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Crown of Coral and Pearl

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
Crown of Coral and Pearl Book Poster Image
Exciting, well-paced royal fantasy marred by rushed ending.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

Beauty can be a blessing and a curse. Beauty isn't everything. Be yourself. Find the courage to do what's right. Fight for freedom and justice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Girl and women characters are smart and resourceful. Two male characters are caring and show vulnerability. The Ilareans are depicted as white, while the sea dwelling Varenians are described as having a variety of skin and hair colors; their culture values them all.  

Violence

Villain often comes off as threatening and creepy; in the latter part of the story he engages in bloodletting of another character, but it is not described at length. Weapons are used by one character to injure then kill another in self-defense. The scene is bloody, but brief.

Sex

Heterosexual romance subplot. A few passionate kisses are described.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional wine drinking. A risky choice is made while a character is tipsy.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Crown of Coral and Pearl, by Mara Rutherford, is the first book in an anticipated fantasy duology. Nor takes her twin sister Zadie's place as the girl selected by their country's elders to be the bride of the crown prince of Ilara, whom no one in their home of Varenia has ever seen. Once in Ilara, Nor discovers the cold and cruel prince's plot to destroy her country. She resolves to stop the dangerous prince and save her country. There are positive messages about courage, the risks of valuing beauty and seeking justice. Girl and boy characters behave in non-stereotypical ways, despite this being a story about royalty. There are a few passionate kisses as a part of the romance subplot, and wine is consumed by main characters on occasion. In a bloody but brief scene, there's a killing in self-defense, using weapons. This relatively tame fantasy romance, full of palace intrigue, politics, and forbidden love is sure to please teen fans of the genre.

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What's the story?

CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL begins in tiny, tropical Varenia, a country built on stilts in the sea. Varenia is unable to feed its population, and oppressive Ilara has ruled over it for centuries. Varenia's culture revolves around the once-in-a generation selection of the most beautiful girl to be sent to Ilara to be the crown prince's bride. Zadie, who is selected by the elders to be betrothed to Prince Ceren of Ilara, is in love with the governor’s son. She persuades Nor to go in her stead. Nor agrees, using a special cream to hide her scar. Nor, pretending to be Zadie, arrives in Ilara, meets the cold and pale prince, and quickly discovers that he plans to destroy Varenia by taking away their source of income: beautiful pink pearls they dive for and sell at market. She must figure out how to stop the prince before he hurts her family, but her romance with the Prince’s half-brother, Talin, and the risk of Prince Ceren discovering her true identity (and goals) threaten to bring an end to everything she holds dear.

Is it any good?

The world of the beautiful, sun-drenched Varenians and the pale, cave-castle dwelling Ilarean royalty is a mix of captivating contrasts, and the story itself is a well-paced delight. Nor, our admirable heroine, is bold, challenges ideals that confine her, and find courage in very dark circumstances. Prince Ceren is quite sinister, but his backstory explains the roots of his fear and desperation. Several secondary characters are interesting and add complexity without confusion to an already richly layered story.

Prince Talin, Ceren’s half-brother and Nor’s love interest, is, sadly the most tedious of the bunch. He is muscular and smashingly handsome, a strange choice in a book that otherwise emphasizes the dangers of valuing beauty over anything else. The romance between Nor and Talin has a promising start but goes from attraction to love too quickly to be believable. At the end, Talin unravels some of the book’s mysteries in too-quick succession and throws in what should be a shocking plot twist, but it just feels brushed over. Overall, though, the interesting premise, immersive world, and strong pacing make this a fun page-turning read.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the various family obligations in Crown of Coral and Pearl. Is it ever OK to refuse to do what your family expects of you?

  • Talin falls in love with Nor at first sight. How true to life is this? What kind of love stories do you like the best?

  • How do you feel about stories where the protagonist is forced to do something terrible in order to survive? Was someone you know ever in that position? What did they do? How did they decide?

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