Crown Duel (1997) Book 1 by Sherwood Smith is published by Puffin and is categorized as YA fantasy. Crown Duel (Book 1) is narrated by the young Countess Meliara, a heroine more comfortable in riding gear than a dress. She and her brother, Branaric are revolting against their King. At the beginning of the story, the two siblings are seen swearing a blood oath to their father to protect the Covenant and restore peace to their land.
The plot is somewhat complex. The Covenant has to do with wood and Fire Sticks. The “color trees” as they are called has some type of special grain in them that transforms them into gleaming, attractive colors. They were once cut down by the people of Remalna who grew wealthy by reselling them to people of other lands. Unfortunately, the “color trees” are the home of the Hill Folk. Hill Folk are a magical people who have no weapons save magic and spells. Peace was stuck when it was understood that wood would only be gathered when it fell from a tree. In return for their obedience, the Hill Folk would bestow upon everybody, including the King, Fire Sticks. Fire Sticks are unique in that they burn by magic. When Meliara takes up the story after the Prologue, we learn that their centuries old truce is threatened by a bad King who thinks he is above the law.
Spies have confiscated evidence of the King’s treachery in regards to the broken Covenant and this leads Meliara and her brother to revolt. However, they are primarily alone in their cause because they have little support from the village folk who want to avoid war. After declaring war against the King, the King sends his cousin, Baron Debergi to capture and restore order. After two months of no success, the King sends in the Marquis of Shevraeth to capture the revolutionaries. The Marquis is rumored to be a “fop” who has a ” head for nothing but clothes [and] gambling.” Meliara does get captured and she does escape and what an adventure she has in store for the reader.
I really liked this story but it did drag in some places. It’s not a “keeper” for me because I did put it down during the slow parts. There is a thin thread that involves political intrigue that was further strengthed by the suspense and action of the story. The author does thrown in a surprise or two for the reader that I liked. Crown Duel suffered more for poor pacing but it did have some great dialogue along with a great story and great characters—-and yes, some characters stuck out more than the others. Especially the Marquis of Shevraeth, who is described as having long, pale blond hair with gray eyes who wears a heel length cloak and hat that covers his eyes. He has very few scenes overall in this book but he stood out the most. He plays a much larger role in book 2: Court Duel, that I’ll read soon.
The ending of Crown Duel left me scrambling to find the next book in this duology because the author deliberately left things unresolved. What about the romance? There’s the promise of one and the subtle chemistry between the two was nice because it does help build the anticipation for the second book. My grade for this entry is a B because the first half did drag, as well as the middle and the ending did pick up pace. Crown Duel (Book 1) is another good story with some good action scenes with a mysterious hero in a historical novel blended with the elements of fantasy. My grade, B.
[tags]Crown Duel and Court Duel: Book 1, Sherwood Smith, YA fantasy, Historical[/tags]