Title: Crown of Coral and Pearl
Series: Crown of Coral and Pearl #1
Author: Mara Rutherford
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: August 27th, 2019 (Inkyard Press)
Synopsis: 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.
Thank you to the publisher, Inkyard Press, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
“Nor and Zadie.
Coral and Pearl.
Powerful and beautiful because of each other,
not in spite of each other.”
In the ocean village of Varenia, beauty is everything. After all, the most beautiful girl of each generation is chosen to marry the Crown Prince of Ilara, bringing fortune to her family, to leave the village and see the world, something forbidden to other Varenians. It has long been expected that Zadie will be the chosen girl, but in a twist of events, it is her twin sister Nor who finds herself journeying to Ilara – pretending to be Zadie. But neither Ilara nor Prince Ceren are quite what Nor expected, and she finds herself adrift in a dangerous royal court where she must watch every step she takes.
Now, while the first part, set in Varenia, dragged on longer than it should have, I enjoyed it much more than the second half. The world-building is fantastic and it is very intriguing to learn about the people of Varenia who are under the control of the oppressive mainland kingdom, and their ways of life. Moving from the open ocean village to the dark and forbidding mountain fortress, every aspect of the setting is wonderfully easy to visualize and really brings the world together.
The characters are also very well developed. In particular, the bond between the sisters is so beautifully portrayed, opposites in so many ways but always supportive of each other – even though I found Zadie to be quite selfish, if brave in her own way. The twins’ mother was abominable, to put it mildly, treating Nor as lesser because of her scar and I disliked her right from the beginning, though perhaps her portrayal was a little extreme?
Talin is a very interesting character, but I felt there was a bit of an insta-love situation there, casting Ceren into the antagonist’s role almost immediately. To be fair though, Ceren’s character is equally well thought out, and I found myself sympathizing more than once (conflicted villains are my favourite). Nor is still quite naive, and not nearly as sneaky as she thinks she is being, but it was fun to watch her navigate Ceren’s weird moods, not always successfully.
And as for that ending, well, it was pretty intense and I’m nearly certain that is not the end of it. Not to mention, there are just so many ways things could (and probably will) go wrong for Nor as it sounds like the situation in Varenia has drastically changed since she left. Crown of Coral and Pearl was a book I was looking forward to reading all year. While I felt several aspects were familiar from other fantasies, there was always something unexpected popping up, with some lovely plot twists too. Overall, this was an excellent and unique read. I would definitely recommend this, and I’m already looking forward to reading the sequel!
Crown of Coral and Pearl releases on August 27th, 2019.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!