Foals, Fiction & Filigree
A well-deserved 4 stars
Reviewed in the United States on 22 September 2019
I received a copy of this book via the publisher, Inkyard Press, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! In no way does this affect my rating or review.
All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.
Content Warning: Torture, Death, Murder
It's such a wonderful thing when I come across a book like this. I could take several hours to fully unpack what all is represented in this pearl of a book in a mile-long review, but don't plan to do quite that. Still, prepare yourself for some gushing!
Okay. First and foremost, very few books are, in my opinion, completely flawless. I'll admit that there were a few things within Crown of Coral and Pearl that perhaps, could have been explored further, or told in a different way. The most important note is that there was nothing vitally wrong with this book. I'm a gal that loves detailed world building. While places like Varenia were more unpacked, others like the mainland of Ilara could have had more detail. I do love me a page-long description of the surroundings here and there, just to get my bearings. I'll also take a page-long description about a character and what they actually look like. It's a common flaw in Young Adult books today to leave out necessary details about how a character not only looks, but how they are perceived. While Crown of Coral and Pearl does a great job and discerning it's characters, I still don't have a clear and detailed painting of everyone in my mind, which to me, is a shame. I believe that the main character Nor, along with Zadie, are darker-skinned and introduce diverse casting. However, I didn't get a good enough picture to say that for certain--it was just my impression from what details were given.
Despite these flaws, and the plot moving a little slow at times, I really don't have much to complain about. The plot is compelling, the characters aren't lacking in acumen and complexity, and the problem isn't as simple as it may originally seem...
There are two topics, or themes, that are the driving force for the plot and it's direction. With the choosing ceremony that eligible Varenian girls must prepare for their entire lives, beauty is immediately highlighted as a necessity if one were to be "useful" to their family. In particular, Nor and Zadie's mother obsesses over her daughters and their beauty--to the point where a single, tiny blemish would bring a daughter to ruin. While Nor and Zadie are preened from a young age, Nor learns what it is like to lose the favor of her mother when an accident occurs, and Nor is scared for life.
"Nor and Zadie: coral and pearl. Both precious to our people, both beautiful enough to adorn the necks of queens. But whereas a pearl is prized for its luster, its shape, its lack of imperfections, coral is different. It grows twisted. In its natural form, it can hardly be considered beautiful at all."
Nor's insecurities are immediately made known to the reader. In reality, she obsesses over beauty and it's importance to her people. It is not for a vain reason, as she begins unpacking what exactly "beauty" means and the power that it possesses, and also doesn't possess. It is because of this slow revelation that Nor doesn't envy her sister Zadie. In fact, she recognizes the freedom that "flaws" allow her to have.
"...beauty was always on our minds, even then--I always felt defensive on Zadie's behalf. Because if I were prettier, it meant she was uglier, and a compliment at my sister's expense was no compliment at all."
Nor's redefining beauty brings her closer to her sister, and opens her eyes to what truly matters: her sisterhood with Zadie. This is the second, strongest theme throughout the plot. The bond between Nor and Zadie can be felt within each and every page. It is this factor that transforms this book from just being interesting, to having true meaning. Beauty has a certain charm, but it should never overrule a person, and who they are.
"I didn't want to hear about my beauty in relation to Zadie's, or anyone else's for that matter. I wanted to be seen for me."
When Zadie is chosen to be the next princess of Ilara by the Elders of Varenia, events that follow drastically change Nor's intended path. Due to an injury that leaves Zadie badly scarred, Nor is chosen to go in her place to marry Prince Ceren--whom she knows nothing about. Nor leaves the only place she has ever known, and becomes acquainted with the unpleasant king-in-waiting, and his compassionate step-brother, Prince Talin. As bits of Prince Ceren are revealed to the reader, it is hard to not be astounded by his character. I found Ceren to be incredibly interesting, as his actions were always calculated. Nothing was done without reason. He stands out to me because of his psychology, and the manic/depressive tendencies that he displays made for a very effective antagonist.
This may be a bit spoilery, but the synopsis says it right in it; I didn't mind that the romance between Nor and Prince Talin wasn't the main focus in this story. In fact, I welcomed the fact that it wasn't. I absolutely loved that the focus remained on the twins, Nor and Zadie, throughout the entire story--even when they are apart for a majority of it.Their love for one another, and Nor’s unwavering love for her people (even when they treated her so poorly), is constantly at the forefront, and really highlights how concrete Nor’s character is.
I think there are some really valuable, and beautiful lessons and representations throughout Crown of Coral and Pearl. I will highly suggest this read to any Young Adult reader, but keep in mind that there are some elements (listed in the beginning about some of the contents in this book) that may be upsetting for some.
Sexual content: Minimal with some kissing scenes.
Violence: Moderate including torture.
My Rating: ★★★★
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