Crown of Coral and Pearl

Crown of Coral and Pearl
Author: Mara Rutherford
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: August 27th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

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 is a great book. The story is so unique and interesting and the plot is fast paced. Plus Nor is such a badass you couldn’t have a better MC.

I loved Nor. Nor is absolutely what made the book for me. She is brave and fearless and doesn’t take anyone’s crap. Even when maybe she should calm it down a little. She also have such a severe love for her family and her sister. Even when her mother is crap to her. She still understands where she is coming from. She can see what lies beneath people’s exterior.

One of the reasons for this is because Nor grew up in Varenia. A kingdom that survives by harvesting pearls from their deep waters and creating an alliance with the kingdom of Ilara by sending their most beautiful girl as a bride. The people of Varenia are not allowed to leave and they live in fear of these rules that they follow them closely. It’s almost like a prison, even though they love their home and their people. Very complicated in a way. They also hold beauty to an impossibly high standard because they want one of their daughters chosen at the choosing ceremony. Not only for the bride price but also the honor. So these girls are severely judged on their looks. Nor was scarred as a young child and therefore is out of the running for the ceremony. This however gives her an unexpected freedom and allows her to see how the beauty standards are ridiculous.

We actually spend a lot of time on Varenia before a bride needs to be sent and when Zadie can no longer go. Nor must go in her place. Once she gets to the Ilara and sees that things are not as they seem. The plot really picks up and gets very crazy with politics and court mysteries. It keeps you reading. We are also introduced to a host of characters that I did develop a fondness for.

The romance is sweet and cute. There is definitely a large difference between Ceren the crown prince and Talin, his half brother.

I don’t want to say too much about the characters because i don’t want to give any of the story away. I did really really enjoy it and I’m curious what the sequel is going to be about. I imagine it will be great too.

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world, from Russia to Peru, along with her Marine-turned-diplomat husband and two sons. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a Master's degree in Cultural Studies from the University of London and would rather study the folklore of her next post than the language (which she has found is a lot more fun but not nearly as useful). She is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor. Her debut YA fantasy, CORAL AND PEARL, will release from Harlequin Teen in Fall 2019.

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Prize: Win (1) of (15) copies of CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL by Mara Rutherford (US ONLY)
Starts: 19th August 2019
Ends: 2nd September 2019
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Song of the Abyss by Makiia Lucier

Song of the Abyss (Tower of Winds #2)
Author: Makiia Lucier
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 27th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Ancient grievances, long-held grudges, and dangerous magic combine in this sweeping standalone fantasy perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce and Rachel Hartman.

They came in the night as she dreamt, in her berth, on a ship sailing home to del Mar. After, they would be all Reyna thought about: two carracks painted scorpion black. No emblem on either forecastle, no pennants flying above the mainmasts to hint at a kingdom of origin.

Never a good sign.

As the granddaughter of a famed navigator, seventeen-year-old Reyna has always lived life on her own terms, despite those who say a girl could never be an explorer for the royal house of St. John del Mar. She is determined to prove them wrong, and as she returns home after a year-long expedition, she knows her dream is within reach. No longer an apprentice, instead: Reyna, Master Explorer.

But when menacing raiders attack her ship, those dreams are pushed aside. Reyna's escape is both desperate and dangerous, and when next she sees her ship, a mystery rises from the deep. The sailors--her captain, her countrymen--have vanished. To find them, Reyna must use every resource at her disposal . . . including placing her trust in a handsome prince from a rival kingdom.

Together they uncover a disturbing truth. The attack was no isolated incident. Troubling signs point to a shadowy kingdom in the north, and for once, the rulers of the Sea of Magdalen agree: something must be done. But can Reyna be brave enough to find a way?

I loved Isle of Blood and Stone and even though this is the second book in the Tower of Winds series, you don’t need the first in order to read Song of the Abyss. They happen in the same world and some characters make reappearances (which of course makes me smile) but this is Reyna’s story.

I loved the characters! Especially Reyna, Levi and Blaise. I would also like to see more with Vashti in a future book. If there are not going to be anymore books. I would be very very sad.

