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This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here The protagonist of this book drove me CRAZY For one thing, a significant percentage of the chapters end with her fainting or otherwise falling unconscious More importantly, she decides she doesn t like the romantic hero for no reason except so that they won t get together in the first 100 pages, but then she spontaneously trusts an anonymous person who gives her gifts and writes her letters, even though she s surrounded by hostile rivals and has no reason to believe said person isn t just gath The protagonist of this book drove me CRAZY For one thing, a significant percentage of the chapters end with her fainting or otherwise falling unconscious More importantly, she decides she doesn t like the romantic hero for no reason except so that they won t get together in the first 100 pages, but then she spontaneously trusts an anonymous person who gives her gifts and writes her letters, even though she s surrounded by hostile rivals and has no reason to believe said person isn t just gathering information on her NO SENSE IT MAKES NO SENSE 3 starsFirst of all, I just want to say that I love the cover of this book I love her black eyed scruffiness, her frosty stare, and most of all, the impressive sword clutched in her hand Unfortunately, all of these elements led me to believe that this would be a sort of powerful and resourceful female heroine who saves the day type of book And, I guess it sort of is But if you go into this expecting the strength, determination, and steel of say, Alanna, then you ll probably be disappointed 3 starsFirst of all, I just want to say that I love the cover of this book I love her black eyed scruffiness, her frosty stare, and most of all, the impressive sword clutched in her hand Unfortunately, all of these elements led me to believe that this would be a sort of powerful and resourceful female heroine who saves the day type of book And, I guess it sort of is But if you go into this expecting the strength, determination, and steel of say, Alanna, then you ll probably be disappointed It turns out that this girl is a bit of a sensitive softy underneath that menacing exterior She makes a lot of mistakes, and she has blinders on the size of mud flaps Also, she has negligible sword fighting ability, which she barely even uses It took me a good while to really fall in love with this character and I m talking a good while 360 pages in However, she did win me over eventually.Meliara Mel and her brother Branaric Bran start out this tale as backwoods, unsophisticated nobles They are titled, but they don t spend time at court and instead Mel is allowed to run free around their country home, wearing her servants cast offs and attempting to tackle her family s financial problems in her head, because she can barely read or write Unfortunately, her family seems soon to be plunged into war, as the evil King is intent upon breaking a centuries old covenant with the mystical Hill Folk and taxing the commoners into poverty When Mel and Bran s father dies, it is left up to them to lead the small, ragged band of rebels and possibly make an attempt at the crown.The writing is spare and streamlined with very few bells and whistles, but it is also utterly absorbing It flows quickly and effortlessly After about page fifty, I had a very hard time putting this down The writing itself reminds me quite a lot of Tamora Pierce, but I never really felt the same intense emotional connection with this book It s absorbing, but it isn t as affecting.I think that I would actually give the first half Crown Duel three stars It s a bit repetitive She runs, she hides, she gets caught, she fights ineffectually, and she passes out Lather, rinse, repeat I think that she loses consciousness about five or six times in this book all together She seems to stumble upon the solutions to her problems accidentally, and not by design Also, it s always been one of my pet peeves to read about scrappy female heroines that travel on foot through the countryside for days on end, getting into fights and barely surviving, but somehow manage to do it all with six foot long hair That is, until I saw this author photo of Sherwood Smith Obviously, this is a woman who knows a little something about knee length hair care, so I am going to bow to her expertise on this issue.There s quite a bit of romance in this bookthan I was expecting It s a bit like Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice with the plot of You ve Got Mail thrown in at the end wasn t that itself a nod to P P too The love interest plays everything close to his chest and seems withdrawn, moody, etc, etc, and Mel is quick to judge and take offense, etc, etc Except that she takes the whole Anne Shirley Elizabeth Bennet, I m going to hate you for some long forgotten slight for the rest of my life even though it s completely illogical thing to the nth degree For example, upon stumbling into the love interest in a highly informative regal archive for about thirty seconds during which he says almost nothing , she vows to never set foot in it again, ever I kept thinking, why not just go when you know that he s busy somewhere else Are you going to avoid every single place that he s ever