(Website, Twitter, Goodreads)Published by Harlequin on August 27th 2019
Genres: Epic, Family, Fantasy, Royalty, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Siblings, Social Themes, Young Adult Fiction
For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…
Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.
Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.
In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.
I’ve had Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford on my to read shelf for a while so when I was able to get at copy while at ALA this year, I had to bump it up on my reading schedule.
The main character is Nor and she has grown up in the ocean village of Varenia so she’s been surrounded by water her whole life. Her village is struggling to get by because of the limits they have on trade as well as the fact that the pearls they hunt and sell to survive are becoming more and more scarce. The only way villagers have to become more is to have a daughter chosen to go to Ilara. For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful girl in their village and because Nor was injured and scarred years before, she knows her chance is gone. Luckily for her family, Nor has a twin named Zadie.
As the time comes for a girl to be chosen, the inevitable happens and Zadie is chosen. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to leave. She’s in love with Sami (the Governor’s son) and she’s happy in their village. When Zadie does something drastic to stay, she puts Nor in a bad position and ultimately pushes the leaders of the village to send Nor in her stead. I get that she wanted to make her own choice but she basically removes any choices Nor has and even puts her life in danger so she comes across as selfish.
I’ll start with Nor’s family relationships. The relationship between Nor and Zadie was interesting. Nor is very clearly willing to do anything to keep her sister safe. I didn’t love the way Zadie forced Nor into the situation she was in and then ultimately did nothing to sway the leaders of their village that Nor was not guilty of what they were accusing her of. Don’t even get me started on their mother. I disliked her almost immediately and the fact that she made Nor feel like she wasn’t beautiful because of a scar only made her worse in my mind. Nor’s relationship with her father was solid and I loved that he saw through everything.
As Nor is sent off to marry the prince under the guise of being Zadie, she realizes she might be in over her head at court. Not only is her betrothed, Prince Ceren, cold and someone who makes her uncomfortable, she finds out that the emissary sent by the prince was actually his brother, Prince Talin and she is drawn to him in a way she knows she should not be. It was interesting to see Nor try to navigate the politics of court as well as balance Ceren’s weird moods. Where she can, she attempts to bargain with Prince Ceren for the safety of her family and her people, but it doesn’t always work out as she planned.
While Nor’s relationship with Talin strengthens, she puts herself in a risky place with Prince Ceren and things come to a head when he finds out what she can do because of her childhood accident. Ceren immediately looks for a way to use her ability to give him more strength and power and when he finds what he wants, he delivers an ultimatum.
Overall, I thought this was a good book. I do want to mention that the world building is really well done. From the ocean village to the castle fortress, I was able to picture how the world came together. On top of that, the story kept me interested and the characters were well-developed. While I would have liked to see more development in the relationship between Nor and Talin, I thought Ceren was a great villain. I would have liked to learn more about what was going on with Zadie as well, but knowing that this was Nor’s story, I see why we only got a glimpse of it via Sami.
If you’re looking for a YA fantasy that has an interesting twist, consider checking this one out. I enjoyed it and will be looking for more from Mara Rutherford in the future.
Thank you to the publisher for the copy in exchange for an honest review.