Summary: 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? [Image and summary via Goodreads]*
Review: The Ring and the Crown begins with two awesome quotations — one by Emily Dickinson, and one from a Beyonce song. It was a promising beginning to a story told from the point-of-view of four (yes, FOUR) girls living out their roles in royal and magical intrigue. Their world is an alternate take on Regency-era England, with the British Empire ruled by the queen and her sorceror Merlin. Glamour and magic is used for everything ranging from war to illusions and pretty dresses.
Each of the main four girls in the Ring and the Crown are involved in the treaty being made between Prussia and the Franco-British empire after a terrible war that was ended with dark magic. Having these four narrative threads to follow was difficult at first, but it got better — eventually. Once I got into the story that was unfolding, it was interesting to see four separate views of the events going down.
Unfortunately, even four POVs of one story was not enough to lay the foundations for the climactic scenes at the end when All is Revealed. Instead, the entire plot is summarized and explained away through several pages of exposition. It made sense, but felt a bit contrived. The minor appearance of token gay friends (and they were sassy!), plus the heavy use of men-mistreating-women as a plot device was also off-putting. Certain serious issues (mainly, sexual assault) were not handled well.
Setting aside the plot — an alternate universe where Regency-era England* is part of a magical British empire is not a new idea, but it’s one that is filled with potential. It was the strength of the Ring and the Crown, and I’m disappointed that it wasn’t expanded on. Fortunately, the main characters themselves (or, at least, two out of the four) are compelling enough to drive the story and keep it interesting. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, for that reason.
The Ring and the Crown is a relaxing light read, and great for anyone who is really into books set in long-ago England. If you’re not so into that sort of thing, or you’re looking for a book with a tight plot and more focused storytelling, look elsewhere.
Recommendation: Borrow it someday, especially if you’re into alternate universe magical-British-empire books.
*Summary cut for length because it’s basically an inaccurate plot review.