been now She also avoids every single government decision making meeting because he s there even though the entire reason that she comes to court is to determine who is best to rule It s incredibly hard to watch her shoot herself in the foot over and over again as she chooses to be willfully obtuse and blind about everything However, she really redeems herself by the end, correcting and mending many of the problems that I intially had with her And I did eventually feel a fondness for her naivete and youthfulness The romance is very satisfying and sweet, and I grew to appreciate her love interest too Although I am not typically a huge fan of blondes, there are a few notable exceptions Perfect Musical PairingRaphael Saadiq Love That GirlThis song is recent, but it reminds me of so many others It may never be The Temptations or Marvin Gaye, but I still love it Also, this MC has a gooey center that s just so sweet and tender and even though I wasn t expecting that, I m still so glad I met her view spoiler So cheesy, but so true hide spoiler @Free Pdf ì Crown Duel ⚤ Battle on and off the field, with sword and fan, with might and mannersIt begins in a cold and shabby tower room, where young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill prepared, a war that threatens the homes and lives of the very people they are trying to protect But war is simple compared to what follows, when the bloody fighting is done and a fragile peace is at hand Although she wants to turn her back on politics and the crown, Meliara is summoned to the royal palace There, she soon discovers, friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms If she is to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting with wit and words and secret alliances In war, at least, she knew whom she could trust Now she can trust no one The Firebird edition of Crown Duel combines the hardcover editions of Crown Duel and Court Duel and features a never before published story by Sherwood Smith Special edition includes outtakes, and the edited version of Crown Duel that hereto only appeared in the e book format. People change just as the seasons change, and each spring brings new growth So nothing is ever quite the same.Countess Meliara and her brother Bran promise their dying father that they will protect their people and the land from their tyrant of a King But she soon learns that is easier said than done For overthrowing the current ruler isn t all about battles and fighting and war There is a war that takes place inside the politics of the palace as well And Meliara must learn to think quick o People change just as the seasons change, and each spring brings new growth So nothing is ever quite the same.Countess Meliara and her brother Bran promise their dying father that they will protect their people and the land from their tyrant of a King But she soon learns that is easier said than done For overthrowing the current ruler isn t all about battles and fighting and war There is a war that takes place inside the politics of the palace as well And Meliara must learn to think quick on her feet and adapt if she is to survive.I can t say enough about this book I was hooked from the first chapter and it kept me loving it until the very end Whereas many fantasy books focus on battles and action and this book did have its fair share of battles also the primary focus of this story was centered on the intrigue and battle of wits and power that take place within the palace itself Courtly politics and flirtations abound and it takes all of your intelligence and cunning to say above water in this type of situation If you enjoy the castle politics in The Song of Ice and Fire series minus the bloodbaths than you would also enjoy this book, because that is the main focus I loved it The book was long, and it provided ample time to get to know the characters really well and just overall draw you into their world.A wonderful fantasy book I don t know what was wrong with me all this time Something always kept me from reading this book I can t even remember what is was any Boy was I missing out I should ve read this book when I was younger, I would ve loved this with every once of my being Now that I ve readbooks I m a bitpicky but not by too much The plot was excellent The beginning was a bit fast without any real excitment going on It seemed like Smith just wanted to skip some scenes to get to Mel s adv I don t know what was wrong with me all this time Something always kept me from reading this book I can t even remember what is was any Boy was I missing out I should ve read this book when I was younger, I would ve loved this with every once of my being Now that I ve readbooks I m a bitpicky but not by too much The plot was excellent The beginning was a bit fast without any real excitment going on It seemed like Smith just wanted to skip some scenes to get to Mel s adventure She skipped battles and some details I guess I m used todetail I don t like tons of details just a littlewould ve been better After things get going though this isn t a problem There is capture, escape, close calls, and help all along the way And Mel is the perfect girl for this journey Even though she was ignorant about so many things, I never felt she was inferior to any of theknowledgeable characters