Ancamna's Reviews > Coronets and Steel

Coronets and Steel by Sherwood Smith
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's review
Sep 11, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: owned-books
Read in September, 2010

I picked up Coronets and Steel, by Sherwood Smith, at Barnes and Noble the other day, since I had a B&N gift card I'd been saving, and a desperate urge for a new book.

I finished it last night at 1 am, and the only reason I didn't finish it the night before (really, earlier that day) at 5 am was that I had had a really long day and my eyes were fuzzing out on me. As I paged toward the end I glared in horror at the meager five pages awaiting my greedy eyes. What do you mean there were only a few pages left? The story couldn't be over, could it? Luckily, there will be a sequel, which I am eagerly awaiting.

Coronets and Steel begins with a Kim, a new college graduate, searching through Europe for traces of her family history*. A vague memory of her mother's and a couple theater tickets have brought her to Vienna, where she resumes her quest in a genealogy office. Leaving the office, she sees her first ghost, though she doesn't know it at the time, who leads her into an encounter with a man who swears he knows her. But she's never met him in her life.

He's handsome though, and polite, so she gets a drink with him...and ends up waking up on a train. And promptly escapes out the window.

A zigzag chase ensues with the handsome Alec finally apologizing and explaining his mistake. Turns out she looks just like someone named Ruli, who also happens to be Kim's cousin. A bit of Kim's family history is explained and she ends up traveling to Dobrenica, a small country in the Carpathian Mountains, where her grandmother was born. Where her grandmother was a princess.

I admit to being pleasantly surprised with much of this plotline. You're not going to get Princess Diaries here. There were one or two turns that felt predictable, but some of that predictability, I think, comes from reading similar stories by Sherwood Smith. There are echoes of Once a Princess and Twice a Prince in the plotline, as well as Crown Duel, but Kim is a different character than either of those two heroines. She's more serious than Sasha and more experienced and laid back than Mel. Echoes of Sasha resounded in her speaking style, at least at first, but both of the characters are from LA, so I was able to write it off as nothing more than dialect; as the story progresses and you learn more about Kim, the echoes of Sasha disappear.

I was frustrated at a few points with Kim's apparent denseness with the situation. She often assumes the best of people, which gets her into trouble in a few situations, but her escapes from those situations are clever and exciting to read. Also, her saving grace, Kim admits to her denseness when shown the real motivations behind such situations. That helps make Kim's denseness a character trait, not a plot device.

At one point I remember thinking "if she gets kidnapped here I will be disappointed, because I can so see it coming" and she did get kidnapped. Almost. My irritation with being right was swept away by her ingenious escape and the resulting piece of good luck it brings.

At no point was the story so predicable that I could see the ending. A few scenes were expected, but once the story got into full flow I couldn't figure out any of the turns. The few guesses I had turned out to be wrong.

I like Kim. She's practical, funny, serious, and learns how to think on her feet.

The ending leaves quite a few hanging threads and questions to be answered. Not to mention my panicked reading of the last chapter while thinking "there'sgottabemorethere'sgottabemore" and the shriek of "Nooooooooo!" when I got to the last page. But did I mention there's going to be a sequel? I can't wait.

*If you're wondering, this is not a Sartorias-deles story. I wouldn't quite place it in Urban Fantasy either, though technically it fits the qualifications. Magic isn't so in-your-face as most UF I know. I'd put it in Modern Fantasy, with a subplot of romance. On her website Sherwood calls it a Ruritarian romantic adventure.
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message 1: by Estara (last edited Sep 12, 2010 10:31AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Estara I'm so glad you put it up so it balances mine a bit.

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