Crown of Coral and Pearl

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

In the ocean city of Varenia law dictates that whichever girl the council of elders decides is the most perfect, the most beautiful, will move to the city of Ilara and marry the prince. This has been the tradition of the Varenian people for as long as they can remember. It is considered an honor to be chosen, or at least that is how you are expected to feel. In exchange for the beautiful bride the Ilarans will continue to trade with Varenia, buy their pearls, and keep the drinking water available to the community. The Varenians survival hinges upon this arrangement. Never are the Verenians allowed to travel on land and so they are at the mercy of the Ilarans.

Zadie and Nor are beautiful twins and the most likely to be chosen to marry the prince. Until Nor sustains an injury that leaves a scar upon her cheek and leaves Zadie to be the chosen one. But then the unthinkable happens and Zadie is gravely injured and Nor must go to Ilara in her place. Nor has always dreamed of traveling to land and discovering the world so this seems like it could be a dream come true for her until she learns the price that must be paid to be chosen for royalty. Prince Ceren, her betrothed, ends up being a cruel man who lives in a castle carved into a mountain where there is no sunlight or warmth. As Nor becomes close to Prince Ceren's brother, Prince Talin, she begins to learn unbearable truths about her people and the maidens that were chosen before her. She also realizes that her family and all the other Varenians could be in grave danger and she is the only one who can help them.

The premise of an ocean city is what originally drew my attention to this book. The city is not below the ocean, but above. Houses are built on stilts and traveling from place to place requires a boat or you must swim. This turned out to be the most interesting part of this story. The plot is heavily reliant on the beauty trope for the first half of the book. At least for girls who have a chance at being chosen to marry a prince. The family of that girl is in turn heavily rewarded and would not have to worry about starving or the fact that they are able to find less and less pearls to trade to Ilara or less fish to feed to their family. In this case Nor and Zadie's mother is completely obsessed with keeping Zadie absolutely perfect. She must not sustain an injury or have a scar of any kind. She must be perfect. Which is why it made no sense to me that she was allowed to go diving in dangerous places and continuously put herself at risk.

Nor and Zadie are extremely close. Nor has accepted that she will never go to Ilara and instead dedicates her life to protecting her sister and diving for pearls to feed their family. Zadie is the more demure of the two as she has been constantly practicing to be a queen since she was old enough to talk. She seems very willing to do her duty and leave Varenia forever no matter how much she'll miss her family. That's why Nor is shocked when Zadie requests the impossible from her. But Nor cannot refuse her beloved sister anything and the events that follow leave Nor going to Ilara in Zadie's place. I did enjoy the portrayal of sisterhood. The two sisters really loved and cared for one another and Nor grieved the loss of Zadie pretty hard. 

Unfortunately there are parts of this book I found lacking. Once in Ilara Nor uncovers many truths about both Ilara and Varenia. The conflicts during this second half of the book were simply not convincing. I felt the problems could have easily been fixed with much simpler solutions than putting an entire community of people at risk. There was one scene in particular where Nor could have made a very simple and easy decision that would have in turn saved both the Ilarans and Varenians in one fell swoop... and she just didn't. It went against her morals. I found this to be extremely annoying. It just didn't add up. 

As for the courtier life and relationships that Nor built once in Ilara, I found that part of the book to be very bland. Not much happens at all until the end of the book when a large plot twist is revealed. The plot twist was probably my favorite aspect of the book and the only part of the story that made me even slightly compelled to read the next book. The building romance left me feeling nothing at all. I didn't care about it. I felt it had potential when we were first introduced to the character but then it just fell flat. I'd say that the book would do fine without it but so much of what happens next will be reliant on that relationship. I especially wish it had been a more interesting element since it's so necessary to the story. 

