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If Three’s a Crowd, Five’s a Riot

The first novel in Melissa de la Cruz’s new series, The Ring and the Crown, has a lot of promise. But it also has at least two too many main characters.

If Three’s a Crowd, Five’s a Riot

BOOK REPORT for The Ring and the Crown (The Ring and the Crown #1) by Melissa de la Cruz

Cover Story: Tumblr Meets Carmen Miranda
BFF Charm: Three Mehs and a Maybe (Plus a Be Mine)
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Who’s On First?
Bonus Factor: Alternate History
Anti-Bonus Factors: Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen, Rushed Ending
Relationship Status: Speed Date

Cover Story: Tumblr Meets Carmen Miranda

I’m not entirely sure I understand the flower crown meme, but it’s what I thought of immediately when I first saw this cover. I realize that the crown on the cover is on the head of a lady, and the meme is most often associated with male celebs, but still. The magnitude of the blossoms also made me think of Carmen Miranda’s often ostentatious headgear.

The Deal:

Aelwyn Myrddyn is a sorceress and daughter of the Franco-British empire’s Merlin, or head magician. She’s been away from London, and the Franco-British court for a decade, but is returning to join the Order and pledge her life and loyalty to the royal family.

Her Royal Highness, Princess Marie-Victoria Grace Eleanor Aquitaine, Dauphine of Viennois, Princess of Wales, is the only heir of Queen Eleanor, the Franco-British empire’s 150-year-old monarch. In order to keep the peace between her country and the Prussian Empire, Marie-Victoria is being forced to marry the Prussian “kronprinz” Leopold VII, even though she doesn’t even like the guy.

Ronan Elizabeth Astor is an American socialite whose family’s money has dwindled to near nothing due to her father’s interest in technology. She’s on her way to England to take part in “the season”—and find herself a wealthy husband.

Wolfgang Friedrich Joachim Von Hohenzollen is the second son of the Prussian Empire. Where his brother, the heir, is seen as a hero of his nation, Wolf—as he’s known to his friends—would rather fight in underground fight clubs where he’s known as the Beast of Berlin and play strip billiards with naive socialites and lesser royals.

Isabelle of Orleans is the current fiancée of Prince Leopold. Her family was French royalty before the Brits took over her country, and hundreds of years later, she’s still pretty bitter about it. Unsurprisingly, she’s made increasingly bitter by being forced out of her engagement.

When everyone comes together at the annual Bal du Drap d’Or, the celebration of the season, choices will be made, hearts will be broken and alliances will be tested.

BFF Charm: Three Mehs and a Maybe (Plus a Be Mine)

Most of the ladies in The Ring and the Crown aren’t people I’d typically find myself hanging out with. Aelwyn is powerful and beautiful, but is envious of the position held by her childhood friend Marie. Ronan is a stereotypical “sassy American,” but is a social climber who cares more about money and status than relationships. And Isabelle holds grudges for much too long.*

Marie's a little better. She's a bit whiny about being a princess—sure, having your life scrutinized and not really being able to make your own choices would be rough, but you're a princess, girl. Suck it up. Her character is much more developed by the end of the book, and I like the woman she's becoming.*

Wolf is a total scoundrel, but one with a good heart. Sure, he pretends to be a womanizer, but he never goes too far. He’s a great friend to Marie and a loyal brother (even though his brother’s a total prat). He’s smart, kind, sarcastic and super hot. In other words, the total package.

*I feel like my thoughts on all of the women in the book are hindered because of the lack of time available to develop these characters into whole beings. Perhaps I will like them more in future books?

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Although all of the ladies have romantic relationships or the start of romances in The Ring and the Crown, none of them had me fanning myself or having to force myself not to skip ahead to the good parts. Le sigh.

Talky Talk: Who’s On First

In The Ring and the Crown, Melissa de la Cruz begins to build a fascinating alternate history full of courtly intrigue. However, the plot is seen through the eyes of all five of the main characters. Wolf’s chapters are easy to distinguish, since he’s the only guy, but 372 pages definitely aren’t enough to fully flesh out four distinct women. In hindsight, the book definitely reads as an intro to the universe and the characters, but the struggle to find a balance between character building and story makes the entire thing feel very rushed.

Bonus Factor: Alternate History

The Ring and the Crown takes place at the start of the 20th century, but the world’s superpower isn’t America, it’s the Franco-British empire. Technology is also seen as a laughable science; magic is the way to get things done. I love me a good alternate history story.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

I mentioned this in Talky Talk above, but the fact that this book has five main characters makes for a cramped read. Had there been more meat to the story, it would have worked. But as it stands, the four women had only just begun to become unique individuals when the book ended.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Rushed Ending

The main plot running through The Ring and the Crown was wrapped up in the last couple of chapters, but the solution to the issue felt like a total afterthought. Since this is the first book of a new series, I would have much preferred de la Cruz to have left us with a cliffhanger that carried over into the next book rather than trying to tie everything up with a tidy bow. Everything happened so quickly that I had to go back and read a few passages over again to make sure I hadn’t missed a huge chunk of plot development.

Casting Call:

Bridget Regan as Aelwyn

Alexis Bledel as Marie-Victoria

Julianne Hough as Ronan Astor

Ian Harding as Wolf

Talulah Riley as Isabelle

Relationship Status: Speed Date

I really wanted to enjoy you, Book. I love your premise and at least one of your characters, but there was just too much going on for us to really connect. I’d like to meet again, but I hope that next time we can do so in a less crowded and rushed setting.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Hyperion. I received neither a private dance performance from Tom Hiddleston nor money for this review. The Ring and the Crown will be available April 1.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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