Crown of Coral and Pearl (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #1) blurb:
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.
More blurb, but spoilery (see below)
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 one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.
I really enjoyed this book, it’s a beautiful story of sisterly love and sacrifice. But it also delves a little into the dangers of politics and tradition, and how focusing on something so intently your entire life can make you blind to other things around you.
So, you know how I’m terribly awful at reading the blurb on the back of a book before I read the book? Well I’m actually really glad I didn’t this time, because it tells you half the plot points. (I mean obvs Nor goes to Ilara, because otherwise she wouldn’t be the MC… did they have to spill who Talin was? Or the Queen!) I mean, there’s a few things they don’t talk about, but the fate of the girls that go to Ilara from Varenia is really one of the most shocking things. And it’s on the cover! *cough* mini rant over….
So, I think the point I’m trying to make is that if you haven’t read the hidden blurb section (above) then probably don’t. The book has some amazing plot points, and it’s a real shame that they’re told before you read the book. I mean, some of it is predictable – but there’s a difference between guessing how the next few sections will go because of lead up, and actually writing it on the cover before you start. Where’s the fun in reading this otherwise?
In terms of characters, I loved Nor. She’s beautiful, but because of her scar she’s seen as ‘ruined’ which means that she’s allowed to become her own person, not just a future bride. She’s feisty and brave, strong of heart, and willing to believe good about people. She tries her absolute hardest for her family, and is constantly putting her sister before herself.
Zadie is lovely, but she’s also a little bit selfish. She’s not strong, and she doesn’t defend Zadie until she has no other option. Her interests lie with self-preservation and what she wants. And that’s fine, it made her the less likeable twin, which is what the story wants you to do. And then there’s Sami who is also a little selfish, but ultimately trying to be the best that he can be. He’s in a difficult place as the son of the Governor, and so’s really trying to not follow his heart, which can be hard.
On shore there is Ceren, the crown prince. He’s described as beautiful, but in a very different way than Talin. He’s also cruel, but he also loves in his own way, with his own temperament. I think if you like Maven from Aveyard’s Red Queen series, then you’ll probably like Ceren as well. Then of course, there’s Talin, the actual love interest. I won’t say it’s insta-love because it isn’t. But there’s definitely an instant connection between the two. It’s more of a fascination, possibly a little lustful, but there is something there.
I really liked the world-building in this. Varenia is described as such a beautiful place that I just want to visit. The history of Varenia and Ilara, the superstitions and the traditions were all so wonderfully crafted. The way that all of this plays out is borderline destructive though. The way that the women of Varenia focus on the importance of beauty was actually quite oppressive and harmful. And Nor and Zadie’s mother is a prime example of this. Her absolute disdain for her children’s happiness and health over their looks was brutal, and the way that Nor was treated was appalling. I think the trope of an abusive parent was well played out here, but it’s still hard to read.
The ending was one thing that I really liked as well. There will be a second book due out in 2020 (Kingdom of Sea and Stone), but this book ended on such a peaceful note that I wouldn’t feel like the story wasn’t complete if it didn’t happen. Yes, there’s some things left open, but there’s no cliffhanger ending (which I love!).
All in all, I really enjoyed this, and I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to read about sacrifices willing to be made for family and community; and for those who are willing to stand up for themselves.
Thanks to HarperCollins Australia / Harlequin YA,
and Netgalley for providing me a free copy to review.
All opinions are my own.