Crown Duel and Court Duel--Book Review
First, I must begin by stating my unabashed bias for Sherwood Smith's writing. She is, most solidly, in my top five favorite authors. She is so well and truly lodged there that I can pick up a book I have never read by her, without bothering to even glance at the premise, and know for a fact that I will enjoy it.
Crown Duel and Court Duel are no exception to this.
My first encounter with Smith's writing was back in high school when a friend bought me Wren to the Rescue. I enjoyed it so much I had to buy the two that followed, Wren's Quest and Wren's War. Most recently, I have finally finished the series with book four, Wren Journeymage. I highly recommend all.
But back to my point; Sherwood Smith is a fantastic author and, having just finished Crown Duel and Court Duel, I can't help but speak my piece about them.
The first half of this fantastic story sets up Meliara Astiar, the daughter of the dying Count of Tlanth, as the main character. Tlath is desperately poor, the castle in ruins, the villagers barely getting by, and Mel herself wearing little more than rags. The Count and his people have been preparing for war against King Galdran, but on his deathbed, the Count makes Meliara and her older brother Branaric swear to fight the King and protect the Covenant.
The Covenant is a treaty with the Hill People, a race that is like a cross between humans and trees. The Hill People protect the colortrees, which are quite literally trees with wood in different colors. The colortrees are precious and rare, only growing in that one part of the world. The people of the country, Remalna, used to cut them down and sell them, driving the Hill People from their homes. So, the Hill People fought back with their magic and a treaty was reached that states the humans can gather the wood that falls but can no longer cut down the trees.
What does that have to do with Mel and Bran? Tlanth is a huge part of the colortree and Hill People's area. The previous Counts and other nobles of Remalna have been entrusted with keeping the Covenant and now, the current King is planning on breaking that Covenant.
So Mel and Bran begin a war against the King, who sends an army headed by his cousin to defeat the rag-tag group of rebels in Tlanth. Things don't go as Galdran planned and the rebels start off by winning for a while.
Then, Mel gets caught in a trap that her brother Bran had set for Galdran's troops, and is not only wounded by the trap but captured by the King's men as she tries to get away from their camp after a spy mission.
Enter Vidanric, the Marquis of Shevraeth, whom Meliara doesn't trust thanks to his confusing actions that have her baffled as to who's side he's on.
A good majority of the book then follows with Mel being dragged to the capitol and imprisoned, escaping with the help the spy the siblings had placed in the capitol city, and then attempting to escape Galdran's men and get home. All the while, the Marquis keeps popping up and confusing and infuriating Mel even more.
In the end, the King is defeated and, without so much as a word of goodbye, Mel grabs a horse and goes home to start rebuilding Tlanth.
Court Duel picks up with Mel in Tlanth about six months later. Their fortune was restored, the castle is being rebuilt, and the people are slowly becoming prosperous again. However, Mel still wears little more than rags as she works side-by-side with her people, completely ignorant of her position as Countess.
She is also heartily regretting a lot of her actions during the war, which include completely blowing off the Marquis' help when it was offered and being extremely rude to him. Now, she feels indebted to him because of his help, but vows to never go to Court anyway and therefore to never have to see him again since the Marquis is lobbying for the now vacant throne.
Bran has other ideas though, and surprises Mel by showing up after six months at Court with a fiance and the Marquis in tow. Bran is all set to take Mel back to Court with him after a short visit, but his sister bulks at the idea and doesn't know how to deal with being around the Marquis again. Bran's fiance, Nimiar, seeing that Mel knows nothing about Court, promises to teach her what she needs to know if she'll simply come for the wedding. Mel agrees.
So begins my favorite of the two books, full of intrigue, devious plots, and of course, romance, as Mel makes her way into the world of the Court and takes on a whole new kind of enemy.
Crown Duel, though a great book, was overshadowed in my mind by it's sequel. I think it's simply my love of good romance and intrigue that made Court Duel the more interesting book for me.
Crown Duel was full of battles, fighting, heroic escapes and escapades, and was a throughly enjoyable read for me as I rode along with Mel and watched her become a heroine for the people.
Court Duel was the complete opposite, though still featuring some fighting and heroic stands, it was centered on all that is Court life; the balls, the intrigue, the romances, the wondering who's friend and who's foe. Not to mention Mel trying to come to grips with the Marquis.
Overall, fantastic books. Five stars all the way. I know I'll be rereading them in the future and I highly recommend them to anyone and everyone who loves a good medieval book.
A Must Read!
Sherwood Smith's Website
- Sherwood Smith's Website: The Crown Duel Books
Sherwood Smith's Official Website