The Ring and the Crown
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Release: April 1st 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Magic, YA
#1 in the Ring and Crown duology
Sequel: The Queen and the Courtesan (#2)
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.
To be frank, I am getting more and more disappointed by Melissa de la Cruz and I think I am finally done after this. This is her newest release, she has already published a shitton of novels before, lots of them semi-sucessful, yet she's still handing in half assed novels don't follow the general "template" of a good novel.
#1 Character Development
de la Cruz fails, and she fails miserably, but especially in this department. Something needs to happen with your characters, there needs to be some kind of character arc, and the changes that (should) occur within your characters should probably be influenced by the plot of your book. But do any of her characters evolve? Any? And be aware of the fact that this is a book with a very huge cast of characters, which, granted, might make characterizing every single one of them difficult, but there's not even one who gets something close to character development. Not a single one! That's a huge fucking problem.
What was the plot even about? There were several minor plot lines for every single character, and I could never see the endgame that was the goal in the long run. Like, what kind of common goal bound all these characters together? Where did their storylines overlap? The simple answer is, they didn't, at least not all of them. It seemed like she just told the stories of these four girls for shits and giggles, but nothing that happened in one character's storyline ever had a really huge impact on the others'. There are novels that are wonderfully written, with multiple POV characters, whose stories come together harmonically at the end, and then there are books with multiple POV characters who all have the same story arc, are involved in the same plot and aware of each other. This was none of them, and it just annoyed the hell out of me, since The Ring and the Crown got 23299 times more random because of it.
de la Cruz was very clever and subtle about this one, because she took something we all know, she took written down history and altered and tweaked it to her liking, creating an anachronistic and very badly done historical setting no one can criticize her for, since it doesn't have to be accurate, technically — it's another timeline essentially, no? Still. I loved the world building, don't get me wrong, it was one of the best things about this book, but it was still very ... distorted. This takes place in the early 1900s, when the Prussian kingdom slowly drew to a close, WWI was standing on the door step, but it felt more like a Victorian era book, honestly. Like I said, I kept trying to excuse this with her alternate universe timeline, but it still nagged at me the whole novel.
Lots of reviewers before me have tried to fit the relationship drama into some kind of chart, try to bring it into relation and have a quick overview of it, only there is none. There is nothing "quick" about the overview, because it is so complex, and more importantly, it's so unnecessarily complex. I don't understand the why behind at least half of these relationships, there was nothing ever binding any two characters together and they were so many people involved it all became so twisted and as a result, it was all very unconvincing. Not to mention that some of these things happened so quick, and ended just as abruptly, I was left wondering why the hell it needed to happen in the first place, it was so goddamn ridiculous. This one girl is in love with one guy for about half of the novel, then decides she doesn't like boys anyway, then she suddenly loves her cousin, becomes engaged to him, but then they break it off (<spoiler>he's killed</spoiler>) and then there's another proposal and I ... just ... what?! It was a confusing mess that I really could have done without.
Overall, that's a pretty accurate description for the novel as a whole: a confusing mess. It was like de la Cruz simply tried mixing everything in, every single, popular trope that has ever existed, it kind of felt like I was reading a really bad mix of Reign and Titanic with a little Merlin in there as well. And I did not like it. It had its moments, I'll give it that, but all in all, it was a fail.
Quick side note: There's the mention of "drakon rydders" once in here, and that's where I smirked a little and thought "Hey, I've heard that before... that was the plot of some novel I read a few months ago!" and then that smirk immediately faded because it was Frozen ... BY MELISSA DE LA CRUZ. Sneaky bastard.