Monday, June 29, 2015

Dueling With Weapons

Hello all, how was your weekend?  Mine was busy busy busy BUT I did get to finish a book I couldn't put down, so that is good.  Best part is it is actually two books in one so you get a double rambling YAY!!!!  The book is Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and contains both Crown Duel and Court Duel so I will do two ramblings in a row, one on each book.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Meliara and Branaric (known as Mel and Bran) promise their dying father that they will do their best to overthrow the bad king that is currently on the throne.  To keep this promise the young count and countess gather who and what they can from their poor and far flung home of Tlanth and start a guerrilla war against the king and one of his cronies who seek to get the coveted colorwoods that are part of Tlanth for themselves.  The colorwoods are protected by the Covenant, that was put in place when it was discovered that the chopping down of the colorwoods was killing the indigenous and mysterious Hill Folk.  The folk of Tlanth appear to be doing fairly well in their battle against the crown, until the young Marquis of Shevraeth comes to take command.  Mel (who is telling the story) is caught when she gets to close to the enemy camp and is taken captive.  The Marquis take Mel back to the capital city to await the kings judgement.  Along the way Mel and Shevraeth fight and bicker and get to know one another.  Mel is taken to a cell, where mysterious little kindness's are granted to her through the bribing of sympathetic, yet anonymous nobles.  Shevraeth visits Mel and informs her that unless she renounces her rebellion and turns over her land and her brother, she will be put to death.  Mel refuses and is sentenced to a traitors death.  A dear friend and spy comes to Mel's cell and helps her escape.  As she tries to sneak home, Mel encounters many people willing to help her, despite the sentence of death for any who aid her.  She also has some odd encounters with Shevreath.  Eventually she is recaptured, but Shevreath reveals that he is also trying to overthrow the king, and has been working towards the goal for quit some time.  Mel returns home to her brother who tells her the same thing and asks that she work with them instead of against Shevreath.  Mel has a hard time with this as this has been her fight her entire life, and she is not particularly fond of the Marquis of Shevreath.  She has a hard time trusting the Marquis, especially when she and her brother are attacked by what appears to be an ambush.  Shevreath once again proves his friendship and they all go to do battle with the king.  Mel and her friends get some unexpected help from the Hill Folk who seem to realize that Mel and Bran are fighting to protect them and the Covenant, along with overthrowing the king.  The battle is won, Bran is relieved that he won't have to be king (it is assumed Shevreath will take on that role), and Mel is left confused and a little lost now that her life's work has been accomplished.  She heads back to Tlanth to try and repair and restore it with their new found wealth and Bran and Shevreath head to the capital to figure out life there.  We end with Mel contemplating her place in the grand scheme of things, her ignorance of the outside world, and want she wants for her future.
I found so much to love about this book that I'm gonna just jump right in and get started.  Let's start with Mel.  Mel is one of those characters I adore because she is SOOOOO far from perfect, and yet almost all of her intentions are, at least in her mind, honorable.  She is a girl with a mission, a purpose and a promise to a dying father.  This is what motivates her entire life.  The problem with this is that it is her only purpose, and unfortunately her upbringing, though filled with rhetoric against the depravities of the bad king, has left her woefully unprepared for real life.  Her father in a fit of rage burned his library and allowed his children free reign to run as they would, which Mel took copious advantage of...which left her uneducated, unworldly, and with a very small view of things.  I think what I like best about this book is watching our heroine struggle not only against outside injustice, but her own lack knowledge as well.  It is very interesting to read about a hero who is not the smartest, prettiest, quickest, or most gifted of anybody, she is just a girl with a naturally kind heart who's ignorance leads to their own consequences.  We get to see Mel start by being almost proud of her lack of worldliness, using it as a sort of shield against the dreaded "nobility", but she slowly starts to realize that her actions, mostly done out of impulse or misguidedness, have consequences and she has no one but herself to blame.   The best part though is her acknowledgement of said deficiencies and her willingness (eventually) to remedy them.  The Marquis of Shevreath is another great character who realizes his mistakes, especially when it comes to lack of communication percipitaitng certain events and again his ability to try and rectify it.  Shevraeth could easily come across as acting cold and superior to the poor little Tlanth nobles, but actually comes across if anything as a bit uncomfortable in his own skin, trying to balance the grand plan against individual lives.  He has enough of a sense of humor to temper him, and seriously he has become one of my book crushes.  Bran is a character who by all rights should be less developed and regulated to the side, but I can't help but love him too as he is in no way heroic, but is able to win people to him by his sheer genuineness. The mix of realisticness (that's a word right?) and complete fantasy is wielded expertly in this book, giving me enough magic to escape into another world, and enough realism for me to believe in it.  There is no instant love story, there are no easy fixes, and even at the end of this book many things are left unresolved as it would be in real life.  Just because you win a war doesn't mean everything is fixed.  Just because you become aware of your shortcomings you don't miraculously overcome them.  There are no easy answers in this book, yet it does not come across pretentious or pseudodeep.  It is readable and engaging and sets up the next book perfectly.  The few complaints I may have are some of the tidbits about the world feel like you would already have to know the history for them to make sense.  The bad king felt a little contrived with no real depth or originality, just the bad king tax good people must die type of guy.  Overall I recommend this book for anybody who likes a great story, the castle fantasy style, or great and fairly realistic characters.  I give this first book 8 out of 10 cups of listerblossom tea.  Happy Reading Everybody!
Why is it so hard to write realistic, yet likable characters?  How much background of a fictional world do you need to enjoy it?  Do I get completely different things out books then you do?

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