In her newest novel, The Ring and the Crown, Melissa de la Cruz re-imagines history with a bit of magic! With Merlin by her side, Queen Eleanor of Great Britain conquered France, and has ruled over the Franco-British empire for over a 150 years. But even with the power of magic to help extend her life, Eleanor cannot live forever, and begins to make preparations for her only daughter, and sole heir, Marie to take over as Queen. Unfortunately, war seems to be imminent, as Prussia’s army threatens their borders. In order to make peace, Marie must marry Prince Leopold, heir to the Prussian throne, despite being in love with her guard Gill. The pending marriage takes the kingdom by storm, causing more than one upset and heartbreak.
The Ring and the Crown was far more entertaining and addicting then I initially anticipated! Despite a shaky beginning, and some questionable world building, I found this book very hard to put down. Switching narration between five of the main characters (Marie, Aelwyn, Wolf, Ronan, and Isabelle), I quickly became hooked, and wanted to see how each of these storylines would eventually converge and connect. Wolf and Ronan’s narrations were by far my favourite parts of the book. Wolf’s roguish charm won me over immediately, and I enjoyed watching Ronan’s misguided attempts to nab a rich husband.
The only problem with having multiple narrators, however, is that it often leads to characters who lack emotional depth and clarity. While the characters in The Ring and the Crown are far from full-fleshed, de la Cruz did a good job of giving readers a taste for what motivates them, and their personal history. Each of the characters was unique and intriguing, and I couldn’t help but want to learn more about them. The only narration that I ended up finding particularly weak was that of Isabelle. While Isabelle’s storyline started off strong, it lost it’s steam towards the end. There are sooo many things I want to say about Isabelle, but alas, I must hold my tongue in order to avoid any spoilers.
One of the surprising things about The Ring and the Crown, is that it is actually more of a Romance than a Fantasy. With 4-5 different romance story lines happening at once, the Fantasy aspects of the story quickly fade to the background. While I adore Fantasy novels, I also have a weak spot for love plots, so I certainly wasn’t complaining! Using many popular romance tropes (arranged marriage, loveable rogue, case of mistaken identity, love despite class differences, etc), The Ring and the Crown can feel a bit archetypal at times, but it is still a very fast-paced and entertaining read!
Overall, if you are looking for something light and fun to read with just a hint of magic, then The Ring and the Crown is a perfect fit! On the other hand, if you are in the mood for something deep with high Fantasy elements, then this book may not be for you. The Ring and the Crown is an enchanting YA read that will appeal to fans of Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes and Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood. This is certainly a series that I plan on continuing to read, if only to find out how some of the romance plots end up unraveling.
The Bottom Line: Shaky world building, but an intriguing cast of characters, and some entertaining (and archetypal) romance! I want more!