Let me just start by saying I really really really wanted to like this book. It had so much going for it when I picked it up. The cover and title drew me in almost instantly. I mean come on that cover is gorgeous. The characters and the plot had so much potential but it just fell flat for me. Good thing is that I bought this book used so it was only half the price. So buckle up for this review folks. It is going to be a bumpy one.
The Ring & The Crown by Melissa de la Cruz follows the story of three young women, Marie, Aelwyn, Ronan, and Isabelle during the London Season in the 1800s. Marie is the princess who has found out she must marry the Prussian prince in order to ensure peace between the two empires. However, her heart belongs to another. Aelwyn is a sorceress who has just returned from Avalon where she has studied under her Aunt for several years. While she is happy to be back at the palace with her friend Marie she cannot help but harbor some resentment. Ronan is an American girl on her way to London for the first time. Tasked with marry a rich man to take care of her family’s financial issues she can’t help but be drawn to a man who is not what he seems. Isabelle was once the fiance to the Prussian prince but must end that engagement. She is not happy with it and decides to take back what is hers. As all of the girl’s paths begin to collide they are in store for something that could take down the whole empire.
Sounds like an awesome and empowering story about women and what they can achieve if they set their minds to it right? Wrong. There was so much about this book that got on my nerves and there will be spoilers in this review. Like spoilers everywhere. There is really no way for me to convey how frustrating this book was without spoilers. So this is your spoiler warning. In case the word spoiler was not in this paragraph enough times here it is again: SPOILERS BELOW.
The author was trying to write a period book that takes place in an alternate universe. A universe where magic exists and the British Empire was the only empire capable of controlling in. This lead to them being rulers of the world basically. The American Revolution failed because the British had magic. The British Empire took out France and wiped out any of the magic France had possessed. There were so many aspects to this universe that the author could have played out but didn’t. While, as an American, I was little butt hurt about the American Revolution part I was intrigued by this concept. Especially when it is revealed that during the war with the Prussian Empire the prince, Leopold, used Pandora’s box and surprised the British Empire who thought they had controlled all the magic. There was so much possibility for the author to expand on the magic aspect of the book but she didn’t. She kept it on the surface instead by telling you that Prince Leopold had Pandora’s box. Telling you that Aelwyn studied in Avalon. Mentioning the Merlin and the silent sisterhood. Since this stuff did not get fully explained or detailed in the book it took away from the story line.
Still going with the time period aspect the author did not stick to it very well. This book was supposed to take place in the 1800s and while the settings and outfits were all fitting the characters themselves did not fit that well. One character had said to another character “Nice digs!” when referencing a room. I am no expert but I don’t think that people spoke like that in the 1800s. Ronan had befriended two young men who turned out were gay. Now the author tried to explain this by saying that since magic governed everything nobody cared about the ways people carried out their personal lives (another magical aspect not fully explained) but I still find it hard to believe that it would be casual back then. It is not even causes now. Instead these two characters felt more like your sassy gay guys who stand on the sideline and make quirky commentary rather than important characters to the story line. While their characters did at some good humor to the books it did not feel fitting to the time period.
Okay….time for one of my biggest sticklers in a book: character development. These characters were so perfectly set up to just blow away female stereotypes #feminism and all that. They were just done so poorly. This book was only 372 pages and I say only because the author was trying to tell each of the four girls’ story in these 372 pages. They each had a great plot line and were set up to go through some great character development. It did not happen though. In the last 50 or so pages of the books the characters experience development at a break neck speed that I may have gotten whiplash. I wasn’t able to comprehend what exactly had happened that caused them to change. It was really disappointing that she had created these wonderful characters to only put a little effort towards developing them.
