By Mara Rutherford
Publisher: Harper Collins Australia
Crown of Coral and Pearl is the debut published novel by Mara Rutherford. Its genre is classified as YA, Fantasy and it fits this genre perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it to young lovers of fantasy, those who enjoyed the Harry Potter series and are looking for something a little more adult, and those who have been fantasy fans for many years and are looking for a well written but “easy” fantasy read.
The story is based around identical twins Nor and Zaide, whose names mean coral and pearl, inhabitants of the ocean based village of Varenia. The kingdom of Ilara rules Varenia with an iron fist, determining the price they are paid for the beautiful pink pearls the Varenian people risk their lives to source, and controlling, for any real or perceived slight, whether the market traders will supply the fresh water the Varenian’s need to survive.
Varenia’s people are forbidden on pain of death from setting foot on Ilaran land, yet for years the most beautiful maiden of each generation from Varenia has been sent to the Kingdom of Ilara to marry the prince and become Ilara’s queen. For Varenia’s maidens the chance to be the chosen one, redeemed from a life of diving for oysters in the hope of finding the beautiful pink pearls so sought after by the Ilaran peoples, is a dream worth competing for.
Nor and Zaide have always been the front runners for the title of most beautiful, although Alys is also a front runner, her beauty marred by a snagtooth, but a childhood accident which left a small scar of Nor’s cheek has effectively ruled her out of the competition.
When the village elders choose Zaide the twins’ mother is ecstatic, all her hard work protecting Zaide’s beauty has paid off and soon Zaide will be leaving to marry the Crown Prince of Ilara, even though this means they will never have contact again.
Plans go astray however, when shortly before Zaide is due to leave she suffers an accident that makes it impossible for her to go. At great risk to herself, previous substitutions have not gone well, Nor agrees to take Zaide’s place and armed with stain to hide her scar, she travels to Ilara taking on the persona of Zaide.
However, when she gets to Ilara she discovers all is not as it seems, the King, while still young is dying from an unknown condition, his son, Prince Ceren the crown prince and her husband-to-be, is a malevolent person who clearly will stop at nothing to ensure his ascendency to the throne on the death of his father, and it seems that obsession may well result in the destruction of her childhood home and all those she loves dearly.
Nor’s one ray of light is Ceren’s half-brother Prince Talin, but the spark between them is just more fuel for Ceren’s increasingly abhorrent behaviour. Caught in a web of spies and intrigue Nor must work out who she can trust, and how to negotiate the protocols of a court mired in lies and treachery, in order to save her village, her family and especially Zaide.
Many thanks to Beauty and Lace Bookclub and HarperCollins publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book. I give it 4.5 stars.
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford. You can read their reviews in the comments below, or add your own.