The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
Sale date: April 1, 2014
About the book Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve?
Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.
But even with the aid of Emrys’ magic, Eleanor’s extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen’s Guard.
Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie’s face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she’s always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she’s always dreamed of–the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor’s court: trust no one. [Source: Goodreads]
Partway through The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz, I realized why I was enjoying it so much — it was because it reminded me of Jane Austen’s novels.
Melissa de la Cruz transports some of the preoccupations that Austen’s characters faced in Regency England — obsessing over party invitations, what to wear, and the financial holdings of various bachelors, and then adds in a good dose of modern scandal and a little enchantment. While there is still the underlying theme of the power(lessness) of women in a society where men are still dominant, in de la Cruz’s novel, she at least gives us a few female characters who might be strong enough to find a way out their circumstances.
In the world of The Ring and the Crown, magic is used to enhance everyday life, if you can afford it. There’s nothing secret about using it, and all the It Girls spend it in droves to power their wardrobe. Even the queen uses magic to create an illusion around her appearance. While there are elements of fantasy genres in this novel and references to Arthurian legends, The Ring and the Crown is above all, a story about love and all the different types of love people seek — love of money, power, beauty, and, of course, true love.
There are quite a few characters in this novel, but there is enough space devoted to developing each character before their threads are all woven together. The characters either fall in the “Royal” camp, or the “High Society” camp. From the Royal camp, Marie-Victoria is the crown princess whose becomes engaged to Prince Leo, as part of a peace treaty. Her friend Aelwyn is the daughter of the empire’s head merlin. Aelwyn returns to the palace after four years of magic training. Prince Leo and his brother Wolf are princes from Prussia, and all four were childhood friends. From the High Society group, Ronan is the one who stands out for me. I was cheering for her all along and hoping things would turn well for her.
The setting is a mixture of modern day and the past. In this alternate world, magic is preferred over science and voyages still occur by ocean liner. Details about daily life are mentioned in passing, which is fine with me because I was more invested in the characters and how things were going to play out for them. If de la Cruz wanted me to ooh and awe over the world of The Ring and the Crown, I trust she would have spent much more space describing it and building it up. Instead, it worked for me that she focused on the characters. Besides, there will be plenty of time to build the world in the subsequent books in this series, and I’m hoping she’ll reveal more. I can’t wait.