And don’t even get me started on their relationship development. Each girl was introduced in her own chapter. In each chapter you found out she was in love with someone or had to marry someone she didn’t want to. However, the next time her chapter came around she had moved on or had a change of heart about her relationship. There was one scene with Ronan and Wolf (Leopold’s younger brother) where they were playing strip billiards (also did this really happen in the 1800s) then the next paragraph starts with “Over the next few weeks their afternoons were spent like this” (probably not a direct quote but you get the idea) and they were making out all over the place. As the reader you only got to witness three conversations between Ronan and Wolf before they were making out and in love. It was the same way with almost every character. One conversation with a boy and next thing you know she has never loved him in the first place or she has always loved him. You were supposed to be rooting for these characters and their relationships but how can you get attached to a relationship that happens in the matter of one sentence. I want to be wooed along with the characters. Instead I found myself waiting for the big bad villain to come in and destroy everything.
About that big bad villain…spoiler warning one more time. This is where the major spoilers are located.
Another thing I am a big stickler for? Say it with me: a clean and well thought out ending. Surprise this book did not have that. A little back story on this book. Supposedly it was going to be a part of a series but the author decided not to publish the sequel (she has a bunch of other books out that she is getting more publicity for than this book) which means will there be a cliffhanger ending? No there will not be. Rest assured if you so choose you can read this book and have a closed ending. Except for all of your questions as to how that ending came to be.
Leopold is the villain who was really the son of the queen and sorcerer who was bent on destroying the British Empire. The whole marriage to Marie was a ploy to get into the castle so he could blow it up along with everyone in the castle. How is this explained in the book? Basically the exact way I explained above. Okay really it was in a couple of paragraphs but still for a plot twist that huge you do not have it told in a couple paragraphs by another character after Leopold has died. How did he die? In a duel with Isabelle’s cousin, Louis, who was trying to defend Isabelle’s honor. But wait there’s more. Aelwyn had used her magic, all power sorceress she is, to make sure the bullet killed Leopold. Leopold dies and is revealed to be not only the bastard son of the queen but also just a plain evil douchebag.
Onto Aelwyn and Marie’s story line. Marie wanted to run away with her guard so Aelwyn was going to use magic to be Marie and marry Leopold and run the kingdom. Just before Marie is to leave for America she realizes that there was a trap in the dungeon to blow up the castle and rushes back to save the day. While on her run there she realizes that as a queen her life is for her people and she has no say in her choices and she must serve the country. All of this occurs in a paragraph. But wait…there is more. Aelwyn’s dad, the Merlin, informs Aelwyn that they had set the marriage between Leopold and Marie knowing that Marie would ask Aelwyn to impersonate her this whole time because they knew Marie would return to rule with Aelwyn as her sorceress. But wait there’s still more. The Merlin had been poisoning Marie this whole time to test her strength so she was not really sickly her whole life-like she thought she was being poisoned. Because nothing builds character like poison. But wait there’s still more Aelwyn and Marie are sisters because the Merlin conceived Aelwyn with Marie’s mom because Queen Eleanor (like the real queen who existed) wanted two daughters: one to rule and one to serve. Sucks to be the one to serve right? This was all revealed in like a page. There were no hints the whole book as to any of this occurring until the author just flat-out said it at the end. This is not a good plot twist.
To speed things up a little Ronan, who was in love with Wolf, had to give him up because after his brother died he had to marry Marie. So instead Ronan just goes off to start her own hat shop in London and abandoned and family obligations. Isabelle was going to run off and marry Louis (another relationship that came out of thin air) but then Louis is murdered and Isabelle is taken back to her home where were older cousin, Hugh, says they are going to be wed because she is pregnant. If your response is “whaaaaat?!” don’t worry so was mine.
Seriously this author threw in so many twists in a matter of 50 pages that nothing made sense. It was like she had originally planned to make this book a series and then decided not to so she had to wrap everything up in the last 50 pages. It was so disappointing. Before it was just a book with bad character development but by the time I finished it, it became a book with bad character development and bad plot development. This book would have been better if she had given each girl their own individual book instead of cramming all four into one.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading her other books though. Obviously this was not her best book. She has written several others and I plan to read one of those before I decide if I like her writing or not. But if you have been looking at reading a book by her I would suggest reading a different one than this.