of the book She used her head well and does what she can with what she has.I like the relationship she has with her brother I also appreciated that the author didn t put in a love triangle Hallelujah It seems like all the books that have sequels that I ve read lately have love triangles Smith didn t really make the romance start in this book which I thought was good Mel isn t ready for it yet There is some hints but nothing really significant No love at first sight that is for sure on Mel s side anyways It kind of reminded me of Elizabeth in PP.Nit picking can skip I don t like it that she has knee length hair That does not seem practical.She passes out at least 4 times I know it s impossible to stay conscious when you ve lost a lot of blood or been knock on the head but still, it s 4 times possiblyLoved the story and the protagonist There is so muchI want to write but you ll just have to read the book Before I start this review, I m just going to do a bit of basking in the feeling that I was wonderfully smart to abandon my huge to read and maybe read lists and reread this I m really not doing any rereading at the moment, which is the sad flip side of discovering so many new books from friends here, so it was unusual enough to merit some comment If not basking, in all honesty That done, I also want to mention that I got the updated with extras ebook from Book View Caf for this reread, d Before I start this review, I m just going to do a bit of basking in the feeling that I was wonderfully smart to abandon my huge to read and maybe read lists and reread this I m really not doing any rereading at the moment, which is the sad flip side of discovering so many new books from friends here, so it was unusual enough to merit some comment If not basking, in all honesty That done, I also want to mention that I got the updated with extras ebook from Book View Caf for this reread, despite owning the original two hardbacks, and probably the combined paperback with Vidanric s Birthday Surprise in it as well, though Becca might have stolen taken that with her I m extremely happy to have done so, happy enough that I also got my thieving daughter still Becca a copy too One of the reasons I was glad to have bought the ebook was made evenclear when I read the About Book View Caf bit at the end authors get 95% of profits, which has to be pretty unique The other reason was the inclusion of the Inserts , which are short stories showing Vidanric s point of view They were apparently shared on LJ s Athanarel community, but they were so perfect read immediately after finishing Court Duel that I m happy I missed them there So I m leaving my short write up from 2008 at the bottom of this reread one, though it doesn t say much about why I love the books so much, just that they were favourites for both me and my two, Becca and Cara, from the moment I got Crown Duel back in 1999 I almost wish I d done a slower reread, so I had time to stop and write updates along the way, but that was not going to happen I do know that one of those updates would have mentioned how hugely relieved I felt when Mel comes back to consciousness and finds herself on a horse again, not with Vidanric but with Captain Nessaren On my first read it was a delightful surprise to have a female captain, but while I m still just as delighted it s no longer a surprise that Sherwood does female characters so well Not that there s anything cookie cutter about her portrayal of females, ever Mel for example, is brave, loyal and utterly steadfast, but is not a particularly good fighter So the relief came because Mel is so alone and afraid, for such a long time during her flight, and evenso after she s captured and taken before the king, and I knew she was safe now Another update would probably have mentioned how thoroughly convincing the depiction of Mel s feelings of humiliation is It s downright frustrating in a very good sense the way seeing a person you care about beating themselves up or feeling worthless is, when you know that you can t get them to see there s no need for the feeling I m coming back to this shortly A third would have been a sudden odd feeling I had during one of the scenes between Mel and Vidanric, of wanting him to be like a big, fluffy dog and jump in her lap with muddy paws and nudge her hand repeatedly until she gave in and patted him, dammit You all do know those dogs, right Instead he sat being very quiet and self contained across the room, like a supercilious cat Okay, I m a dog person Doesn t mean I haven t known very affectionate cats and snotty dogs, of course, but no matter how cat wise your personal orientation, you re going to have to give me this one for here and now I m going to come back to this too, but when I read it to Cara who was only ten at the time , she started saying They re going to get married very early, in part, I think, because we d been watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice On this read, though, it also struck me how very very well the narrative, firmly in Mel s perspective, gets across the fact that Vidanric is a good guy, who can be trusted, and that he doesn t disdain her quite the opposite and that he s absolutely and utterly screwed in trying to get her to see any of this Far from being predictable in a negative