The book was definitely written well and I liked the main character and her gumption but the other characters were not fleshed out well enough and in turn did not inspire me to care about them at all. The story didn't have enough intrigue to make it shine among a million other books just like it in the YA fantasy genre, either. Even though some of the aspects were definitely unique and not something I had seen before, the bare bones of the story were just like so many others before it. I do think this book offers a sense of adventure for someone who's looking for that in a book. It's also pretty easy reading. Between these things and the strong main character I think this book could definitely appeal to some people, it's just not the book for me.
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I was given this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I really enjoyed this book. The plot kept me intrigued and guessing at every turn. I feel in love with the characters and the world building was great. Definitely a good quick read
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In a time when fantasy YA novels are a dime a dozen, it was nice to find one that actually kept me interested and engaged in the story. It had a few elements that were easy to see coming, but for the most part, it was a fairly fresh story. Strong characters, interesting settings, some good world building. I'll be sure to pick up the next in the series.
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I received a copy of this book for a fair and honest review.  I have a twin sister so this book pulled me in and held on to my heart and soul as each chapter went on. The world is wonderful depicted and shown as if you were right there walking along side the characters in this journey. There is a hint of romance and adventure. It made my heart hurt at times. I want more and more from this debut author.
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This book started a little slow for me, and I found the plot to be fairly predictable. The book opens with two twin sisters who are both beautiful, but Zadie doesn't have a scar on her cheek and is therefore more likely to be chosen to be the prince's bride. But it's Nor who actually wants to go, while Zadie wants to stay and marry her childhood best friend. I'm not sure why the book spends 30% of its time getting us to the obvious events that are going to lead Nor to actually going in Zadie's place. Once Nor leaves her home, things are fairly predictable through to the end of the story. 
I felt that I could see the messages the author was trying to instill about beauty and power, but the execution fumbled for me on that front. 
All this to say, I still found the book an enjoyable read and I think students who are fans of The Selection and Throne of Glass will also find this book to be enjoyable if they can stick with it long enough for anything to happen.
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This book had a really promising start. I was instantly gripped by the exposition and the introduction of an intriguing setting and an interesting set of characters. However, by the time I was about 30% through the book, at a point where the plot hadn't really started picking up, my interest in the book declined. I managed to get through it all, and the ending definitely had a more satisfying amount of action, but the book as a whole was just meh.
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I wanted to finish this book before the end of the month, and I really think I wouldn't. But what I didn't know was how many twists and turns the story held! My mouth flew open a couple of times, I have to admit that I didn't fight sleep at all while reading the book!! I honestly don't remember the last time I stayed up this late reading a book😅 I loved how Mara Rutherford described this world, and how the characters were developed to guide you on who to like and dislike. I can't wait to see what adventures will be in book 2!

Thank you so much to Harlequin Teen for the e-copy of this book through NetGalley! Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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"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…"

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this world that Rutherford created. While there wasn't much world building, what you do learn about it was interesting. This book is a fun and easy to get in ya fantasy story. Despite it not doing anything original. I found myself invested in the story from the very first chapter and I finished it in two days. However where this story went wrong for me was the romance. In my opinion it was not needed and they fell in love WAY too quickly. I think it would have been more powerful if our main character was able to find her confidence and strength without the help of the love interest. The story would have been more impactful that way. Since this is the start of a series I would have liked to see the love grow and build throughout the series instead of being within the first half of the book. The romance took up so much time that they main story took a back seat and I think this was a determent to the story. Overall, I did enjoy it and I will keep going to the series but I am disappointed.
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Reading Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford it is hard to believe that this is her debut novel. Her talent for creating and describing a new and unique world with equally new and unique characters would make even the most seasoned author proud.

While I enjoyed the lush descriptions of the world the characters live in, it is the interaction between the characters themselves that really drew me in. The relationship of the two twins, Nor and Zadie, is especially well done. They may be identical in looks but they are two completely different people, something that Rutherford does an excellent job in pointing out without being overtly obvious. Reading the way these two sisters get along is very true to life and something any one with a sibling who is close in age can relate to.