So Reyna was a little fireball in Isle of Blood and Stone, which she continues here. She’s been studying to be a Master Explorer and doesn’t let her gender get in the way. She’s dealt with some very serious prejudice against her but she still prevails. She has a strong will and won’t let anything get in her way of protecting her maps. Which shows her dedication to her work.

I love the interactions between her and Levi. Levi is a Captain of his own ship but also second born son to the King of Lunes. In his country, the oldest his heir and it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or girl. So his sister Vashti takes up the throne when their father passes away. You kind of expect him to be either rough or snotty. He is neither and his actually very kind and even a little sensitive. He cares greatly about his crew and works hard as captain of his ship. The way he treats Reyna is so cute at times. Even though their little romance is not a main focus of the story, it’s very sweet and the perfect amount to dose you with.

The plot is great. Crews of ships are going missing and nobody knows why but there is suspicion that they might be taken for the human trafficking. Reyna is sent to investigate with the help of Levi. I really enjoyed the mystery behind the story and where it would take us. As pieces fall together, I’m like I know. I know what is happening and I am itching to tell someone. I wish I was buddy reading because I really want to tell someone and then I thought about how clever it was.

So Miramar and the Miranese are a very interesting culture and I like the way their world was built. We know they are isolated and that it reminded me of the first emperor of China’s domain. Especially something in particular……. So I really enjoyed getting not only to see Miramar but a little bit of Lunes too. Again we need another book to explore more!!!!

I really loved Song of the Abyss. I recommend both books, but of course you can read either alone.

Makiia is the author of historical fiction and historical fantasy for young adults. She grew up on the Pacific Island of Guam (not too far from the equator), and has degrees in journalism and library science from the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Her debut novel, A Death-Struck Year, was called a "powerful and disturbing reading experience" by Publishers Weekly, and was a finalist for Germany's top book prize for children, the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis. Her second novel, Isle of Blood and Stone, was inspired by her love of Indiana Jones movies and old, old maps.

She lives with her family in North Carolina.

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Prize: Win (1) of (3) finished copies of SONG OF THE ABYSS by Makiia Lucier (US Only)

Starts: 21st August 2019
Ends: 4th September 2019
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House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig

Title: House of Salt & Sorrow
Author: Erin A. Craig
Publisher: August 6th 2019 by Delacorte

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn't sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh's involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it's a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.
House of Salt and Sorrow is one of those amazing books that you just can’t put down. A retelling of one(I have many) of my favorite Fairy Tales (Another one I would rewatch on Fairytale Theater) the Twelve Dancing Princesses. It takes the story and changes it up into something completely new and exciting.

The one thing I really really liked how about the story is how close the sisters are. They truly love and rely on each other. When we open the story we are at one of the twelve sisters funerals and as the story progresses you start to feel sad that you didn’t get to know the sisters that are missing. Due to the deaths though, the family is considered cursed and the girls find that they are feeling trapped. There is no one that is willing to even dance with them, let alone court them for fear that they will be cursed as well. So the girls decide to find their own way to have fun.

There is also some thriller/mystery parts of the book as well. Which leads me to do my best not to give the plot away because it is good. It keeps you wondering what exactly is going on and when all is revealed you kind of have that. Ahhh moment.

I love Annaleigh and her thirst for truth. She also kind, in the face of not wanting to be kind. Which is where we see a lot of her interactions with her father and her stepmother. It was interesting to see how much interaction we get from them. I also like how she isn’t so easily swayed and does not easily back down. She knows there is more to the story and she will find out. I also really enjoyed Cassius and her interactions with him.

So this book does have Gods. The most prominent in the girl's life is Pontus. He is the creator of the island and the island people. So with that they have a different culture than the mainland. One of the main things being the treatment of heirs and girls. Having twelve daughters was joyous for their father. He didn’t need a boy. There are other Gods and different parts of their world are considered those Gods/Godesses people which is all explained in the story.

I loved the writing style and the pacing. I felt both were perfect for this type of story. I could see how it might feel slower for others though.

I loved House of Salt and Sorrow and you should absolutely pick it up. Especially if you love retellings that use the framework but turn the story into something completely new.