Rating: 3 Stars
Published: April 1, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
The Ring and The Crown by Melissa de la Cruz is a reimagined historical romance for young adults. It follows the story of Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the throne of Franco-British Empire, Aelwyn Myrddn, the bastard daughter of the Merlin of England, Wolf, the second son of the King of the Prussian Empire, Isabelle, formerly engaged to Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne, and lastly, Ronan Astor, broke American heiress looking for a suitable match during her first London season. To smooth over relations during the war, Marie now has to marry Leopold and even though they grew up together, they could not dislike each other more. Aelwyn, practically Marie’s sister, is drawn to Leopold and the memories of their childhood together. Instead of spending time with Marie and Wolf, Leopold and Aelwyn would run around the grounds together. Ronan and Wolf unexpectedly met on the ship from America to London while Isabelle hopes there’s a way for her and Leopold to stay together. Amid all the complicated relationships and many characters is underlying magic. This isn’t the 20th century we know. What will happen to these teens as they discover themselves and each other?
This is not the first Melissa de la Cruz book I have read. When I was in high school, I read a few of the Blue Bloods series. I was excited to read another of her books and I was very much looking forward a series about magic. What I liked was that the writing was good and the switching of the points of view were seamless. I think that this book was a really good idea at its conception. Somewhere along the way, it fell apart.
This book made me legitimately mad. No one ended up with the people they should have ended up with. I know that’s a petty complaint. Not every story ends with happy people and story lines tied up in a pretty little bow. But I can’t help the way I feel. Enough ranting though, on to the real review.
There is one character that gets raped over and over again and people seem to be brushing that fact under the rug. I’m not okay with that. I think that in the book, the scenes are well – written. I definitely am sympathetic to the character. But it’s almost written as a secondary thing. Sure, because of the initial rapes, this character falls into bed with another man to get away from it. But other than the sense of escape, there is no lasting damage of it. Even at the end of the book, it’s said that ” … and he put his slimy hands around her, and he kissed her lips- and it felt disgusting and repulsive, but also familiar, too familiar- too much like coming home”. That’s not okay. Most reviews for this novel say that it’s a lighthearted historical romance. Uhm. Last time I checked, rape wasn’t lighthearted in any situation. Clarification: I’m not mad that there’s rape in the novel, I’m mad about how people are reacting to it. They don’t understand it’s rape and that’s a huge problem.
I think the characters could have been a little more fleshed out. In one sense, I liked what happened to the characters in the end, except for Wolf & Ronan. They’re my OTP. I do have to say, that it’s all very realistic. After what happened, there’s no way Wolf & Ronan could ever be together but that doesn’t mean everyone stops caring about them. I feel that Ronan’s “ending” is incomplete. We know she ends up staying in London and making hats. That’s not enough! This fiesty strong American needs a better arc than that!
I liked the Marie & Aelwyn arcs though. It makes sense but I do think Aelwyn’s character and arc could have been better or had more detail. I think the problem lies in having too many POVs. If Melissa de la Cruz just focused on one or two characters, the plot lines would have flowed better and had more detail. Don’t get me wrong though, essentially, I think the multiple POVs worked, I just wish they worked better. I don’t like that we’re just left with a recap of what happened to other characters when the current scene is the wedding. Each leading lady should have had her own closing chapter. Instead, it feels like we weren’t following 4 characters but only 1. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about Wolf. He was a different POV, too. His POV wasn’t as recurring as the other 4 ladies were though. I did like hearing from his perspective. It was a nice contrast to the women.
I think Isabelle’s storyline/ POV was almost unnecessary. It was the weakest of the 4 of them. It was almost like the rapes were thrown in to make her “interesting” , which is just a horrid thought. I would hope that rape would never be used a crutch but it didn’t feel deliberate. Her storyline could have easily be done without and instead, Leopold could have been flirting with either of the other two characters instead of stringing Izzy along and raping her a couple of times.
I would just like to clarify, this is not sex. Sex is consensual. Rape doesn’t have to be horribly violent.
“She had done it. She met him in his room that evening. At first, they were just talking and holding hands; he was whispering in her ear, and he poured her something to drink. The next thing she knew, he was all over her, untying the stays in her corset. She pushed him away, weakly, asked him to stop. But it was like her arms were made of lead; like she couldn’t say no at all.
“We are to be married,” he said. “We are doing nothing wrong.” And he kissed her hard on the mouth, and his tongue was down her throat. “You are mine,” he said. “Pretend it is our wedding night.”
And because they were to be married anyway, and because she could not think straight, and because he was so handsome, and because she was so thrilled to know he was so enamored of her, that he wanted her so much… and because she just couldn’t say no, not once, not ever, could not form the word, no matter how many times she was screaming it in her head… he took what he wanted.”
So that was the first time, and the second time was not long after the flashback. There have been many allusions to these scenes on other reviews and some are just calling it sex.
“Leo leaned over and kissed her again, and now he was on top of her, kissing her again, and she wriggled underneath him, and found she was crying. She was crying without making a sound, the tears streaming down her face as he kissed her, just like the first time, when she had been unable to ask him to stop. … He hitched his breath and then he was inside her again, and he held her hands down on either side of her head with his. … No, this is not what I wanted, she thought, turning her face away while he ravished her body. This was not what she’d wanted at all.”
Overall, I think it could have been much better novel. I liked the concept and I’m willing to read the next books in the series. I’m really curious to see how certain situations will end up. I just wish people reacted to the novel differently and took the issue of rape more seriously.