The second half of the book – when Nor leaves for Ilara – did not quite grab me in the same way that the first half did. The settings were just as lushly described but there wasn’t the same connection felt. I did like the introduction of characters that roused both sympathy and distaste as well as the beginnings of what secrets the royal family might hold. The instant connection/love between Nor and Talin was a bit off-putting as was the love triangle that seemed to develop between Ceren, Talin, and Nor. There were also a few scenes that made me roll my eyes in their ridiculousness. I will not go in to them for fear of spoilers but I believe many readers will recognize the scenes when they come across them.

Overall, I quite liked reading Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford. Readers who enjoy fantasy and/or romance, whether YA or not, will do well to give this one a try. I personally am looking forward to the sequel – Kingdom of Sea and Stone.
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Interesting premise of sending the most beautiful girl from one village to marry the prince of another village however, it made the story a little hard to buy into; no one ever questioned how the girls were doing? I liked the portrayal of the sister/twin bond and that Nor had strength of character. I was a little unsatisfied with open ending.
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My favorite thing about this book was the sister dynamic. The rest of it was okay. the world building was good. Nor was interesting although I wasn't as interested after she leaves her home in her sister's place. Also I didn't love the romance.
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Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford is the first book in the new young adult fantasy series by the same name. Seeing as I can be a bit hit or miss when it comes to fantasy series I was actually pleasantly surprised when reading this one by just how much I enjoyed it.

The story begins by building the world in which twins sisters Nor and Zadie have been born and raised. The ocean village of Varenia is a poor one in that is controlled by the royalty in Ilara and in which every member of a family is expected to work to survive. Once a generation however the most beautiful of the village females is chosen to travel to Ilara to marry the prince.

Nor and Zadie as twins were both born beautiful and were considered contenders to be chosen  to become the next princess until one day Nor was injured saving her sister leaving a scar upon her cheek. After that Zadie was raised to eventually leave the village but when  the time came Zadie was unable to be chosen so Nor ends up in her place.

I would almost like to warn anyone interested in this to not read the whole blurb since it gives away a lot of what is to come. However, not to worry though there will still be plenty to come and one may be warned to watch out for a bit of a triangle and insta-love in case those are bothersome. I actually quite liked Nor and in turn rooted her on in her relationship with Talin so after the end I’ll look forward to rejoining them and the others in the next book and would give this opener 4 1/2 stars.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
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Every twenty or so years, the most beautiful Varenian woman is chosen by the elders to marry the prince of Ilara. Everyone thought it would be Nor until an accident happens and she is permanently scarred. Now her sister Zadie is chosen, and she prepares to leave her family and her love for a foreign land. When another unfortunate incident occurs, Nor takes her sister’s place in spite of the disapproval of many Varenian citizens. When she gets to Ilara, she discovers that all is not as it seems, and the prince she is supposed to marry is cold and cruel. Nor is drawn into a complicated and treacherous web of lies and evil motives, and she must find a way to save her beautiful island nation before it is too late.

I enjoyed this fascinating and unique book. The writing was descriptive, realistic, and well done to the point where I could almost see the events unfolding before my eyes. I could feel the sun, water, darkness, and cold seeping into my skin as I read the story because the setting and atmosphere came alive for me. Nor was courageous, and the prince’s brother was so kind and helpful to Nor. I couldn’t stop reading because the plot was intense, even though it was a little complicated. I don’t want to give anything away, but the ending was a little bit of a cliffhanger. The author has created a world that I would love to return to, and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. A positive review was not required, and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
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Fans of "Three Dark Crowns" will enjoy this story of strong-willed Nor as her dreams of seeing the world transform into a desperate desire to save her people.  A binge-readable story of one young woman's journey, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Certain elements came over as fairly predictable, but the ending is cloaked in enough uncertainty to make make want to read the next installment. A strong female-protagonist with a love story that wasn't the focus was pleasing as well.
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I was initially attracted to the beautiful cover of this book and while I did enjoy the story and ideas, I wished for a little more. I felt the romance story could have been a little more developed as it felt a little too "insta-love" for me and while I think some of the message was supposed to be in part about how beauty is more that just physical and skin deep its hard to really accept that when everyone is so physically beautiful and that is mostly why they fell in love. Overall, the book was ok, I don't regret reading it but I didn't find it especially memorable.
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I have tried multiple times to get into this book but cannot seem to make it happen. I think it just didn't stand out enough to me, and I struggled with the writing. So I'm sorry to say that it is a DNF for me. I am only rating it because the form makes me do so.
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I received an advanced digital copy of this book from the author, Harlequin Teen Inkyard Press and Thanks to all for the opportunity to read and review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Teenage girls are going to be all about this new series. There's thrills, romance, a strong female character, mystery and intrigue! Themes of staying true to yourself and your beliefs and beauty is more than the surface packaging are perfect for teen and tween readers.

