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I really enjoyed this book. I loved the word building and the characters. Nor and Zadie had such a strong sisterly bond that was lovely to read, when they were apart I felt my heart breaking for them. This story was immersive, I got completely lost in it and couldnt put this book down. In my opinion the ending wrapped up just a little too quickly. There were moments that were glossed over a bit, when I would have rather seen them play out. Overall this was a really unique and immersive story.
Like The Thirteenth Tale, this book gave an honest but mystical depiction of twins raised by narcissistic mothers and ineffectual fathers. As a twin myself, from a family where all the children come in pairs - pairs where one is loathed as much as the othr is loved- this book resonated with me. The story has none of Setterfield's intricate weaving of plots onto the lush fabric of Vida Winter's fantasy library. But it had the ocean, my own first love, and described the unrises and salt coarse skin so well I could taste the sea breeze on my lips. I am very much looking forward to the next book...but can it not be sooner released? Please?
Nor and Zadie are twins from the ocean village of Varenia, renowned for its lustrous pink pearls (said to have healing properties) and the beauty of its maidens. The sisters are identical except for a small scar on Nor’s cheek from the deadly blood coral that gives the pearls their color. While Nor dreams of leaving Varenia to explore the world, Zadie wants nothing more than to stay and marry her sweetheart.
Both their plans are destroyed when Zadie is chosen to marry Ceren, the cruel crown prince of the ruling kingdom of Ilara and must leave home forever. But when Zadie is injured, Nor is sent in her place to the far-away Ilaran castle, carved deep into a dark mountain. Posing as her sister, she must navigate palace intrigue, uncover the truth about Ceren’s plans for Verenia and struggle against her growing feelings for Ceren’s dashing half-brother Talin.
“Crown of Coral and Pearl” is a beautifully-written fantasy story centered around the bond between two twin sisters. The plot is a well-paced mix of intrigue, action, romance and drama and the world-building is lush and detailed. Both Varenia and Ilara are so well described they feel like they actually exist.
Nor is a heroine easy to root for as she fights for her sister, her homeland and her life. Her romance with Talin has just enough swoon-worthy elements but doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the plot. The magical elements, too, are quite subtle as it really is a story about the characters and their motivations. Ceren is an effective villain and more layered than he first appears, fighting for his kingdom and his own life even if his methods are pretty horrifying.
But this book at its heart is the story of two sisters and the lengths one will go to protect the other, which makes the story really stand out from others in the genre. The writing is rich and lyrical, and the book also contains a fairly pointed critique of beauty standards and the trope of ‘the most beautiful girl in the village’ which I really appreciated.
If you like books with great world-building, complex characters and a mix of intrigue and romance, I highly recommend reading “Crown of Coral and Pearl.” Now I just have to wait for the sequel!
Crown of Coral and Pearl is a beautiful and captivating story of sisterly love and what a sister will do to protect the people she loves. The world building is enthralling and unique, a truly well-developed fantasy world with many fantastical elements.
Over everything, what really grabbed my attention with this story were the characters. All the characters are uniquely their own and felt so real. The characters were the main reason I loved this story. Nor and her journey is what made this story possible and wholly original.
“You have the power to do anything and everything you dream of, more than any person I’ve ever known.”
The plot build up is perfect and each chapter provides just enough to keep your attention. Hints and secrets are dropped continuously throughout the book until you flip to the last page and read the last line, and until you start to piece everything together. Mara Rutherford did an excellent job orchestrating the plot and making sure too much detail was not released at one time.
“Your mother taught you to believe your scar made you ugly, but it has made your brave.”
Nor is brave and unconditionally human, which is what makes her character so believable. Her love for her sister and her capacity to sacrifice her life and dreams to protect her sister and village is remarkable and, in my opinion, is what made this story what it is. Even though more than half of the story is spent away from her sister, Nor never forgets what she is fighting for. She’s selfless and when she finally wants something, she still puts her sister and her village first. Throughout Crown of Coral and Pearl, Nor learns what it’s like to finally live and be her true self, and that growth is one of the reasons that made her character so unique.
