***I was granted permission to read this by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Disney Hyperion!***
Pub date:1 April 2014
Genre:Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Format:ARC provided by the publisher
Status:Book one of The Ring and the Crown series
Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve?
Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.
But even with the aid of Emrys’ magic, Eleanor’s extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen’s Guard.
Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie’s face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she’s always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she’s always dreamed of–the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor’s court: trust no one.
While I as eagerly awaiting news of Melissa de la Cruz’s spin off from Blue Bloods, she first announced another new series – The Ring and the Crown. When I first saw the title, I thought it as the new Blue Bloods until I read the rest of the announcement. An alternate history with magic?! Count me in! I as so excited. I finally got up the guts to email a request about an ARC. I was so excited, I didn’t know how I would deal with a rejection. The wait for April would be a long and excruciating one. Thank my lucky stars, Disney Hyperion granted me an ARC. That was a glorious mail day! I tried to put it off until a bit closer to pub date to read it, but I just couldn’t wait anymore.
Once again, Melissa does a great job of drawing you in at once with interesting characters who aren’t all that they seem. She also does a great job of creating an alternate reality of London and New York. New York doesn’t feature much, but you do get a small taste. It’s set in what would be late Victorian/early Edwardian time for us, but being an alternate history, there are different rulers due to different outcomes.
The turning point to alter reality from our own occurred during the 100 years war between England and France. France never succeeded driving out the English – thanks to more powerful magic on the English side. Joan of Arc (Jeanne of Arkk) was still burned at the stake for witchcraft (only it was true this time) and Charles VII was never crowned King of France. As a result echoing through the ages: the British Empire comes to existence but it never crumbles. War of Independence? Nope. A minor uprising that is squashed. The United States of America is part of the America Provinces.
As a huge history nerd, I was very excited to see how Melissa was going to spin this alternate reality and I think she killed it. I often think of different history scenarios and wonder how things would be different if the outcome had been reversed. Pulling in Merlin and Avalon was perfection. I love myths involving Merlin, Avalon, Arthur, Camelot, etc.
I don’t know if it was an intentional homage or not, but I really felt a Prince and the Pauper pull between the two leading ladies – Princess Marie-Victoria and acolyte Aelwyn. Both long for lives that differ from their own. Who can’t relate to that? As a teenager, I often thought of what it would be like to be a princess. Not in an obsessive, I WANT to be a princess, just pondering how life would be different. Now, as an adult, I thank my stars that I am who I am. I like not having my every move watched and scrutinised. I definitely enjoy not having my every move as a mother watched and rumours flying if I’m pregnant again or not. Poor Princess Catherine!
I also loved the addition of the American Ronan. She has very heavy obligations thrust on her young shoulders and she has to decide how she wants her future to go. That is the main theme of the book – do what is expected and accept responsibility for decisions/actions, discover yourself and be true to that self. These three lovely ladies as well as Isabelle of Orleans (descendant of the fallen French family) struggle to do just that.
Along the road of self discovery, the ladies are joined by the charming Prince Wolf (I call dibs NOW). I fell in love with Wolf in his first scene and he grows immensely from there. And what story wouldn’t be complete without a few villains? I’ll remain mum on their identities because there’s a scene at the end that is a doozie!
Melissa does a great job with character growth and world development once again. (Honestly, I’m NOT surprised.) She does a fantastic job of taking a simplistic style and making it so fabulous that you’re swamped with imagery without being up to your eyeballs in page long descriptions. I’ve seen a few complaints about straying from historical accuracies, but let’s be honest for a minute. It’s an ALTERNATE history therefore the world will be different. I’m a big history purist in historical fiction novels. Since this is an alternate history, Melissa gets some room to work with in it. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate because it’s her alternate history. I really enjoyed The Ring and the Crown and can’t wait for more. As usual with Melissa’s writing, I was addicted from the beginning. Melissa’s writing is just a drug to me and I can never get enough! I highly recommend The Ring and the Crown to historical fiction and fantasy readers. Even if those aren’t your usual cups of tea, I still suggest you give it a shot! You never know when you’ll stumble across a new series you’ll enjoy! And the best news of all?! It comes out TOMORROW!
About the author
Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for teens including The Au Pairs series, the Blue Bloods series, the Ashleys series, the Angels on Sunset Boulevard series and the semi-autobiographical novel Fresh off the Boat.
Her books for adults include the novel Cat’s Meow, the anthology Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys and the tongue-in-chic handbooks How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less and The Fashionista Files: Adventures in Four-inch heels and Faux-Pas.
She has worked as a fashion and beauty editor and has written for many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Allure, The San Francisco Chronicle, McSweeney’s, Teen Vogue, CosmoGirl! and Seventeen. She has also appeared as an expert on fashion, trends and fame for CNN, E! and FoxNews.
Melissa grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. She majored in art history and English at Columbia University (and minored in nightclubs and shopping!).
She now divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband and daughter.