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Readers Advisory: The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

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Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 1423157427, April 2014

Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve? Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. But even with the aid of Emrys’ magic, Eleanor’s extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen’s Guard. Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie’s face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she’s always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she’s always dreamed of–the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor’s court: trust no one.

You know how we book-reading types will come across a heavily-populated book and say it’s so involved that we need a chart? Well…

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That’s my “keeping up with The Ring and the Crown” diagram, and it covers just the main characters. This alternate history/fantasy packs metric tons of romance, intrigue, and heartbreak into a single volume. Lest you think it’s all fluff, though, be warned: underneath the layers of fancy dresses, opulent parties, and pounding pulses lies a meditation on the meaning of duty. With so many royal characters, power struggles, and arranged marriages, only one thing is certain: There are no happily ever afters.

For the most part, de la Cruz’s newest is a juicy good time, but it does include some sexual assault and abuse at times. Readers expecting a fluffy princess tale need to look elsewhere.

Recommend to: Mature readers, fans of the author, fans of love triangles to the nth degree

To buy or not to buy: Strong choice for most public library YA areas.

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