Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

This post does NOT contain spoilers.

5/5 stars on Rachel’s Rating Scale
PG for mild violence
Young adult, fantasy, hints of magic, royalty, medieval-type warfare

Ahh, Crown Duel. What is there to say other than that I fell head over heels in love with this book when I was twelve. It’s got everything a girl could want out of a fluff book: Adventure, romance, intrigue, and hints of magic.

Originally published as two books, Crown Duel and Court Duel were later republished as one since publishers decided that readers would be more interested in one longer book rather than two shorter books.

When I first read it, it was two books set in the fantasy world of Remalna which was originally populated by humans when humans from our world stumbled through a portal from earth to the world where Remalna is located. But that is not actually a thing that you find out in this book or even need to know ever. I don’t even remember where I read that.

Meliara Astiar is your plucky, backwoods heroine who knows little about being a lady and much about running barefoot through the grounds of her family’s country castle. When her father dies, Mel and her brother Branaric are suddenly thrust into leading a doomed revolt against the greedy King of Remalna who is threatening to destroy Remalna’s sacred colorwood trees. When Mel is kidnapped by the enemy and dragged toward the capital city, she finds herself face to face with the Marquis of Shevraeth, the man she detests most in the world. In a rocky sequence of events where things are not always as they seem, Mel must stand up to the king and try to save her people, as well as herself, from destruction.

In book one, Mel overcomes physical obstacles and learns to survive while on the run. The second book takes the backwoods countess and forces her into the proper drawing rooms and vicious social world of Remalna’s court. Here, friends could be enemies and enemies could be friends, and Mel has to learn to navigate it all.

That is what I love about these books (book?). One moment you have a thrilling action filled tale of a girl on the run in the midst of an impossible war. Then, its all social intrigue where every look, every gesture, every word holds a deeper meaning. It has an air of an Austen-eque kind of social interaction, which is probably actually why I like it so much, mixed with high adventure. Plus, the heroine can take care of herself.

Through it all, the characters are engaging and relate-able, and every girl who has ever been to middle school or high school can understand the agony of social rejection or just doing something stupid in front of people, which is basically Mel all the time.

Plus, what kind of a fluff book would it be without the suave love interest that you can fall in love with right along with your character? The nice thing about Crown Duel is that the romance is so subtle, so unusual, that, like Mr. Darcy says to Lizzie, I “was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”

I give it a 5/5 on my rating scale, which means I’ve read it close to eight zillion times. I’d say its a must read for girls ages 12-25.