Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith introduced me to the magical realms of “YA Fantasy” way way back in 2002 when I was a sophomore in High School.
In a teacup, Crown Duel has old world magic, a strong independent heroine, adventure, court politics, and romance, all stirred up together to make an irresistible read.
Countess Meliara is royalty but you can’t tell by how she dresses or acts – she’s more comfortable in an old horse blanket and pants than she is in dresses and slippers – she has been running her family’s ancient estate single-highhandedly since both her Father and twin brother don’t really have the knack for account-keeping or literacy in general.
Meliara’s world is turned upside down when the evil King decides to break the magical rules for his own dark plan for the Kingdom; even on the outskirts of the Kingdom Mel’s small castle and the people living there feel the magical tide turning. Determined to make a change Meliara and her twin brother, Branaric decide to face the giant. It is most definitely a “David-against-Goliath” situation where allies are thin on the ground with Meliara’s rebels facing off against a better trained and expertly supplied royal army.
The King decides to squash the rebellion before the word travels to sympathetic lands; so he sends his ‘best’ General and men to kill all the country rebels. Unfortunately for him, the rebels know the land much better and lead the King’s men on a merry chase. Annoyed by the incompetence of his General he sends out a mysterious stranger to end the rebels once and for all.
The mysterious stranger’s appearance changes Meliara’s life forever, and not just on the battleground. (Wish I could say more…but you know…*spoilers*)
Politics of the battle ground and court life combine as Meliara tries to rescue her family’s legacy while protecting the family and friends she meets along the way.
The copy of Crown Duel I own has both Crown Duel and Court Duel. Crown Duel follows Meliara’s battle of survival as a captured Countess on the run from the evil King, his minions, and disturbingly handsome Viscount. In Court Duel Meliara deals with an even more important battle of survival as she tries to navigate the subtle language of the ‘court fan,’ and read the hidden meanings that are obscured behind smiling faces.
Infinitely rereadable for the epic adventure, the slow burn of “hate to love” romance (my favorite!), and a fierce heroine who is adorably awkward when it comes to dancing, flirting and sinister female machinations that are the norm in the royal court.