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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.
Crown of Coral and Pearl is the debut novel by Mara Rutherford and is set in a fictional world where the Varenian people have to provide a future queen to the king to be from Ilara - a kingdom named after a fled princess who drowned there the Varenian built their village vowed to the oath to stay on the ocean until the kingdom is ruled by a female leader again who inherited the throne.
Main protagonist is Nor who together with her twin sister Zadie participates in the ceremony of becoming the chosen girl. But ever since Nor rescued her sister from drowning her face is wearing a little scar that makes her imperfect in the eyes of pretty much everyone in her village. Afte Zadie scars herself Nor is send to Ilara in her place to marry the future king and to also learn the truth about why the Varenians are kept down by the rulers of Ilara and how Nor could help end the struggle of her people. While trying to come through with her masquerade and keeping up with the fact that her betrothed Ceren is a cold and cruel person Nor falls more and more for Talin - the younger brother of her husband-to-be and her only danger of being exposed by court.
The story is told in the first person view from Nor who narrates through the whole thing and while the love story, the cruel fiancé and the secrets in Ilara aren't a new thing in a YA novel with a female protagonist who defies her destiny and tries to go her own way the setting, mythology and world building is beautifully set. The opposite of Varenia and Ilara with their ways of life and what they value most are some of the most important devices that drive the plot. Varenia is a beautiful place set out in the ocean and all the world building is put there with the pink pearls and the blood corals. Although the theme of the blood coral and its specialities are brought back up again in Ilara with the blood stones harvested in the mines before they were closed down and built into New Castle - the home of the Ilarean monarchy. The story itself needs a bit to speed up so the first third is set entirely on Varenia. Which is good because the seascape is far more beautiful and interesting compared to the life and surroundings Nor has to see in Ilara. And though the story is building up slowly and the odds of how Zadie is chosen only for Nor to replace her are a bit off the sisterly dynamics are lovely. The character of their mother as a woman driven by her own desires and pride gives Zadie and Nor many opportunities to show how much they care for each other even though Zadie's final actions are selfish she would do anything for Nor as Nor'd do anything for Zadie. The opposite of these two are Ceren and Talin whose relationship is more complicated but sadly not entirely covered in the story since only the things revealed to Nor are the ones known about their relationship.
Ceren as the villain is plain in his desires. Maybe if the story was told in another point of view so that the thoughts of Ceren would be presented as well it would have been possible to understand his intentions more clearly. Since the history of Ilara isn't presented as well the whole construction of problems in Ilara are narrowed down to Nor pretending to be her sister who has to marry Ceren while being in love with Talin and to find a way to save her people while also dealing with her homesickness. Without other insights the story is as plain as the villain who seems to have an interesting backstory which should have been explored more. Instead the focus is lying on his cruel actions in the present with hints of his past showing in some scenes where he can't contain himself to his neutral self.
All in all it is a lovely setting with good but not great or innovative characters with a foreseeable plot line and a rushed and overpacked ending which sets up the second book. It is well written and Varenia is beautiful and lovely and unique and nearly because of this place worth reading. But also the sisterly love of Zadie and Nor is a ver positive thing in this debut as well as the unraveling of the truth behind many things Varenia and Ilara held for the truth. Still many plot points are predictable and foreseeable and in some cases it is just easy to guess what will happen next. A fun but not outstanding book to read.
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?
Apesar de ser um ótimo livro, a sua aparência EXTERNA não é das melhores, não sei se ele veio assim pq comprei na pré-venda, por 20 reais,mas pela estética do livro eu nunca pagaria mais de 40 reais, por melhor que fosse a história.
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!