Amy's Reviews > Crown Duel

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
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's review
Apr 02, 2011

liked it
Read from April 02 to 03, 2011

Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith, was an interesting book recommended to me as "a fun combination of Lord of the Rings meets the best of Austen without overdoing it".
This book is actually a combination of two books, "Crown Duel" and its sequel, "Court Duel".
Though a countess, Meliara has grown up running barefoot in the hills, vaguely supervised by her aging Father and elder brother. Taxed into despair, threatened by the evil king who rules, Meliara's Father has been plotting a rebellion but dies before it can be accomplished. On his death bed, he makes his two kids swear to defend their people and rid the kingdom of the greedy, evil king. And so Meliara and her brother, Branaric, go to war. But war is not an easy thing, and with the arrival of the new general Shevraeth, things just got a whole lot worse. The sequel involves Meliara's summons to court, where she must learn to identify who are allies and who are enemies, and how to make war with words and popularity. Kidnapping, escape, courage, and sword fighting are just a few of the weaving plot lines and themes of these books
Meliara is a likeable character, though she doesn't seem to go through much character change in the book. She is almost obnoxiously perfect, even with her imperfections (they rather "add to her charms" instead of making her realistic) but she is better in "Court Duel", where her flaws actually add to the story.
Some of the things I liked:
She is a stubborn character, willing to try, even if that means losing. Also, unlike many fantasy novels, she doesn't suddenly become an expert in, say, sword fighting, after an unlikely short amount of time. She doesn't become a "superwoman" with all these sudden talents. Instead, it is her very courage and knack for danger that leads her from one problem to the next, with her firey temper and quick tongue making half the problems in the first place. No matter what she gains, whether it be friends or influence (view spoiler), she doesn't let it go to her head, but seems to view it with the maximum 'easy gained, easy lost!' She doesn't simper or become enamored with a guy and lose all her brains and courage (I absolutely HATE it when that happens in these sort of books - i.e. Graceling) and she handles court life with enough mistakes, but also willingness to get back up again, that I was impressed. She wasn't irritating.
I was surprised to find I even liked Meliara's complete lack of diplomacy. Her face reveals whatever she is thinking, if she doesn't just come out and say it. Many times when you read fantasy novels, you expect the heroine to have some natural ability that you don't have and that makes her on some grand level...but I guess that is simply what makes Meliara so interesting. The very flaws that don't get addressed in book one, and maybe faintly addressed in book two, are what make her so likable and maybe even believable. Her stubbornness and quick judgments I could honestly find myself relating too, something that added to the story a great deal.
Now, I didn't love everything about Meliara. In fact, there were two or three scenes involving her that pretty much gave this a three star rating, but to explain them would reveal spoilers, so I will adress that in the spoiler at the bottom.

Other characters in the book tend to be good and interesting, but the reader doesn't get to know them to well, as the story is told from Meliara's point of view.
Being a bit of a romantic (yes Hope, you may laugh at that), I would have appreciated a few more glimpses into a certain young man's point of view ;)
The one thing that drove me crazy about this book, even while it amused me, were the names! Oi! I could almost believe Smith went to her local drug store to find them! For example, Vidanric. Doesn't that sound like a medicine that would give you a whole host of side effects? Or Savona. (Anyone else thinking salmonella?) Even Meliara! (reminds me of malaria...) Or her brother Branaric (which, if you pronounce it properly, sounds like another drug, and, if you read quickly like I do, looks exactly like Brainiac O.O)

Aside from the queer names, the thought that struck me repeatedly was "I wish I had read this book four years ago". I would have loved it. While I enjoyed it now, my reading is a bit old for it. I've read to much fantasy and to many books in general.

Two or three more thoughts and I promise to finally shut up, this is getting to be a rather long review.
The plot:
was pretty good. The sequel reminded me a great deal of Talia and Deba, and overall it was enjoyable. I appreciated the beautifully constructed fantasy world, which was well thought out, and uniquely original. While I absolutely hate her as an author, I have to agree with what Tamora Pierce is quoted as saying on the back, "A realm of trouble, a spirited female hero with magic to surround her, mystery, romance, an enigmatic marquis, court etiquette and secret messages - this is the stuff of dreams." If it weren't for a few things, this book came close to getting four stars.
A bit more maturing and I would even say five.
Oh, and I should add, this book kept me guessing. I didn’t see lots of the plot twists and turns, which impressed me.
I couldn't for the life of me figure out why someone would recommend this book to me based off my love of Heyer (actually, it wasn't, but I didn't realize that till an hour ago), until I was struck by a few plot similarities between "Court Duel" and "Arabella". If you likeArabella and fantasy, you'd probably enjoy this book.
The writing:
I don't actually have too much to say. Half way through I was dreading that the book would end, because I really was enjoying it, but that had more to do with the plot then writing. Someone who cared more might be able to point out something wrong with it, but I simply enjoyed the writing for what it was. Nothing distracted me or stood out as remarkable.
And finally, would I recommend it?
After all the praise I just heaped on the book, you'd think the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" isn't. More like a "mmm, sure?" It is a good book, though not for everyone. Generally clean, a good heroine, an interesting plot, I certainly want to read more by Smith, my answer is yes and no. I do not recommend it enthusiastically, but neither do I strongly suggest passing it by. You have to take it for what it is, with plenty of flaws, on the verge (but missing) what might have become a five star mark. It is thick, but I love thick books and didn't want it to end (up until the end, but I'll rant about that in my spoiler)
So there you have it. Hopefully that obnoxiously long review told you something of interest about this book.

(view spoiler)

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Quotes Amy Liked

Sherwood Smith
“You, there, girl! Halt!"
Who in the universe ever halts when the enemy tells them to?”
Sherwood Smith, Crown Duel

Reading Progress

04/02/2011 page 252
53.0% "Walked to the library today to get it, so far so good!
Though half the characters hav names that sound like medicine..."

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Lydia (new)

Lydia Interesting about Shevraeth and Sheftu. For some really weird reason, I liked Sheftu (sort of? two years after reading it, still wondering if I like that character. go figure), which was really weird because I don't generally like characters with temper problems who don't think twice about killing the girl who they're supposed to be in love with (that part, I remember, made me roll my eyes). But I did, in fact, like that character, so maybe I'll read this.

message 2: by Lydia (new)

Lydia Oh, and by the way, when I first read the names "Meliara" and "Branaric", I seriously thought that it said "Malaria" and "Brainiac". XD

message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy LOL! It is so easy to do that O.O I noticed other people have written reviews with similar "complaints"
If you like Sheftu, I'm pretty sure you'll like Shevraeth. Overall, it really is a good book! But I think you have to like isn't like a book everyone instantly clicks with (at least, that is what I'm guessing, I personally enjoyed it xD)

message 4: by Lydia (new)

Lydia Haha! I think I'll have to try this. =D

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