REVIEW: Crown Duel, Book 1 by Sherwood Smith

Crown Duel by Sherwood SmithCrown 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]

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About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Grade B Reviews, Teen Fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to REVIEW: Crown Duel, Book 1 by Sherwood Smith

  1. Li says:

    It’s been a while since I read this now. I had the omnibus version, and so may be confused about where Crown Duel ended and Court Duel started – but I think I preferred Court Duel if it’s when Meliara moved to court and got involved in court intrigues. There’s also a sweet short story in the omnibus version which is a rather nice epilogue for the romance!

    I’m a bit of a YA fan myself – other books that remind me of Crown/Court Duel are Sharon Shinn’s “Summer at Castle Auburn” and Dawn Cook’s “Truth” series.

  2. Avid Reader says:

    Hi Li, I’m enjoying Court Duel much better than Crown Duel and you’ve got it right, Court Duel is when Meliara comes to court for her brother’s wedding. The pacing and writing is much better. I’d have to check out Dawn Smith’s “Truth” series, can you tell me more about it? I’ve read quite a few YA titles by Holly Black, Stephenie Meyer to name a few. I recently bought Susan Cooper’s “Dark” series, like The Dark is Rising, the first book. I’m reading that one next.

  3. Li says:

    Dawn Cook’s Truth series is more like Sherwood Smith’s – i.e. traditional fantasy instead of urban fantasy like Stephenie Meyer’s. (I’ve got Holly Black on my list of authors to try, but haven’t yet bought any of her books yet.)

    The main character, Alissa, is sent off to learn magic – but it’s not exactly a traditional sword-and-sorcery / coming-of-age type tale. It’s a four book series – here’s a link with more info and excerpts: http://www.dawncook.com/Truth Series.htm

    Dawn Cook also wrote a Princess duology, though it seemed to end quite abruptly after the second book.

    I’ve heard a rumour that she’s actually Kim Harrison writing under a different name (or vice versa), and so has stopped her Princess books, but haven’t actually verified that. I’m not into Kim Harrison’s books personally – I’ve tried Dead Witch Walking and it didn’t quite work for me.

  4. Avid Reader says:

    [quote post=”570″]I’m not into Kim Harrison’s books personally – I’ve tried Dead Witch Walking and it didn’t quite work for me.[/quote]

    I’m not into her either. Thanks for the info on the books, I’ll look for them. Hope you try Holly Black’s books. She’s good. I think you might like her.

  5. Dance Chica says:

    I’m glad to hear the pacing problem wasn’t just me. I started reading this book at one point, but put it down after the first couple pages because I thought it was slow. But I’ve heard so much good about it I’ll have to try it again.

    I also have Dawn Cook’s books in my TBR, and I did hear the Kim Harrision rumor, but I have to say I’m not a fan of Harrison’s works. I read Dead Witch Walking myself, and it didn’t work for me either.

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