Friday, June 27, 2014

Thoughts On: The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

As promised here is the first installment in a new blog feature called "Thoughts On." For those who missed my explanation regarding what these posts entail during my Summer Read-a-thon, I'll briefly mention it again. These "Thoughts On" posts are a lot like my book reviews in that I'll be providing you with some information about the book and then I'll be discussing my opinions related to the book. These posts differ from my regular reviews because they are my immediate thoughts and reactions after finishing the book. I don't spend hours taking notes and drafting the post like my normal reviews, so my thoughts are a little less organized and intensely developed. This is just another way that I can talk to you about all of the amazing and not so amazing books that I've read without all of the hassle. So without further ado...

Title: The Ring and the Crown
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Page #: 384
Book Blurb: 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.


So when I saw this book in the bookstore, I'm going to be honest and say that the book cover was what immediately caught my attention. I do have to admit that is one fabulous book cover. Aside from that I was a little bit apprehensive about reading anything new written by Melissa de la Cruz. I was a fan of her Blue Bloods series, but it dragged on for so long and came to an incredibly disappointing ending. I decided to give Cruz another chance and as much as I really really wanted to like The Ring and the Crown I ended up with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment and reading whiplash (I'll explain later).

In general there is just so much going on in this book and none of it worked that well. The book doesn't focus on one or two characters, but rather has an ensemble cast. This type of narrative structure is tricky because the author has to juggle a number of characters' perspectives while managing to create fully developed, actualized characters. Sadly so many of the characters in this book were flat. Additionally, The Ring and the Crown is essentially a court intrigue novel that has gone a bit awry. Throughout my entire reading experience I kept thinking about the Luxe Series which is a fabulous set of YA books written by Anna Godberson that successfully deals with court intrigue. When compared to those books, this novel just comes across as a weird watered down version.

I also really didn't like the setting of this book either. I know a ton of other reviewers thought that it was so innovative, but I thought again that there was too much going on. First, it's like some alternate universe where the British won the Revolutionary War, yet strangely face the threat of Prussia. If that isn't strange enough, magic is thrown into the mix as well as some thinly veiled Arthurian references. I

I could spend some time talking about the annoying presence of love triangles, but if I'm being honest the relationships in this book weren't triangles so much as a giant confusing web. You almost have to write out a diagram to keep all of the relationships straight in your head. I can say, insta-love everywhere, just everywhere!

This isn't directly related to the actual content of the book, but you know those quotes stuck in the beginning and middle of the book? Those have got to be the dumbest quotes possible, with the exception of the Emily Dickinson one of course. I don't know if Cruz was trying to pander to a younger audience, but the Beyonce quote cheapened the beginning of the book and the Lorde one was so inappropriate if you consider what just happened at the end of the previous chapter. 

My last gripe with this book has to be that all of the action takes place in the last 40 pages, which is annoying considering the majority of the book is just conversations between characters, with long descriptions of dresses thrown in. The plot is pretty tame and then surprise, so many plot twists that you'll swear you have a case of reading whiplash. Plenty of characters die and you get treated to a huge info dump. None of the events are built up to and the revelations about certain characters aren't even hinted at in the preceding pages.   
Then strangely Cruz engineers an ending that neatly wraps up each characters' story like a standalone novel would do, yet this book appears to be the first in an entire series? I just think The Ring and the Crown could have been so much better, but the inconsistent plot and the underdeveloped characters just dragged it down.

Well readers I hate posting so many negative reviews, so I can promise that my next blog post will be more positive in tone. That's all for this "Thoughts on" and all I have left to say is, of course, Best Wishes!!