I’ve had Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford on my to read shelf for a while so when I was able to get at copy while at ALA this year, I bumpeI’ve had Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford on my to read shelf for a while so when I was able to get at copy while at ALA this year, I bumped it up on my reading schedule.
The main character is Nor and she has grown up in the ocean village of Varenia so she’s been surrounded by water her whole life. Her village is struggling to get by because of the limits they have on trade as well as the fact that the pearls they hunt and sell to survive are becoming more and more scarce. The only way villagers have to become more is to have a daughter chosen to go to Ilara. For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful girl in their village and because Nor was injured and scarred years before, she knows her chance is gone. Luckily for her family, Nor has a twin named Zadie.
As the time comes for a girl to be chosen, the inevitable happens and Zadie is chosen. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to leave. She’s in love with Sami (the Governor’s son) and she’s happy in their village. When Zadie does something drastic to stay, she puts Nor in a bad position and ultimately pushes the leaders of the village to send Nor in her stead. I get that she wanted to make her own choice but she basically removes any choices Nor has and even puts her life in danger so she comes across as selfish.
I’ll start with Nor’s family relationships. The relationship between Nor and Zadie was interesting. Nor is very clearly willing to do anything to keep her sister safe. I didn’t love the way Zadie forced Nor into the situation she was in and then ultimately did nothing to sway the leaders of their village that Nor was not guilty of what they were accusing her of. Don’t even get me started on their mother. I disliked her almost immediately and the fact that she made Nor feel like she wasn’t beautiful because of a scar only made her worse in my mind. Nor’s relationship with her father was solid and I loved that he saw through everything.
As Nor is sent off to marry the prince under the guise of being Zadie, she realizes she might be in over her head at court. Not only is her betrothed, Prince Ceren, cold and someone who makes her uncomfortable, she finds out that the emissary sent by the prince was actually his brother, Prince Talin and she is drawn to him in a way she knows she should not be. It was interesting to see Nor try to navigate the politics of court as well as balance Ceren’s weird moods. Where she can, she attempts to bargain with Prince Ceren for the safety of her family and her people, but it doesn’t always work out as she planned.
While Nor’s relationship with Talin strengthens, she puts herself in a risky place with Prince Ceren and things come to a head when he finds out what she can do because of her childhood accident. Ceren immediately looks for a way to use her ability to give him more strength and power and when he finds what he wants, he delivers an ultimatum.
Overall, I thought this was a good book. I do want to mention that the world building is really well done. From the ocean village to the castle fortress, I was able to picture how the world came together. On top of that, the story kept me interested and the characters were well-developed. While I would have liked to see more development in the relationship between Nor and Talin, I thought Ceren was a great villain. I would have liked to learn more about what was going on with Zadie as well, but knowing that this was Nor’s story, I see why we only got a glimpse of it via Sami.
If you’re looking for a YA fantasy that has an interesting twist, consider checking this one out. I enjoyed it and will be looking for more from Mara Rutherford in the future.
Thank you to the publisher for the copy in exchange for an honest review....more
I can’t lie – I was immediately drawn to Here There are Monsters by Amelinda Berube because of the cover. When I read the summary, I was even more intI can’t lie – I was immediately drawn to Here There are Monsters by Amelinda Berube because of the cover. When I read the summary, I was even more intrigued. In the end, there were things I liked about this book and some things I didn’t love which ultimately made this one a middle of the road read for me.
The story focuses on Skye, a sixteen-year-old girl who has a younger sister Deirdre. Their family recently moved and now that Skye is a bit older and in a new school, she doesn’t want to be the one to get Deirdre out of scrapes at school or even the person Deirdre relies on to save her. As Skye shifts away from her, Deirdre becomes withdrawn and spends all her time in the swamp behind their house. Because of this and some of the things she does when she is around other people, they think Deirdre is weird and this only causes Deirdre to withdraw even more.
One night, the unthinkable happens and Deirdre disappears. Since Skye was technically supposed to be watching her, she feels guilty and starts to dig into what Deirdre was up to. This is where it gets a little odd because this is when Skye is approached by creatures from Deirdre’s fantasy world and told she is the only person who can save Deirdre. As the story progresses, we find out more about Skye’s history and how that impacts her friendships now.
I thought the relationship between Skye and Deirdre was interesting. It was clear that Skye wanted to change things which I attribute to their past as well as the fact that she was growing up, but Deirdre definitely did not, and she was completely lost and frustrated. I also think that Deirdre created some of her problems…similar to what Skye was reflecting on and using as a reason to distance herself. Despite all of that, when it came down to it, Skye still chose Deirdre…even though it may not have done her any good.
This was a fast-paced story and the characters felt real to me. The parents seemed like your typical, overworked, stressed out parents and Skye’s friends came across as normal teens to me. With that said, I have to connect with the characters and I don’t think there was a single person in this book that I aligned with…maybe Skye’s dad because it felt like he just kept getting beat up (emotionally) by her mom and I felt bad for him about it. Otherwise no one really stood out to me as likeable.
I also think the structure of the book threw me off a bit as I was expecting deeper dives into the specific characters or their POVs with the section headers and that isn’t really what came across in each section. Tie that with the pacing of the story and it just didn’t grab me like I had hoped it would. Some of it dragged while at times there were parts that was thinking I could have just skimmed through. I also thought the ending just sort of came up and the book was done…it didn’t feel finished to me.
Overall, this was an interesting read. Fans of YA horror or creepy, otherworldly books might enjoy this one. While I didn’t love this book, I will definitely be checking out any future stories by Berube as I like the creepy vibe that this one had.
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy in exchange for an honest review....more