book reviews by Althea

The Ring and the Crown – Melissa de la Cruz ***

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Melissa de la Cruz’s name has seemed to be popping up everywhere I look for a while now. I’d heard mixed reviews about her work; but when NetGalley gave me the opportunity to check out her latest, I took the chance to form my own opinion on this author.

The Ring and the Crown gives us an alternate-history 19th century. For the last five hundred years, the Franco-British Empire has dominated Europe, assisted by Merlin’s magic. de la Cruz does a very entertaining job of swirling our modern concepts of decadent French aristocracy with stuffy British Society, adding a topping of The Mists of Avalon for a foamy confection of a tale.
Into the mix comes Ronan Astor, a young American woman whose family has a Name – but whose fortunes have dwindled. She’s in search of a wealthy aristocratic husband, and hopes to make a good showing during the Season – especially at the renowned Bal du Drap d’Or. The story also introduces the pricess of the Empire, Marie, Merlin’s sorceress daughter, Aelwyn, the lady Isabella, who hides behind a glass of wine.
Of course, there are these ladies’ male counterparts: the crown prince Leopold, the brave and handsome guard Gil, the roguish Wolf, etc.
All of these people seem hell-bent on making life miserable for themselves by either paying too much attention to their emotions, or too much attention to what the ‘rules’ dictate. It’s a romance – but not a cloying one. More than anything else, it’s a society drama. Overall, it’s done quite well. I found myself involved in the characters, and caught up in the suspense of how things would turn out for them (and the results are not all what one would expect, which I appreciated.)
However, the end felt a bit rushed – around 96% completed, there were so many ‘surprise revelations’ shoved in all at once that I found myself chuckling at the absurdity – and not all of them were even necessary to the story.

Overall though, I was pleasantly surprised by the book. I’d read more by the author. The writing style and themes reminded me quite a lot of Sharon Shinn, whom I like quite a lot.


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