A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This romance, set in an alternative timeline with imagined history affected by wizards and magic, is meant to entertain.
Don't try to be someone you're not; the secret to a happy life is accepting who you are. Being royal means sacrifice, not privilege.
Positive Role Models
The large cast of characters feature older teens (16 to 18) struggling into adulthood. Isabelle's naivete and lack of self esteem are the roots of her bad decisions. Wolf is honorable but needs the physical sensations of fighting as an emotional outlet. Leo presents a perfect facade but uses women for his own pleasure. Marie tries to run away from her responsibilities, but learns to face them in the end. Aelwyn tries to be someone else, but in the end learns to accept herself. Ronan lacks the courage of her convictions, which causes her to miss out on her best opportunities.
Violence & Scariness
There are several slaps in the face. Injuries from a fight are mentioned but not described in detail. There's a duel with pistols and one party is shot and later dies. One character's stabbed in the back. Blood's mentioned half a dozen times or so, usually briefly, but the duel victim lies in a "river of blood," and the stabbed character's blood pools in his mouth. A past rape is mentioned; one character's past sexual molestation as a child is recounted vaguely.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The large cast of characters frequently kiss and embrace. There are two explicit sex scenes that don't mention specific body parts except for breasts: In one, it's implied that the boy puts the girl's hand on his erection, kisses hard with his tongue down her throat, was "inside her again," and "ravished her body" The other mentions "thrusting into her" and crashing "against her until she thought she might break." One male character likes to play "strip billiards" with young women who are mentioned as naked and anxious to "show him everything." A girl's physical exam includes her "unmentionables" and an assessment of her virginity and fertility. One kiss from a villain feels disgusting. A couple lies together half undressed and kisses.
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"Bastard" is used as name calling once, and a couple of times illegitimate children are referred to as bastards. "Hell" is used once.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Older teens, presumably of age in this alternative reality, frequently drink alcohol. Most often it's champagne, but mulberry wine, mint juleps, and Pimm's Cup are also mentioned. One main character is depicted as very drunk and later suffers a bad hangover. One character suspects she may have been drugged; she wanted to say no to sex but was physically unable to. Two characters are once depicted smoking in bed after sex. A minor character's physique is compared to a cigarette holder. A young man smokes a cigar, which the main character doesn't like.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Melissa de la Cruz's The Ring & the Crown is a bodice ripper that will titillate young romance fans with lots of kissing and embracing and two explicit sex scenes. Blood is mentioned half a dozen times or so; other violence is confined to a few punches or slaps, but two climactic events involve a duel with pistols and a stabbing, without much descriptive detail other than blood. The older teens frequently drink alcohol, and though it seems as if they're of age in this alternative reality, it's pretty glamorized.
Is It Any Good?
With THE RING & THE CROWN, veteran author Melissa de la Cruz presents light fare that will titillate and thrill kids who love romance, dazzling costumes, and courtly intrigue. Otherwise, there's not much on offer here. The narration alternates among the large cast of characters whose voices aren't very distinct and is sometimes confusing, although it gets easier to follow once the characters become more firmly established. It's unfortunate that de la Cruz's alternative timeline, with fantasy elements of Arthurian-based magic, and in spite of some powerful female characters, presents a world of such old-fashioned sexism in which "a wife's job was to placate her husband and learn to hold her tongue."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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