Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Ring & The Crown - YA Bingo

Completed on: July 13th
# of Pages: 372
Bingo Category: A Book with A Lion, A Witch, or A Wardrobe.
Back in high school I read the first four books in Melissa De La Cruz's series Blue Bloods, but this is the first book of hers that I've read since then. I was immediately excited at the premise for this book, and was looking forward to being immersed in the words of De La Cruz again. I managed to read a few (*cough* twenty) pages at work before I was able to take this out on a book loan from work, and already I recognized her writing style, and her use of bringing in the perspective of a different character each chapter.

It's funny though . . . throughout the majority of the time I was reading this book, I couldn't shake the feeling that aspects of the plot, and even the characters, were incredibly familiar, and reminded me of something I'd read before, but not from the Blue Bloods series. Then it hit me; I remembered a book series I picked up from the Welland Public Library a summer or two ago, and I realized that this book, which I thought going in would be the beginning of a series but was later proved to be a stand-alone YA novel, is uncannily similar to Anna Godbersen's Luxe series. This is by no means of criticism of The Ring & The Crown, because I really did enjoy it, but I couldn't get the similarities out of my head. Those who have not read this book as well as Godbersen's Luxe series may not realize the similarities, but I will be remiss if I don't allow myself to list them here.

De La Cruz's character Marie, the princess of the Franco-British empire, to me seems like a mix of Godbersen's characters Elizabeth and Diana. Her personality is much like Diana's, but her heart is much like Elizabeth's, who falls for her family's servant, much like Diana falls for a castle guard and wishes to run away with him. The guard in question, Gill, is very similar to Godbersen's William Keller, although William's fate is very similar to a fate of another character in De La Cruz's novel, who I will not name as to keep from spoiling the story. De La Cruz's Ronan reminds me greatly of Godbersen's Penelope, and the initial relationship between Penelope and Henry is similar to the relationship between De La Cruz's Isabelle and Leo. There are other similarities as well, quite a few, but the point of this review isn't to point them out. Regardless, it really is uncanny how many things that this one book and the Luxe series have in common.

Anyway, getting back to the book at hand. Probably because I had The Luxe and it`s proceeding novels to work as context, I was sure that The Ring & The Crown would be the beginning of a historical fantasy series that would extend to at least three books, perhaps more. However, it is a stand-alone novel, which wraps up more or less by the time the last page is reached. Honestly, I found some of the wrapping up near the end of the book, such as where a conversation between Aelwyn and Marie answers a very large number of questions, to be perhaps a bit too tidy and a bit too sudden. Of course it is entirely possible that I just missed a fair amount of the foreshadowing that hinted at the book's conclusions, and if I gave it a second read I would find the answers that the characters come to much more justified.

Another thing that I expected from my reading of the Luxe books is that all the characters would get happy endings, in spire of their unfortunate circumstances, and everyone would be unbelievably happy by the time the story was done. De La Cruz certainly dangles the idea of hope in front of the reader's eyes throughout the novel, but if you are looking for a perfect wrap-up and a 100% happy ending, this might not be the book you're looking for. The fact that De La Cruz ended this novel in both a realistic and more-or-less fair way left me feeling quite satisfied. Because this story, like life, is not a fairy tale, and you can't always have all your loose ends tied by the time the curtain closes, and I found the ending to be surprising, yet I was still pretty happy with it.

Here I need to get into some spoilers: All that being said, I do wish that one character in particular could have received a happier conclusion, that being Isabelle. While it is hinted at near the end of the book that she is living happily by the sea with her son, when we last read a chapter from Isabelle's perspective, the love of her life has been murdered and Burgundy, the man who had treated Isabelle so cruelly her entire life, is obviously the culprit that will not see justice, but instead demands that Isabelle marry him so as not to risk her being cast-off from society because of her illegitimate child, who could easily be his or Leo's, with no real way of knowing. There is no way of knowing that this rumor Marie has heard about Isabelle is true, and if this book embraces realism the way it does, more than likely it is a lie and Isabelle is forced to live with the disgusting character of Burgundy until the end of her days. While I know that every story can't have a happy ending, this particular ending did feel a little harsh. Alright, no more spoilers.

The Ring & The Crown was an incredibly interesting read, and it had me hooked from the very first page. Pick up your own copy as soon as you are able.

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