sense , it s a wonderfully subtle version of romance s often annoying Big Misunderstanding trope that is based on intelligent, rounded characterization, and these character s lives That s why the Inserts are so poignant when read right after the books We re seeing through Mel s perspective, which goes through her ill informed, and almost blinded by humiliation and self doubt, filters No matter what we as readers feel or think we know about the rest of the world, Mel can t be there yet All along we also notice how she tries hard not to hurt anyone possible exceptions made for Vidanric , and not to blame others for the terror and humiliation caused her by the king and Vidanric, as she initially believes , and it s so real it s painful Then we get to see some scenes again, through Vidanric s not at all cold or detached perspective, and a few of the stories had me on the verge of tears The candlestick Others were hilarious smitten boy , and I felt again, as I did after finishing A Stranger to Command, that I really want a book about Savona too All in all, they re just lovely.I just found that Melissa and I had had a discussion about the books, on the Diana Wynne Jones discussion mailing list, back in early 2000 We both loved them, so no disagreement there, but she said that Mel and Vidanric reminded her strongly of Elizabeth and Darcy, and I disagreed with that It was rather a surprise to find that I had argued against what seems in most ways a totally sound comparison, but that s what I d done That was just before I started studying for a degree in English literature with the Open University and while I d loved English in school, and had enjoyed analysing novels, I had never come across the concept of genre I still agree with a lot of what I said about how different the two eventual couples feel, while also agreeing with what Melissa said, but there s a similarity in my mind now between the two that derives from Pride and Prejudice s being a 19th century realist novel I ll get to it via Mel and Elizabeth I see them as ending up reacting in similar manner through being almost the inverse of each other in one way Mel finds it difficult to see Vidanric as anything other than the enemy, even when she knows he was working against the real enemy, and it s her own feelings of inferiority and belief that she s ignorant and wrong that prevent her from seeing him in a different light Elizabeth, for all we love her, is unable to see anything good in Darcy because her own belief in her superior judgments and clear sighted views of others blinds her She stops thinking critically about the behaviour of others because she s so convinced that she always thinks critically and clearly What is similar about all four characters is the fact that their behaviour is in perfect keeping with their upbringing in their particular part of this world Back to what I said about Pride and Prejudice, the realist novel tries to make the setting so very real in order to deliver a moral lesson that has weight with the reader The world seen in Crown Court Duel well, obviously mimetic isn t quite the word for a fantasy but it has the same sense of realness, of having histories and cultures and societies behind the ones we see on stage during the book s action I don t think that Crown Court Duel is trying to impart a moral lesson, but I do believe that its true moral strength is madeaccessible, maybe because of that likeness to the classic realist novel.There s a lotI could say about how the many ways this book is wonderful, but this is probably far too long for comfort anyway I loved this reread so much that I felt rather bereft when I d finished, the way you do after a visit with someone you love is over It was definitely not the melancholy of reading an old favourite and finding it didn t measure up exactly the opposite No matter how few rereads I do in the future, I ll make time to revisit Mel and Vidanricoften From 2008 My introduction to Sherwood Smith, when I followed up on anrecommendation, partly because I loved the cover Read it to my older daughter, who loved it, ordered Court Duel, later read it to my younger daughter, who loved it, and have never stopped reading Sherwood s books since If I had to choose the one thing I most value about her books, it d be a toss up between the incredible depth to the world and what comes across of the author s moral depth These aren t the kinds of books in which the Enemy will be pure Evil, just because he she the country is the Enemy And you ll never, ever read a book which does the fantasy by the numbers and the world makes no sense at all Great characters, lots of story, and fantastic world building I love this story and have reread it a couple of times over the years A new edition with new scenes from Vidanric s point of view has been released through Book View Caf , making this a great time to read it again I highly recommend getting this edition as the price is incredible and the added stories justify the cost alone If you re already a fan, you ll enjoy the added insights and Smith s writing keeps it fresh and muchthan a simple retelling of the familiar in slightly altered form I love this story and have reread it a couple of times over the years A new edition with new scenes from Vidanric s point of view has been released