Series: The Ring and the Crown #1
Date Published: April 1st 2014
Genres: 19th Century, Action & Adventure, Alternate History, Europe, Fantasy & Magic, General, Historical Fiction, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 23 minutes
Audiobook Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Description: Magic is power, and power is magic... Once they were inseparable, just two little girls playing games in a formidable castle. Now Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the mightiest empire in the world, and Aelwyn Myrddyn, a bastard mage, face vastly different futures. Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second. With the help of her Merlin, Eleanor has maintained a stranglehold on the world's only source of magic. While the enchanters faithfully serve the crown, the sun will never set on the Franco-British Empire. As the annual London Season begins, the great and noble families across the globe flaunt their wealth and magic at parties, teas, and, of course, the lavish Bal du Drap d'Or, the Ball of the Gold Cloth. But the talk of the season is Ronan Astor, a social-climbing American with only her dazzling beauty to recommend her. Ronan is determined to make a good match to save her family's position. But when she falls for a handsome rogue on the voyage over, her lofty plans are imperiled by her desires. Meanwhile, Isabelle of Orleans, daughter of the displaced French royal family, finds herself cast aside by Leopold, heir to the Prussian crown, in favor of a political marriage to Marie-Victoria. Isabelle arrives in the city bent on reclaiming what is hers. But Marie doesn't even want Leopold-she has lost her heart to a boy the future queen would never be allowed to marry. When Marie comes to Aelwyn, desperate to escape a life without love, the girls form a perilous plan that endangers not only the entire kingdom but the fate of the monarchy.
I picked up The Ring and the Crown as a free audio download from Audio Sync over the summer. And I really didn’t read the description first. Or if I did, I didn’t remember reading it when I decided to start listening to the audio book. And I had some serious misconceptions about Melissa de la Cruz’s books. I thought that she paranormal/urban fantasy books. Don’t get me wrong, I like paranormal/urban fantasy. And that’s what I was expecting in The Ring and the Crown. But that is not what I received. I was satisfyingly surprised to learn that The Ring and the Crown was Alternative History. With some court intrigue, magic, and clever romance thrown into the mix. Yes, there are a lot of characters. And a lot of plot. But don’t be intimidated.
The characters: Princess Marie-Victoria is the sickly heir to the throne, who has been told that she will marry Leo, the Franco-Prussia Prince. But who is secretly in love with her guard Gil. Prince Leo is, regretfully, already engaged to Isabelle of France. Leo feels no remorse, however, in breaking this engagement for a chance at the British crown. Aelwyn is the daughter of the current Head Merlin. She’s been off in Avalon training to be the next Merlin. Aelwyn has secretly had a crush on Leo since they were children. Leo’s brother, Wolfgang, meets Ronan Astor while travelling between New York and London. Ronan is tasked with finding a rich husband to restore the family fortune. She doesn’t realize Wolf is a prince when they meet. The two flirt and get to know one another throughout the voyage, including playing strip billiards. And fall in love But once they arrive in London, Ronan needs to start looking for a suitable husband, not realizing that she could have had one in Wolf.
I found this useful chart on Goodreads. Maybe it will help clarify the characters. Or not. There are a lot of characters.
I’m not even going to attempt to summarize the plot. Let’s just say that there is court intrigue, a masquerade ball, a duel, regrets, allegiances, and more. I really wasn’t sure where the plot was going through most of the book. But Ms. de la Cruz wrapped up the story lines in the end. I was rather impressed that all of the different plot lines were so organized and inter-connected. I was engrossed by the end of the book to learn how all the plot lines concluded.
The audio for The Ring and the Crown was well-produced. The narrator did an excellent job with all of the different voices. I always appreciate when each of the characters had a distinct voice.
Come for all of the characters. Stay for the alternate history. Don’t you want to know what happens when the British squash the American rebellion? Or when the Prussians use Pandora’s box to broker an end to that war? I know I did.
I really like The Ring and The crown. And I’m excited for the upcoming release second book in the series. Read this if you are interested in court politics. Or magic. Or good characters.