Thursday, August 22, 2019

ARC Review: Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

Title: Crown of Coral and Pearl
Author: Mara Rutherford
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Pages: 432
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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…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie. 

Crown of Coral and Pearl came onto my radar a few months ago when I saw the gorgeous cover and read a synopsis that promised an incredibly unique fantasy novel. I love the idea of a village in the ocean and forbidden romance is my favorite trope! This book had so much potential to be amazing, but sadly turned out to be one of the most generic fantasy books I've read in awhile.

Nor and Zadie are twins in Varenia, a village on the ocean that values beauty above all else. Nor was unfortunate enough to have a run in with some coral that resulted in a scar as a child, making her less desirable than her sister. Zadie is ultimately chosen to be sent to Ilara to marry the prince, but doesn't want to go, while Nor desperately wants to see more of the world. When Zadie is injured, Nor gets her chance.

All of that - that one paragraph - took over 30% of the book to get through. Almost 150 pages in and Nor is only just getting ready to leave for Ilara. When I read the synopsis I expected that actually getting Nor to Ilara would be a very small part of the story, especially since it's all laid out in the synopsis, but it dragged on. The writing (especially the dialogue) also left a lot to be desired.

The slow pace would have been fine if I was able to connect with any of the characters, but I just didn't care about any of them. There's a romance plot not mentioned in the synopsis that I just couldn't care less about and the instalove between Nor and Talin was already apparent when she was getting the warm fuzzies after literally seeing him once for a few minutes.

Varenia was really the one saving grace, but I really would have loved if it had been developed a bit more. It took me several chapters to realize it was apparently a city built on stilts. That is an amazing idea and I would have loved to see more done with it!

I wanted to love this book so much! There was so much potential here, I just wish it had been executed better. I went back and forth over whether to finish this, but after seeing that many people thought the first third was the best part, I knew this just wasn't the book for me.