through Book View Caf , making this a great time to read it again I highly recommend getting this edition as the price is incredible and the added stories justify the cost alone If you re already a fan, you ll enjoy the added insights and Smith s writing keeps it fresh and muchthan a simple retelling of the familiar in slightly altered form If you aren t already a fan, then I envy you the experience of enjoying this book for the first time and encourage you to get right on it.Smith is a master of her craft, delivering vivid description, immersive world building, fully developed characters, and an engaging plot in a story that held me enthralled even as familiar as I am with it already And now I find myself in some difficulty Both Melissa and Hallie have written such excellent and in depth reviews recently that I find I have little else to add Being the lazy coward that I am, I ll simply recommend you drop by either or both of their links if you wantin depth analysis of the book and why it is so great I m ashamed to say I ve only read this classic of young adult fantasy now How horrid, no I don t know what I ve been missing out Forget about Katsa, Katniss, and all those other strong hard headed heroines you love Meliara is the original and stakes her claim on the throne until this day.The first book was filled with action, action, and lotsaction I wasn t really gripped by it because of how annoying Meliara was She was brash, stubborn, irrational, prejudiced, and very rude She dov I m ashamed to say I ve only read this classic of young adult fantasy now How horrid, no I don t know what I ve been missing out Forget about Katsa, Katniss, and all those other strong hard headed heroines you love Meliara is the original and stakes her claim on the throne until this day.The first book was filled with action, action, and lotsaction I wasn t really gripped by it because of how annoying Meliara was She was brash, stubborn, irrational, prejudiced, and very rude She dove headlong into battle and never backed down into a vehicle for someone else s motivations I loved that even though she was so gung ho, she wasn t perfect She never escaped from battle spotless and wasn t a magical fiend at sword play To be honest, she was merely adequate.But it s the second half that cemented the book firmly into my heart I loved how she went into court and learned about the subtle art of political manipulations The best part was the romance Gosh, I swooned like a madwoman view spoiler I loved how Shevraeth courted her, by way of letters and gifts that firmly kept his identity unknown so she fell in love with him for his words and his personality and got to know him for who he was I wouldn t mind being courted this way either insert big wink here hide spoiler Meliara didn t turn into a simpering idiot either She planned parties out on her own, uncovered the mystery of the plot to overthrow the kingdom, and sacrificed herself to save everyone She also grew and mellowed out as a character, realizing her flaws and working hard at overcoming them Of course she didn t turn into a saint and still kept facets of her impertinent personality at the forefront.What really made this sizzle was the short story added on in this omnibus I squealed like a giddy girl when I got to the end It really cemented their romance that wasn t so prevalent in the novel and it s so cute how they have their own misunderstandings but work through them The love they have for each other is very evident and Shevraeth is one of the most sweetest, loving man ever More young adult males have to be like this.Fabulous You need to read this I began to dislike the book early in the beginning, because Meliara has the same characteristics of other heroines that bother me She is small, but feisty and tough, but small, and even though she s small, she fights Did you understand that she is short and skinny You understand that she s small, right Despite the fact that Meliara is constantly being reminded reminding us that she is small and feisty, the book was hard to put down, though I don t really understand why I guess I still wante I began to dislike the book early in the beginning, because Meliara has the same characteristics of other heroines that bother me She is small, but feisty and tough, but small, and even though she s small, she fights Did you understand that she is short and skinny You understand that she s small, right Despite the fact that Meliara is constantly being reminded reminding us that she is small and feisty, the book was hard to put down, though I don t really understand why I guess I still wanted to know what was going to happen, even though I was fairly sure about the outcome I liked few of the characters Meliara s brother Bran needs to keep reminding us that he is an ignorant hick that now has a title but he is still ignorant, and he is still a hick, even though he has a title Parts of it are very predictable and unlikely, but if someone is reading fantasy, they should understand that unlikely things are going to happen I couldn t read Shevraeth s first name without at least smirking, because it sounds like the name of the man in a romance novel Vadanric All in all, parts of it aren t as great as they could be, but I will probably readof her books to see if they get better