4 out of 5 stars. A good read.
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The people of Varenia live a unique life in stilt houses built from shipwrecks on shoals above the sea. They value family, honour, and beauty amongst all else, and whoever their ruling nation of Ilara has a crown prince come of age the Varenians offer their most beautiful daughter as the future queen.

But this idyllic life is not as simple as it seems. The oceans have been overfished and the oysters, which produce the coveted Varenian pink pearls that support this community, have been grossly over harvested. Both food and funds are in short supply, and this isolated community is regularly cut off from fresh water and essential supplies at the slightest whim on the Varenian King.

So when the chosen bride Zadie harms herself to avoid being sent to Ilara as future queen, it falls to her twin sister Nor to take her place. But instead of being a pliant and pleasing bride Nor has other plans in mind such as advocating for her people, clandestine meetings with Governors sons, and a touch of ill-conceived spying within the castle. And to make matters even more complicated, Nor has to do everything in her power to conceal the truth behind Varenian health, long life, and healing abilities of her people lest it be exploited the ailing Ilarians. And all the while she is exploring the source of her own powers and their apparent connection to an accident involving deadly blood coral when she was just a child. Can we say drama?

But things go awry when the Crown Prince Ceren proves to be a cruel and calculating ruler, more focused on pursuits of vanity and tormenting his subjects than than improving the standing of his people – despite an impending war. Nor must learn to tread carefully in his presence, and fast, for if it’s discovered that she replaced her sister Zadie she is sure to meet a fate worse than rejection. And here’s the trump card my friends, Nor finds herself dangerously attracted to Ceren’s half brother Prince Talin. Because who doesn’t love a good romantic battle between brothers who represent good and evil?

It is a bad thing to say that what i loved most about this book was that nor was like like a fish out of water? She doesn’t fit into court life, she’s too impetuous to make for a very good lady, and she never takes the easy way out – even when huge personal benefit stands in the balance. She adheres strongly to her Varenian morals, saving the lives of even those who would hurt her and offering kindness to all when cruelty serves as currency within the Ilaran castle. She is brave, and at times incredibly foolish, but those moments in which Nor took those ridiculous risks were among my absolute favourites.

The brothers too, were extremely interesting. They were perfect foils for one another as well as for the relationship between Nor and Zadie. Where the sisters represented love and loyalty, the brothers emanate complicated toxicity. While the brother’s certainly added different elements to the narrative, with Ceren bringing in fear and tension while Talin offered romance and longing, they never pull too much attention away from Nor and her objectives.

It was interesting to see the types, and degrees of prominence, of the roles assigned to parents in this book. Zadie & Nor’s parents took on a dynamic similar to that of Mr. & Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, with a doting and on-confrontational father and a mother determined to see her daughters wed advantageously. Both the Governor and the King are particularly absent in their parenting duties, and overall presence, though they are much talked and thought about by their children. And we even have a does of the manipulating stepmother waiting to make a play. And while I really enjoyed what they brought to the story, I really would have liked to see all of the adult characters developed into roles beyond mealtimes and deathbeds. Don’t get me wrong, the focus stays on Nor where it firmly belongs, I just wanted a little more. But, with a book two on the horizon, and so much fantastic world building already under way, I have no doubt that this particular scenario is about the change.

