclusion. Yet even though the book takes away the element of a fairy godmother’s magic, other symbols like glass slippers and pumpkins still find their way in. Even without a blatant fairy godmother, it’s evident that a more subtle magic is taking placebehind the scenes, a power driven by wishes and one’s heart’s desires, often depicted through the reaction of nature (sudden storms, odd growing seasons, and the like).
In the author’s note at the back of the book, Dokey mentions that when she began researching Cinderella, she found that the father was not dead in the earliest versions, like he typically is in modern versions. Therefore she wanted to explore his role in the tale and his share of the blame for what happens to Cinderella. In fact, in this version, there’s very little that’s evil about the step-family; they’re merely reacting to a confusing situation that none of them asked to be a part of. Certainly, one sister is a bit of a spoiled brat and the other nice but aware of the difference in station between her and Cendrillion, but neither could be called “evil” by any means. Cendrillion shares her own blame in her fate, too ashamed of the fact that her father never mentioned her to correct the mistake and claim her life as a noble daughter.
I love this series for how quick the books are to read. I read this one night when I wanted a fast read, and in three hours I was done with the book, thoroughly entertained and smiling. It’s nice to read a good book that doesn’t take forever to get to a plot, yet still has plenty of intrigue and character development to spare....more
Well-worn. Dog-eared. Falling apart at the binding. These are all ways to describe my poor copy of Crown Duel. Once published as two books, Crown DuelWell-worn. Dog-eared. Falling apart at the binding. These are all ways to describe my poor copy of Crown Duel. Once published as two books, Crown Duel and Court Duel, Firebird Fantasy reprinted them in 2002 as one, a very wise decision as the two stories are only halves on their own. Together the two books create a heroic tale of Mel as she leads a rebellion as a bare-foot countess, to her attempts to survive the deceptions of royal court life. I must admit, though, to loving the second book the most, and have often been tempted to just reread Court Duel, but in the end, I always want the full tale, and begin at the beginning, as any great journey should.
The first book chronicles Mel, as she and her brother, Bran, fight off an invading army sent by their greedy king. Leading a group of hastily-trained villagers, Mel employs sneaky tactics (such as harassing all night or flooding the enemy camp) to hold off the invading army. When Mel ends up injured and captured by the enemy, she is taken by the Marquis Shevraeth to the king, and sentenced to die if she doesn’t surrender. Escaping, she leads them on a cross-country chase, is rescued by the Marquis, and forced to realize that while her ideas might be noble, her methods are less than successful. Feeling defeated, she retreats back home after the king dies, convinced she lost the battle.
Into the second book we go, as Mel is dragged off to court by her brother, still feeling defeated for not keeping her promise of making the kingdom a better place. At court, she finds a new kind of battle, navigating the graces and deceits of those who have been schooled as courtiers all their life. As the former king’s sister and family make trouble and Mel deals with her ‘enemy’ the Marquis being decided as the new king, Mel still manages to save the kingdom and realize love in a place she was afraid to look.
Sherwood Smith has created a world full of tiny details that form a living world. From the unique hour keeping, using colors and candles to keep time, to the detailed language of fans that the courtiers use to display their true words while trapped in the court of a corrupt king, the reader will find themselves in a vivid setting, experiencing Mel’s journey with her.
I’m rather indifferent towards the cover of Crown Duel. In some senses I like it, but I also feel that it isn’t all that interesting. It certainly wasn’t the main element that led me to read the book.
Here’s a quick lesson in cover design. Look at the books that you own, note how many have people on the cover. Now note how many of those people are looking straight at the reader. That’s a way to get an instant connection with the potential book buyer while at the store. Take a look at the books facing out next time you go. I have also noticed that many YA male/non-gender books feature symbols or abstract covers, while ones aimed at girls more often use a female looking to the reader.