Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen’s Disappointment in The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

This book really drove home the important lesson to never judge a book by its cover. The cover of The Ring and the Crown remains one of my favorites (I love the letter font, the marbled background, and the flower crown), but the book is one I will never pick up again, and was extremely disappointed with.

18296016

Series: The Ring and the Crown, Book 1

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover, Audiobook, narrated by Jennifer Ikeda

Rating: 1.5 stars

Description:

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.

Review:

This book really drove home the important lesson to never judge a book by its cover. The cover of The Ring and the Crown remains one of my favorites (I love the letter font, the marbled background, and the flower crown), but the book is one I will never pick up again, and was extremely disappointed with.

I read this book and listened to the audiobook, depending on what I was doing and had time for in the moment. At first, I thought it was because I was listening to the audiobook that I could never keep track of who was talking when, but this is the same in the print version. Since there are so many characters, and they aren’t separated by chapter, it is very hard to always know whose POV the section is taking place in.

The beginning of this book dragged on and on, again because of the extensive list of characters, since each needed to be introduced before anything exciting could really take place. In addition, all the characters felt very 2-D. They each had clear characteristics, but they didn’t feel whole or developed, merely a long list of stick figures with name tags.

As for the romance which really defined this book, since it was not historical at all as I first thought (merely an alternate fantasy world with a historical feel but no actual facts), this was also disappointing. At first there were far too many characters to keep track of, and then they are all romantically involved with each other, and then the love triangles begin changing! It was hard for me to belief that any romances were true “love” because of the speed with which they were constantly changing their minds, cheating on each other, etc.

These mind changes happened more than once, and in more than just romance. And they were extremely drastic, completely contradictory to their previous choices and beliefs, and happened unbelievably quickly to boot! There were many instances of complete U-turns occurring in a single sentence, from loving one person to loving another, and from going against one’s job and role in society to fully accepting it. These changes could have made sense and aided the flow of the plot if only Melissa de la Cruz had taken the time to give more description and explanation of the character’s feelings and the elements that were causing these confusing twists.

In addition, the writing in general was terrible, full of telling instead of showing, no colorful descriptions but simple actions and statements, and written in an extremely simplified and prosaic manner. This is a prime example, but does include major spoilers(!) for those who would still read this book despite my many warnings:

“He walked toward the horses, which were idling by the road, lazily eating grass. What he found when he came closer caused him to shout, ‘Isabelle! Run!’ All the servants had been slain–the driver, the footmen, and even the young pages. Their bodies lay on the side of the road, red with blood.

She whipped around in time to see a marauder knifing Louis in the back. He fell to the ground, blood pooling in his mouth, a surprised, shocked look on his beautiful face. ‘Louis!’ she screamed, just as a cloth was placed on her head and everything went black.”

After reading this section, I too had a “surprised, shocked look” on my face. But mine was a look of horror–which it should have been, considering what had just happened. A major character had just died in two sentences, by being “knifed.” There were dead people laying everywhere, and Isabelle was just knocked unconscious. But I could not possibly picture any of this, let alone feel any sort of emotion for the characters, with the simple way this was explained. These two paragraphs felt as if they had been written by an 11 year-old (no offense, Kate) with no writing experience at all.

Unbelievably, despite all of this, I kept hoping that the ending would make up for the lousy beginning and middle, and while it had promise, it did not follow through. The Ring and the Crown ends with many surprising twists and turns that luckily I did enjoy. I had not seen any of them coming, so they were unexpected, but made sense. However, Melissa de la Cruz erred again by making the grand revelation seem far too casual and rushed, since it was simply revealed in a relaxed discussion between two people, and was all piled up in an “oh by the way I forgot to mention this catastrophe too” sort of manner. In addition, nothing was done with the great twists that were exposed. There was no great realization, but instead the amazing facts were made boring and unremarkable by merely stating their presence between friends, and not announcing it to the world.

The Ring and the Crown read like a basic draft of a promising story. Its 1.5 stars are gained merely because I actually finished the book, and enjoyed the idea it was based upon, even if the execution was nearly as painful as an actual beheading. I will most certainly not be finishing the series once the following books are released, and my copy of the book will not remain in the library collection for long. I am highly disappointed in this author.

Many parts of this book reminded me of The Luxe by Anna Godbersen and Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick, because of the historical, “season,”  romantic, and fantasy influences. If you liked this book, or if you agree with my judgement but also enjoy these themes, I’d highly recommend these other two.

This book counts for the School YA Bingo Challenge. 

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8 comments on “Gwen’s Disappointment in The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

  1. siamesemayhem
    January 1, 2015

    That’s a shame. The premise actually sounds really interesting, but I hate soulless writing too. Plot-driven writing is even worse.

    • gwenkate
      January 1, 2015

      Yeah I know — there was so much promise in this book but the writing caused it to all go down the drain. ~Gwen

  2. booksoverpeople
    January 1, 2015

    I’ve always loved this cover, but I haven’t heard any good things about this book. I still bought it though because I mean, how could I resist with a beautiful cover like that?

    • gwenkate
      January 2, 2015

      Yes I know — I did the exact same thing. We really do tend to judge books by their covers, don’t we? Thanks! ~Gwen

  3. Peter
    January 2, 2015

    This kind of writing you describe is frustrating because it’s exactly the type of writing that wouldn’t get published in a debut, but very often gets published when an author has had previous success (i.e. Bluebloods). I also wonder if you’ve ever felt that a reading experience would have been different had you read instead or listened or vice-versa.

    • gwenkate
      January 2, 2015

      Exactly — and it wasn’t even a sequel, where terrible, rushed writing also happens frequently.
      And about the audiobook vs. reading — I do think the method has an impact on my experience for certain books. For example, sometimes audiobooks are better for me because of a busy schedule — I can always find time to listen, but not always to read. If I read a book during this time, it would feel very slow paced and I am more likely to get frustrated with it. But sometimes audiobooks aren’t as good if the writing style of the book is more confusing or not very well organized when you can’t easily go back to a chapter heading or map.
      However, since I flip-flopped between reading and listening for this one, I don’t think it had much of an impact on my experience.
      Thanks for commenting Peter! ~Gwen

  4. Pingback: School YA Bingo Challenge: BINGO!! (#1) | Gwen & Kate's Library

  5. Pingback: School YA Bingo Challenge FINALE!! | Gwen & Kate's Library

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This entry was posted on January 1, 2015 by in Author: Gwen, Review, School YA Bingo Challenge, Young Adult and tagged , .
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