Sunday, 22 July 2012

Review: Crown Duel

Young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, which threatens the very people they are trying to protect. But war is simple compared to what follows, in peacetime. Meliara is summoned to live at the royal palace, where friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms. If she is to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting-with wits and words and secret alliances.

In war, at least, she knew in whom she could trust. Now she can trust no one.

This edition contained the two books Crown Duel and Court Duel labelled as Part One and Part Two in the book. Mel is a strong, country-bred countess who ran around in the hills barefoot as a child. Since her mothers death her father has locked himself up in a tower and kept himself distant from his two children. Bran, Mel's older brother, is a funny and honest being. On their father's deathbed, they make a promise to overthrow the evil king and put a just and fair king on the throne.

Part One was mainly about Mel and Bran fighting a war with the people from their small town against an entire army. Mel is strong and smart, able to think of devious plans to turn the war in their favour even though they are outnumbered. Bran doesn't have a head for war or tactics, he's brutally honest and has little suspicion for anyone. But they made a promise to their father to fight this war together and to make sure the new king is someone just and good.

Fighting the war alongside Mel, we see how she turns from a girl not yet old enough to dance with the men and have suitors to a woman who takes on an army, an evil king and a Marquis who's mysterious aura irks her. Like everybody alive, Mel makes mistakes, hardly the most experienced warrior Mel makes a lot of decisions and using her quick mind she is able to best the opposing army, until one mistake caused by her recklessness results in her downfall.

Part Two of the story was more enjoyable for me to read, Mel is invited to court where the people talk with false words and hide their intent behind every gesture and smile. A hardened warrior she might be, but when she arrives at court, she feels like a fish among the sharks. Bran however has become fast friends with the soon to be king and is charming the court with his honesty and lack of tact. While others hid their mistakes and talked in soft tones, Bran laughed at his own mistakes and chuckled wildly when something amusing was said.

Romance is also added into the story and we see how all the men fall over themselves to flirt with Mel, however she doesn't take it seriously as she knows the men are only looking for some harmless fun. Until one day she gets a secret admirer. What I loved about Smith's way of writing this romance was how she gave us solid evidence to who the admirer was but kept Mel in the dark, making the letters between her and her suitor more enjoyable to read. 

I loved this book very, very much. However if I had read the two books separately I would have given Crown Duel 4 stars and Court Duel 5 stars. Court Duel is definitely one of my favourite books now, everything from the romance, action, humour, mystery, adventure and charming men was completely and utterly a joy to read. Everything I loved about a book was smashed together perfectly, I especially loved how unpredictable the end was and Mel's secret admirer simply makes me drool from desire.

I would recommend this book to those who love some good war battles, court intrigue, a bit of yummy romance and some brilliantly written mystery. Full of humour, riddles and fascinating characters, Crown Duel won my heart. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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