April 1, 2014
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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.
The Ring and the Crown is a bit like taking the Blue Bloods series, also be de la Cruz, and putting it into a magical, fancy dress filled world - at Court. It's a world where magic is large part of the Franco-British Empire, of the world. Magic has helped to win battles and hold on to rule. Yet, it's still a world of court politics, marriages to ensure treaties, balls and the London Season.
This is a novel full of drama, some magical influences, pretty dresses, and nothing ever happening easily, for anyone.
Chapters are told from the different characters' points of view, giving us insight both their world, as well as how they see the other characters. The early twentieth century is when the novel is set. It adds some elements to the tale - the Season, fashion, gender roles, expectations - but sometimes felt more modern with the pretty dresses and early twentieth century women's roles thrown in.
For a novel where one of the two quotes on page one is, "Who run this world? Girls! Who run this motha? Girls" from Beyonce's Run the World (Girls) and that has such, seemingly, strong female characters, it was especially cruel to them. From choices - even as to their whole future - being made for them, the male characters having both more freedom and power, to how fully one male character's decision could affect a female character's life. The girls in The Ring and the Crown were very much subject to the whims of other (often male) characters.
It was hard to really get a feeling for the different characters and who they were. Whether it was inconsistent characterization or it was part of who they were, inconsistent people, was hard to tell. It definitely added to the drama and to the story, though. If they had done things in ways that seemed to make the most sense, or that you wanted them to, the story would have been much different and likely less interesting.
Despite the characterization and development problems and being, perhaps, disproportionately unfair to the female characters, The Ring and the Crown is a fun read. The idea of a Franco-British Empire, with magical influences, mages, rival empires is quite entertaining. I may not love how all of the characters ended up as they did, but I find their positions at the end of the novel very intriguing. Now that this world has been established, the we know who the characters are, I'm looking forward to more of the series.
Other books you may also enjoy: All that Glows by Ryan Graudin and Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz
thank you the publisher for my egalley to review through NetGalley