For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…
Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.
Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.
In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.
Tamora Pierce probably saved me in middle school. I had just switched schools, didn’t have any friends, and spent most of my time hiding in the library…where I found her Circle of Magic series. Wouldn’t you know it, it was about four friends, and it largely inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and try to make friends in my new school.
Nearly seventeen years later, one of those people is still my closest friend today, and I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.
But enough with all the mush! All I wanted to say is that any endorsement by Tamora Pierce is worthy of a read.
And Crown of Coral and Pearl didn’t disappoint.
I loved the themes of beauty and responsibility threaded throughout the novel. How beauty can be viewed as a curse or a blessing, how the way we regard it and wield it reveals the true mettle of a person. And I especially loved the war between responsibility and desire: following your heart or the expectations of the people you love. Nor’s struggles did a wonderful job of exploring those concepts, making it such an engaging read.
The setting, and the lore of the world, also did a fantastic job in selling me on this book. There was a deep history steeped in myth and legends which influenced the traditions our characters were forced to adhere to (going back to that whole responsibility theme). I loved how magically Varenia was portrayed, how I could almost feel the warmth of the sunlight on my skin and smell the saltwater just from reading the passages. Similarly, I loved the dark beauty found in Ilara. And how both were beautiful, despite their differences.
As for the characters…oddly enough, Ceren was my favorite. He seemed the most complex, with his motivations the most compelling, and his struggles the most gripping. By comparison, the other characters felt lackluster and too expected (especially Talin, whose only job seemed to be to stand there and look pretty). Still though, I enjoyed getting to see their story unfold, and I did feel for Nor’s plight (sibling problems always get me in the feels).
The pacing of the story was a bit odd, with the beginning like the slow, lazy days you spend at the beach, the later chapters in Ilara beating to a more stringent rhythm, and the ending rushed. Like very rushed. Like we reached the end and Rutherford realized she needed to wrap it up fast. It left so much open to another book, which I realize was probably the intention, but I would have enjoyed a more drawn out ending. Some threads of the narrative were given that satisfactory conclusion, while others were ended abruptly, which was a disappointment because I genuinely loved the threads that didn’t get the attention I thought they deserved. Overall, I’d rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars.