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Crown Duel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 425 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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I enjoy Sherwood Smith's writing. This version of Crown Duel is really two books in one, originally titled Crown Duel and Court Duel. The novel takes place in the same universe as the Inda series, but is a subplot regarding the young countess, Meliara (Mel) Astiar, her brother Bran who becomes the count upon his father's death, and their fight to save the tree-people of their upper lands of Tlanth. The poverty-stricken area is rich in trees that the evil King Galdran covets. Galdran is a classic bad guy--easy to hate for all the right reasons. He over-taxes the people, is paranoid and vicious. He is also greedy. The king trumps up charges of treason and attempts to take the land and the siblings fight using guerrilla warfare tactics--many of them thought up by the young princess. After holding off the stooge sent by the King to take the lands, a new commander arrives to challenge the young heirs to Tlanth. Before you think this story is all about the good fight against a bad kind, the arrival of Vidanric, Marquis of Shevraeth, converts this battle into a well-hidden romance which isn't resolved at all until book two. (Or Part Two of this version of publication.)
If you pick up this book, I'd advise you to read A Stranger To Command beforehand. It will make reading about Vidanric's struggles to combat a pixie child in the woods that much more entertaining. Though it was written after the Court Duel series, it truly is a prequel and, if you are like me, it is much more enjoyable to read things sequentially. Not a necessity, but a preference with this series.
Sherwood Smith wrote the Court Duel series early in her career, you can see her development as a serious and complex writer with each successive work. So, reading Court Duel has a youthful zest and a bit of naïveté that some of her later works do not possess. This makes them more appropriate to Younger Audiences. The further you get in the Sartorias-deles world (the planetary host of a growing pantheon of novels) the better the works get. Reading the Inda series was the highlight of my reading for many months. But with Court Duel/Crown Duel you get to meet the author at her earliest and that is a charm in itself.
It's a small sadness, because my very much adult self was delighted by the whole story - though particularly the latter half, in which our young hero does a lot of growing up and her perspective shifts in really rewarding ways.
I was also delighted by the surprise of additional vignettes after the story drew to a close. These added fascinating (and deeply poignant) layers to everything that had come before, and I'm really glad that they were included in the volume I bought.
Overall I didn't think this book was anything great, but it was entertaining enough to keep me interested through to the end.
I thought the parts with Meliara on the run in the first book were exciting. In the second book, building the world of the Court of Athanarel and all of the court intrigue was fun.
The ending was actually kind of anticlimactic for me. I mean, the final hurrah seemed to get wrapped up really quick and easy.
As for the romance, I would have liked to have seen the two interact AFTER the big revelation. Everything building up to it was nice though.