by Sherwood Smith
Start Date: 2 July 2011
End Date: 9 July 2011
Paperback, 471 pages
Published June 10th 2002 (first published in 1997)
Summary (from the back of the book, because I don't like the one Goodreads gives):
Battle on and off the field, with sword and fan, with might and manners...
It begins in a cold and shabby tower room, where young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, a war that threatens the homes and lives of the very people they are trying to protect.
But the war is simple compared to what follows, when the bloody fighting is done and a fragile peace is at hand. Although she wants to turn her back on politics and the crown, Meliara is summoned to the royal palace. There, she soon discovers, friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms. If she is to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting - with wit and words and secret alliances. In war, at least, she knew whom she could trust. Now she can trust no one...
Crown Duel is a combination of two books about the countess Meliara, Crown Duel and Court Duel. No part of it really grabbed me, but I generally liked the second half (Court Duel) better than the first. In the first half, the best part of the story was Mel's character, which I liked a lot, but I didn't necessarily care too much about everything going on. In the second half, I was much more interested in the story. This may be due in part to letters from a certain "unknown" suitor, who is obviously a certain character, although Mel can't seem to figure it out. I actually giggled at some parts, so pleased with how the pen-romance was going.
Overall, however, although I enjoyed Crown Duel, I don't feel strongly negative or positive toward it. I liked it, but there was nothing absolutely amazing. I'd be really interested to hear other people's opinions - I get the feeling that this is a book I will like better after I have a little while to forget I felt so neutral toward it and just remembered the good parts, and discussing the book always helps that process along.
One of my favorite parts of reading this book was being able to look at the cover every time I picked it up. At first glance, it seems like nothing special - just a girl with a sword - but for some reason I really like it. The scene on the cover is from no specific part in the book, but it captures Mel so well. With her black eye, the dirt on her cheek, and the scratches on her hand, she's obviously just been fighting, but whether she won or lost (I like to think she won), she's ready to challenge you again. Plus I like girls with swords anyway.