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This is a bit of a golden oldie and most fantasy fans have encountered the series. The main character, Countess Meliara of Tlanth, and her brother are fighting to overthrow a bad King. Crown Duel takes place mostly on the rebel front, while Court Duel takes place (surprise, surprise!) at Court. These books are not without fault, but they are very well written and set in a comprehensive and elaborately constructed fantasy world. Both can be bought in a single book, The Crown and Court Duet. Anyone who hasn’t already read them should really check these out.
Mel and Bran are leading a small group of rebels against the large force of the King’s army. He has broken an ancient pact, kills people without scruple and is generally an all-round tyrant. At first the rebellion goes well, but then the mysterious Marquis Shevraeth is sent to lead their enemies. In Crown Duel, Mel suffers injuries, is pursued across the country, becomes involved in complicated political factions, and comes face to face with the King himself.
Crown Duel is a fast-paced, exciting book. Fantasy, action, and war set in a deeply detailed world. In this world, wood is extremely precious and humans made a pact with the Tree Folk that they would never cut down any trees. (Tree Folk are suspiciously like Ents. But they dance.) The bad king of course ignores this and it’s up to the ragtag band of rebels to stop him. I really enjoyed this book, but it’s definitely not perfect. The main reason for this is the main character, Mel, who is ignorant, unpleasant, and stroppy. Which is a shame because the rest of this book is really good. The book is in first person, which is probably the redeeming factor for Mel, as we can understand her even if we don’t approve of her choices. It’s definitely worth reading, very cleverly written with an interesting plot.
Crown Duel saw Mel running around the country as a rebel, Court Duel sees her arriving at Court. It’s a whole new battle for her to learn to navigate the dangerous factions of court. Everything has hidden meaning and nothing is as it appears. As well as the socialising, Mel remembers her promise to her father even if her brother seems to have forgotten. She is there to find the best candidate for the crown, and offer them her support. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when several Lords are flirting with her, a certain Lady seems out to ruin her, and people with designs for the throne hope to use her.
A good conclusion to the duet, Court Duel is an interesting read. Full of political intrigue masked by politeness, double meanings, and an elaborate ‘language’ of fan positions. I prefer Court Duel of the two, I find that it’s more interesting to see people scheming secretly and trying to work out what they’re doing than it is to see an army marching around. Mel’s character is still sulky and unforgiving which is irritating because her prejudices blind her to what the reader can tell in about a page. However, once again I could overlook this because of its being in first person, and the plot itself is intriguing. I enjoyed this and I recommend the books.