Not only is the relationship between Nor and Zadie wonderful to read, but so is Nor’s blooming relationship with Talin. Nor’s engaged to Talin’s brother, Prince Ceren, who is cruel and cold and everything Talin is not. The chemistry between Nor and Prince Talin is undeniable and leaps off the page. The chapters where both characters interacted were some of my favorite – I love romance in fantasy books, especially the type of romance that feels alive and is genuinely realistic.
Actually, if I’m being honest, all of the people that interacted with Nor were believable and flowed well with the story. She’s unsure of what moving to Ilara will be like, so she spends most of her time navigating her surroundings and trying to figure out the secrets that people are hiding behind lies.
“You’re not afraid of anything, Nor. You never have been.”
Overall, Crown of Coral and Pearl is a story built on heart and sisterly love and one that is easily a favorite of mine for 2019. I was left in anticipation for the sequel, and I cannot wait to read the continuation of Nor’s story next year.
Nor and Zadie: coral and pearl. Both precious to our people, both beautiful enough to adorn the necks of queens. But whereas a pearl is prized for its luster, its shape, its lack of imperfections, coral is different. It grows twisted. In its natural form, it can hardly be considered beautiful at all." In the village of Varenia, girls are raised on the belief that beauty is power. For every so often, a Varenian girl will be chosen to be sent off to marry the Prince of Ilara and become the next Queen, the highest honor to receive in their small village. When Nor and Zadie are born, there is no doubt in anyones mind who will be chosen when the time comes. But a terrible accident leaves Nor with a scar on her cheek when she is young. No longer having a chance to be picked as the most beautiful girl in Varenia, Nor accepts her fate and watches as Zadie is groomed by their mother for the future that undoubtedly awaits her. So it comes as no surprise when the elders pick Zadie to go ashore. But Zadie does not want to go and when she suffers a grievious injury before she is set to sail to Ilara, Nor is sent in her place instead.
And so, Nor heads to Ilara to be wed to a man she has never met and rule a land she has never been to before. What starts out as excitement very quickly turns to dismay as Ilara proves to be nothing like what she expected. Growing up on the ocean, Nor is used to sunshine and openness and when she learns she will be living inside a mountain, she can't help but long to go home. "There is no hope for any of us, child. We are all trapped in this mountain like lobsters in a cage, waiting for our turn to die."
On top of that, she quickly finds out that the man she is to be wed to, is a horrid, cold man with many secrets and a beyond alarming obsession with the pearls her village harvests. Nor soon learns that there is much more going on than what her people have been lead to believe and that they are in danger.
Wow! There was just so much amazing-ness in this!😍 Nor and Zadies relationship was so beautiful! I'd say almost the first half of this book focuses on the relationship between the two and what it was like growing up in a place that values beauty above all else and I absolutely loved reading of their sisterly bond. The world building was excellent. I felt like I was right there with Nor the whole time as she navigated new lands and new people. There's tension! Twists and turns! Some romance(but not an overpowering romance)! Wonderful growth with our leading lady. A villian whom you want to like but then he goes and does awful things, and no why did he do that I almost thought I liked him! A shocking ending! Literally, I gasped when I read it. This was a beautifully written YA Fantasy and please give me the sequel now!😅
￼ *I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Two sisters, Nor and Zadie, are twins and best friends who live in a village where villagers reside in houses on stilts in the ocean. Their mother has planned and prepared for them to be valid princesses so the Elders can choose one of them for the prince’s wife when he’s ready to rule. Nor has a scar on her face caused by a scrape against a blood coral so the villagers assume that Zadie or Alys will be chosen by the Elders. Zadie and Nor have been best friends with Sami since they were young and now Zadie and Sami are in love, so Zadie doesn’t want to leave home. Nor has always wanted to explore the world beyond the village. When Zadie is chosen, she’s desperate to do anything to stay with Sami. After she acts on her desperation, Nor’s life is turned upside down. She travels to New Castle in the mountains far away from home so she can meet and marry the prince who turns out to be cold and unkind. Nor gathers some allies and vows to do everything she can to take care of her family, village and the kingdom she’s going to be the princess of someday. 5 stars for this fantasy involving sibling sacrifice and strength!