Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford! I really enjoyed this twist on the mermaid/sea-inspired YA fantasy, and I was lucky enough to join the tour to tell you about it! Let’s get to it.
“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.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford. Would it be the standard YA fantasy fare? Would it feel repetitive? But no, I enjoyed this new addition to the mermaid-inspired fantasy trend and if you enjoy this genre I think you will too.
The best thing about Crown of Coral and Pearl is that it is, at its core, a beautiful little novel in so many ways. The easy flow of the writing, the thought and detail in all the descriptions, and even in the culture of the people in this book. Beauty itself is a sort of theme in this book, one of the kingdoms in which it takes place even values beauty above all else, drawing fascinating questions about what kind of world that builds. This book was gorgeous, I felt like I could see and feel every luxurious detail, and I loved how this concept was woven into the story. Very smart.
Overall, the world-builing in general was a fascinating piece of this book. Each kingdom felt full and lived in, and the issues they faced felt real and layered in complexity. I especially found the politics and relationship between the two kingdoms to be so interesting and could have read a lot longer on these topics alone. I was swept up into this world so well and that is one of the things I appreciate most about reading.
Another thing Coral and Pearl does so well is in showcasing its tough, feminine, relatable main character, in Nor. I found all of the characters in this book interesting, but her most of all. Nor is clever, compassionate, driven, and a great female character. Most of all, I loved the incredibly close but surprisingly difficult relationship between Nor and her twin sister. Watching that relationship develop over the events of the book, in both victories and struggles, was an interesting dynamic considering how close their ties are. Even the villain of this story drew so much empathy and depth of feeling.
My only detractor is that the romance in this book didn’t quite work for me. Overall, it didn’t take away from the overall story but it just…didn’t need it? It seemed too quick and more like infatuation than anything else, so I struggled to root for this facet of the story as much as I did the others. Nor is such a strong character that it was frustrating to see her make certian choices for a romance that felt somewhat out of character. One of the central themes of this book is that beauty is more than just a physical state, its something deeper, and yet for the life of me I couldn’t see any other factor but physical attraction here haha. But hey, that’s valid too, I guess.
Overall, I enjoyed this. It could use a little polishing when it comes to the romance and maybe the ending, but it was a solid debut into the crowded field of YA fantasy novels right now. I am loving this sea-inspired trend, it’s hitting all my nostalgic Little Mermaid buttons, and this just fit right in. Crown of Coral and Pearl was well-paced, interesting all the way through, and set on a great premise. Would definitely recommend.
Keep an eye out for this one in stores on August 27th!
Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world, from Russia to Peru, along with her Marine-turned-diplomat husband and two sons. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Studies from the University of London and would rather study the folklore of her next post than the language (which she has found is a lot more fun but not nearly as useful). She is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor. Her debut YA fantasy, CORAL AND PEARL, will release from Harlequin Teen in Fall 2019.
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