Sunday, August 17, 2014

Of Rings and Crowns

I was wooed into reading this book by several skilfully deployed marketing factors.

The Ring and the Crown, by Melissa de la Cruz

1) Gorgeous cover.  Seriously, GORGEOUS.  Look at this cover.  I am drawn in by packaging, but usually for its hints, not for its sheer beauty.  Here, it's just lovely.  And the endpapers are marbled!  I had no idea I was such a sucker for things like marbled endpapers!

2) Ungettable galley.  It was on Netgalley, I requested it because the premise sounded great (an alternate early 20th century England, where magic is real and has allowed the British Empire to essentially conquer the Western world).  I was turned down for the galley--not too surprising, I'm a small-time blogger.  But it put the book on my radar much earlier than it otherwise would have been.

3) Tight blurb.  Besides the basic premise, the blurb teases some straightforward story possibilities: four women of different characters and fortunes come together during a fateful London season and determine the fate of the Empire.  Also: two girls, one who will be queen, the other her loyal servant.  And one is a traitor!  Which one is what?  Who now?  Between the back cover, the preface, the inside flap, some copywriter had convinced me that this was just my kind of book.

It is....not.

The titular Ring is the marriage ring, because this is the story of the London season and everyone trying to find love and/or someone to marry.  The Crown is just the crown you think it is--a princess and several princes are among the MUCH TOO LARGE cast of characters looking to mate.  These people are all 16, and they act like it.  They want love and money and whatever, and the princess wants to not be a princess but this other girl wants to be a princess, and arranged marriages and poor but beautiful girl looks for a sugar daddy and a prince has to break one engagement for another and and and. 

Not enough politics.  Some characters come on screen, have their little parts, and then wander off.  There's a diabolical plot at the end, and I think this one whole character only existed in the story so her cousin could look suspicious for about five minutes. It feels like the last 10 pages of the book contain the last 25% of the action as the characters summarize what happened since the second to last chapter.  And then everyone has a change of heart spontaneously and everything is okay the end.

People in this England, 1901 say things like "okay" a lot, and a lot of other modern slang that no one seems to have noticed in the editorial process (I am NOT going back to look for quotes, sorry).  Also, empires are GREAT, and thank god they are preserved, because otherwise ANARCHY.  The guy who's ruled with an iron fist for 1,000 years is totes the best guy for the job and has everyone's best interests at heart, even when he's blatantly manipulated and POISONING THEM.

But there are gay people just fitting in with society, so that's cool, I guess?  Honest to god, that alone is probably all that got the book the second star.

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