Filled with strong characters, tantalizing events, some super steamy romance, as well as distinct peoples and places A Crown of Coral and Pearl transports you into a world that is entirely it’s own. Rutherford’s writing is deep and imaginative, and her debut lays a solid foundation for what is sure to be an exciting series. I can’t wait to see what twists come next in the Ilarian fight for succession, in Zadie & Nor’s fight to save their homeland and loved ones, and whether or not everyone will make it out the other side of what appears to be an impending civil war. Oh, and I REALLY need to know more about Nor’s strength and power, the properties of the blood coral, and those damnable pink pearls! Way to leave off on a cliffhanger, because now I’m into this series hook, line, and sinker.
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Opening line:
"Sometimes I wonder if it was our names that determined our fates, or the other way around." 

Nor and Zadie: coral and pearl. The twin sisters who live in a world of water. Nor would like to live on land and see and smell and eat all the exciting things her dull world lacks. But once she is on land, she realizes her mistake. 
Does this sound familiar? I was reminded of The Little Mermaid throughout the first half of the book. I wondered if Nor would have to give up her voice to the sea witch, but there is no sea witch here. Nor does give up family and home to marry a prince, but he is not the kind prince his brother is, who Nor met before leaving her home. 
Nor also finds out there are numerous plots against her home, which could kill everyone she loves and she has to figure out how to get out of the clutches of a maniac in order to rescue her family. 
I felt the pace of the first few chapters of the book were slow due to world building, and it drove me crazy because I wanted to dive right in to the story. But then the pace picked up and the tension rose and there was a kiss or two, and a sea monster, and lethal coral and I was hooked and finished the book in a day. 
I would read the next book! Please say it's almost ready to read?!
Thanks to netgalley for the early read!
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*I received a free copy of this ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Every once in a while, I'll get a NetGalley book that I really like. This book wasn't exactly what I expected (and having read it, I'm no longer sure what I expected), but it was very good. It wouldn't have taken me two weeks to read if I hadn't had so much other stuff going on during these past two weeks! Going into it, I thought it was a standalone book. It wasn't until about 85% that I realized it was the first in a series. To be honest, I have mixed feelings. Having expected it to be completed within the one book, I'm both disappointed that it's not finished and excited that I get to read another book. Next year.

I really liked Nor--she was strong, stubborn, loving, loyal, somehow both selfish and selfless at the same time. I confess that I wasn't Zadie's biggest fan. I can't quite figure out what about her bothered me, but perhaps I couldn't quite view her sacrifice as selfless. No, it was more because I felt like she was painting it in that light so that it wouldn't be seen as selfish. Yet I'm not sure she meant to be selfish; maybe that's what bothered me.

The characters were well written, complex in a way that made it impossible for me to completely dislike the characters that I probably should. Kind of like Kylo Ren, I suppose. I know he's some kind of evil, but I also kind of want him to redeem himself. (But really, how could he?) That's how I feel about Ceren, for example. Almost. I suppose my impressions of Zadie follow this same line of thought--I like her, but I am irritated by her naive selfishness. I like Sami as Nor's friend, but I didn't understand how he could profess to love Zadie so much yet be willing to accept his father's plan for him. Yes, my favorite characters are Nor and Talin, whom I liked more as the book progressed. He seems truly good, and he showed himself to be intelligent as well, a good strategist. He and Nor complement each other well.

Mara Rutherford proved herself to be a skilled author. Her writing was a good mix of excitement, description, and building (world and character). She wove the backstory in naturally without making it feel like an info dump. (The one exception was when all the women were gathered together before the ceremony, and Nor and Zadie's mother told "the story." But it fit within the context, so I suppose that's okay.)

I really look forward to reading the next book.

Note: A few swear words.
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