Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dueling With Fans

Alright folks, time for part two of yesterday's rambling.  Technically this is a second book, but it has been published in the same volume as the first book and really feels like a direct continuation so I always consider them two parts of the same story.  The book is Court Duel by Sherwood Smith and as always SPOILERS AHEAD (and seriously there are some major spoilers so DO NOT READ if you don't want to know the main surprise in the story).
We again are told this story by our barefoot countess Meliara (known as Mel).  She tells us that they have received all of the ill gotten riches of the former disposed bad king.  She uses the money to repair, restore, and restock her dilapidated realm, improving not only her own home, but the village as well.  She has appointed many people to act as stewards, housekeepers and generally help her run things.  Mel has also decided to try and remedy some of her ignorance by the acquisition of as many books as possible.  Her brother the Count Branaric (known as Bran)  surprises her by coming home from court with the lady Nimiar (called Nee) as his fiancee and the Marquis of Shevreath (who turns out to be name Vidanric).  Bran inadvertently embarrasses Mel by pointing out her shabby clothes (which she wears while working) and some of her less courtly manners. Nee takes pity on her and while turning out to be a wonderful friend to Mel, also offers to teach her the ways of Court in return for Mel coming to the capital until the wedding.  Mel agrees and her courtly education begins.  Meanwhile she and Shevreath continue to have spats, which Mel begrudgingly admits are mostly her fault.  They start out as conversations, but Mel almost always finds some way to turn it into an argument.  The whole group heads to the castle where it is assumed that Shevraeth will become King and start to deal with the aftermath of the disposal of the old king. Mel does her best to fit in, finding that she has become something of a celebrity following her part in the rebellion and is eased into society by the attentions of the ever popular Duke of Savona.  She runs afoul of the Lady Tamera, a popular girl who tries to ruin Mel, but is instead caught in her own trap.  Mel instead of making her a pariah uses her new found court manners to show Tamera is forgiven, which also boosts Mel's popularity.  Along with trying to deal with court, Mel aquires a secret admirer who leaves her gifts and later a lengthy back and forth correspondence about various court matters, personal matters, and how to best fix the kingdom.  She has a golden ring made for him that he will not wear until she is ready to meet, and she realizes she has fallen for this mysterious guy.  Mel learns of a plot to overthrow Shevreath and the new kingdom, along with killing the Hill Folk of her home to get to the colorwoods by the sister of the former king.  Mel rides out to stop the the killing of the Hill folks and runs into Shevreath on the way.  After ascertaining that he also knows of the plot he takes off his gloves to show her the golden ring, revealing himself as her secret admirer.  They stop the killing of the Hill Folk and turn back the troops sent to take the city, but something else seems wrong.  Getting back to the city they find Flauvic, the son of the woman who was trying to overthrow the city has learned magic and turned every person in the palace to glass.  He is defeated when the Hill Folk turn him into a tree in thanks for saving them.  Nee and Bran get married, Mel and Shevreath get married and they all continue to work for the good of the kingdom.
Trying to write the synopsis of this book is harder then the last one because where the first one deals with sweeping issues and Mel's part in them, this book is lot more subtle, with every little encounter meaning something.  Things I love.  I like how this is a direct continuation of the first book and that it shows that just because the "good" guys won the war, the problems don't just go away.  A large part of this book is the various characters talking and debating the best way to fix things.  It shows people having different opinions and the acknowledgment that there is more then one "right" way to do things.  There is conversation on how best to deal with the nobles who helped the bad king, and how to determine whether they helped him willingly or out of fear and coercion.  I found court to be interesting as it was clear the way the nobles could never speak truth aloud or state opinion openly was a direct result of the fear based rule of the former queen. One of the benefits of the new rule was a more open communication between the people.  I loved the secret admirer part of this book as it added a great romance without it overcoming the whole book.  I liked that they fell in love with each other at different times and that it was their shared love of their country, intellect, ideas and even arguments that brought them together.  I also like that the whole romance wasn't them sneaking off for a kiss.  On that note I LOVE Bran and Nee and their romance.  It is sweet, fun, genuine and included Mel as a sister to both of them.  The author could easily have make Nee a rival to Mel, but instead she became a sister that Mel desperately needed.  I liked the complexities of court and how Mel both learned about it and learned when to disregard it.  Shevreath continues to be a book crush of mine, his subtlety, his devotion to his people, his love for the odd Meliara all make me a happy girl. There were a couple of overly convenient resolutions for some of the problems our people faced and the resolution at the end was a bit weird, but it's still not the worst ending I've read.   Oddly enough there is a short story in the Firebirds short story anthology that gives a glimpse into Mel and Shevreath's future with their kids that actually works as a bit of a better ending then the one in the book, but that is kind of cool too.  Overall I recommend this book for lovers of fantasy, court intrigue and a romance that doesn't make you gag.  I give it 8 out of 10 fans and suggest reading it with the first one.  Happy Reading Everybody!
How do you feel about books like this, should they be two separate books or one book two parts?  Who do you wish was your secret admirer?  Why can't I live in a book filled castle?

No comments:

Post a Comment