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I don't review books I don't like!
*****= An all-time favorite
by Sherwood Smith
Reviewed May 25, 2004.
Firebird (Penguin Putnam), New York, 2002. First published as two books: Crown Duel, 1997, and Court Duel, 1998. 471 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, Favorite Book of the Year
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2009, Wonderful Rereads
I love this book! I started it on a train ride to Bremen, but had to stop in the middle. Then I tried to read just a chapter or two more before I went to sleep and ended up reading into the wee hours of the morning. When I finished the book on the train ride home, I found myself reading back over the best bits, and not shaking it out of my mind all day. It had me completely under its spell.
I bought Crown Duel when I was in America at Christmas time, because the story by Sherwood Smith was one of my favorites in the Firebirds anthology. This book comes before that story and tells the full intriguing history that the short story hinted at.
Meliara and her brother Branaric become Count and Countess of Tlanth when their father dies, but she’s always run wild, riding and sword fighting and visiting the Hill Folk. Their father makes them promise to try to overthrow the wicked King Galdran, sure that other nobles with oppressed people will come to their aid. They are of royal blood, through their mother, who was killed by Galdran’s order.
The two send a letter to Galdran’s court. But instead of getting allies among the other nobles, they find a force sent against them. At first, they do well against the king’s cousin. Then another commander comes into the battle, and things don’t go as well. As the others have broken the Code of War by using arrows, Branaric decides to set traps. When Meliara walks into a trap, she gets taken captive by the other side, and it looks like all their hopes are for nothing. But things get much more complicated than that.
I loved this book. It has adventure and suspense, but my favorite part is the exquisitely written romance. I knew early on who she would end up being in love with, and kept reading thinking that she would figure it out in the next chapter. Still, the author doesn’t make us think of Meliara as stupid, just blinded by circumstances. We can see her love growing, even when she doesn’t. This all makes it even more fun to read a second time. It reminded me strongly of The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley, another book full of adventure, with a feisty heroine falling slowly, delightfully, in love. Beautiful and satisfying.
Reviews of other books by Sherwood Smith:
A Stranger to Command
The Spy Princess
Once a Princess
Twice a Prince
The Trouble with Kings
Coronets and Steel
Wren to the Rescue
Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund. All