Author: Mara Rutherford
Title: CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL
Release date: August 27th, 2019
Publisher: Inkyard Press (HarperCollins)
Genre: YA fantasy
Trigger warning: none
(ARC sent courtesy Of Inkyard Press/HarperCollins).
A thrilling debut novel from Mara Rutherford, CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL will give young adult fantasy fans a new story that will take them on an exciting adventure. The author hooks you from page one and keeps you ensnared throughout the whole book. Full of dramatic plot twists and a young girl’s struggle to break out of the norm of her society, A CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL takes us on a journey to find out the meaning of true beauty.
Here’s a short summary taken from Amazon:
For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…
Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.
Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen…and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.
In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.
A CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL is a book that I was skeptical about, but ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. I will admit that I was worried about how the author could make her story unique because it reminded me of another popular series – but, I am happy to admit that I was very wrong, and CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL is a unique new YA fantasy that I think will be a big hit.
Zadie and Nor are two twin girls. In their culture, the most beautiful girl is chosen and sent to marry the king of Ilara. Nor was scarred on her face when she was younger, and thus, Zadie was chosen to be sent to wed the king. (This isn’t a spoiler because it’s on the back of the book). Zadie is injured and Nor decides to take the burden and become the king’s bride. Nor gets a special “makeup” to cover the scar on her face, and poses as her sister. The whole concept of the story is very intriguing; the author focuses on the differences between the island nation and the land nation, and why brides are solely chosen from the island nation when there are plenty of women in Ilara.
I must admit that when I read the whole “most beautiful girl gets the prince” plot, I was upset for Nor. At first, the book makes it seem like that beauty is actually the most important thing and that a little scar is enough to have Nor shunned for life. As the story progresses, we find out that Nor doesn’t agree with her society’s rules and she finds someone who sees her not for her beauty, but what she is truly like. I thought she agreed with and was going along with Valeria’s ideas of superficial beauty, until I saw this quote.
“At first, the scar was a source of shame. But I was coming to realize that beauty - at least defined by my people - was more of a burden than a gift.” -Nor
I won’t spoil who she falls for, but he’s such a cool character. (Also, I need to read through it again, but I couldn’t decide if the guy she falls for is sincere or not? He keeps calling her “beautiful,” so I’m wondering if he really sees her as more than her beauty. To be continued in the sequel?…)
Nor‘s journey is intriguing, because when she is taken to the king’s palace, she has to cope with living in a new place and being away from the place and people she loves. I liked reading her responses to her new maids, the new customs, and her different surroundings. She changed to fit Ilara’s customs, but still keeps true to herself and doesn’t forget her homeland.
Prince Ceren, the man Nor is sent to marry, is a complex character. Of course, I was expecting the classic “you will be trapped her forever and I will be evil to you” male villain, but that is not the case. Ceren has a lot of things wrong with him (no spoilers). He makes little comments that make you feel sympathetic for him at one moment, but hate him a minute later. The way that he was written, I felt like he had been forced into his position as future king and was taking all his anger out on the people around him (and even himself). While I loathed him, I also felt sorry for him. So, I am very confused about Ceren’s character – but, he was quite unique.
When Zadie becomes injured, it’s like her society turns on her and sees her as no longer beautiful, just like they see Nor. Sami, Zadie’s beau, fights hard to marry her. I thought that his and Zadie’s relationship was sweet because they truly loved each other, regardless of the other’s status or looks. I also liked the fact that even though Nor and Zadie are twins, it is easy to differentiate between their personalities. Zadie seems to hide behind her beauty, and Nor is very much the outgoing, tom-boyish girl.
(Also, no spoilers, but the title is not just to sound pretty. The crown of coral and pearl plays a big role toward the end of the book).
All in all, CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL is a must-read for fans of YA fantasy. Fans of ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE and GRACE AND FURY will enjoy reading this book, and will easily relate to Nor and Zadie. I am so excited for the sequel and I can’t wait to read what happens next.
CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL receives 4.5 stars out of 5.