Fantasy

Crown of Coral and Pearl: A Tale Full of Heart and Royal Intrigue

4/5 Stars

Author: Mara Rutherford

Publisher/Imprint: Inkyard Press

Edition: e-ARC, 427 Digital Pages

Hardcover Publication Date: August 27, 2019

A Spine that Shines? Quite Well

*This review is based on the e-ARC edition provided via NetGalley. All quotes used in this review come from the uncorrected proof. These are my honest opinions. Thank you.*

Can you hear the ocean humming? See the blood go sweeping past? The child of the waves is coming. To set our people free at last.

Mara Rutherford, Crown of Coral and Pearl

Initial Thoughts

Happy release day to Crown of Coral and Pearl! I think this novel was well-done, and I truly enjoyed the writing. Mara Rutherford spins a unique tale about Nor and Zadie, twin sisters whose names literally mean “coral” and “pearl.” Varenia, Nor and Zadie’s floating village, is obsessed with outward beauty. The goal is to be chosen as the bride for the Crown Prince of Ilara, a neighboring country that holds a monopoly over Varenian pearls. After Zadie is chosen, something happens that results in Nor going to Ilara instead of Zadie. However, when Nor arrives in Ilara, she does not find the dreamy life she had expected to find.

There is much to appreciate about this book:

  • The sea/marine culture and setting of Varenia is breathtaking! I loved the legends and history of Varenia.
  • A forbidden romance arises. (More on that later.)
  • Some of the Varenians develop supernatural healing abilities!
  • There are sea monsters and underground caverns!
  • Nor learns of a mystery surrounding a murdered queen.
  • The villain is quite villainous!
  • Nor is a tough girl, and I loved her spunkiness!

‘You have the power to do anything and everything you dream of, more than any person I’ve ever known. And that power, that inner strength, that is what makes you the most beautiful girl in Varenia.’

Zadie, Crown of Coral and Pearl

Characters & Romance

Here are a few character overviews:

  • The story is narrated from Nor’s POV. For most of her life, Nor has lived in Zadie’s shadow, viewed by their mother as an “inferior” version of Zadie due to a scar on Nor’s face. Nor dreams of going off to Ilara to see the world. She is tougher than her twin sister and faces challenges with so much heart and determination. She risks her life by impersonating Zadie in Ilara. Throughout the novel, Nor demonstrates beauty on the inside, too. I love it when characters are forced to make difficult decisions, because it makes things much more interesting.
  • I have mixed feelings about Zadie, Nor’s twin. She seems a bit weak in the beginning, always going along with whatever their mother wants her to do. She also forces Nor to help her do something pretty terrible even though Nor doesn’t want to. And Zadie always lets Nor take the blame whenever something goes wrong. She never takes responsibility for her own actions, and it really annoyed me sometimes.
  • Ceren is the Crown Prince of Ilara, Zadie’s betrothed. He doesn’t know that Nor has replaced Zadie, and he is quite cold and cruel. His sad childhood history has ruined him. He is obsessed with power and the throne.
  • Talin is Ceren’s younger brother, and he is half Varenian. Here is where the forbidden romance comes in. (Don’t worry. I’m not spoiling anything aside from what the Goodreads synopsis already reveals.) Of course, Nor falls for Talin, and I really loved them together. They have great chemistry! I actually felt that Talin needed more page time. His brother seems to have more scenes, and I wasn’t so invested in those parts. I hope there will be more of Talin in the sequel!

What was so wonderful about being beautiful, if all it meant was being sent away from the people you loved at best, and at worst, spending the rest of your life feeling inadequate?

Nor, Crown of Coral and Pearl

Final Thoughts

Why did I rate Crown of Coral and Pearl 4 stars, not 5?

Mainly, I wasn’t completely invested in the story until about halfway through. It takes Nor quite a while to actually leave Varenia. She doesn’t leave until around page 150, and she doesn’t meet her betrothed until around 180 pages in. But after that, things become increasingly more interesting. By the end of the novel, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the e-book!

Aside from my mixed feelings regarding Zadie, I also found the mother character unlikable. Her obsession with outward beauty blinds her to the emotional pain she causes her two daughters. On the other hand, I do understand it could have been the author’s intention to make the mother unlikable.

Although Crown of Coral and Pearl does not end on a cliff-hanger, I feel there is plenty of room for a sequel. If Goodreads is correct, it seems that Kingdom of Sea and Stone is set for 2020 publication, and I am eager to read more of Nor’s adventures. I would really love it if the POVs could alternate between Nor and Talin in the sequel! But anyways, I definitely recommend giving this first book a try if it piques your interest! Happy reading 🙂

*Content Warnings: severe self-harm (the character almost dies as a result), bloody wounds, Nor’s betrothed physically harms her (has to do with blood and experimentation)*

Home was not a house, or a village, or a sea. It was family, and love, and the space where your soul could roost, like a seabird safe from a storm.

Nor, Crown of Coral and Pearl

Next on My TBR

Spines that Shine

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