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Coop de Book Review: Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

Hello Gentle Reader! Notice I have NAMED the book group? Henceforth we shall be known as “Coop de Book” kind of a play on Carriger Pigeons.


(See what I did there, huh huh?

So this last month I chose Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith which is actually an omnibus of two shorter works. I, however, always read it is one book (albeit in two parts) so that’s how I’ll approach it.

I picked it up back in 2014 from a Goodreads Recommendation List “Books to Read if You Like Tamora Pierce” or something similar. It was a great recommendation. I really enjoyed this book and have reread it a half dozen times since then.

I hope you will forgive me if I review it by comparing it to a lot of other books I love. Because, well, that’s just kinda how it works in my head. The first part really does remind me of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna or Robin McKinley’s Blue Sword, perhaps with a little Ever After movie thrown in.

“Welcome among us. What is your name?” I said.
“Jerrol, as it pleases you, my lady.” And again the bow.
“Well, it’s your name if it pleases me or not.”

The second part, however, is more reminiscent of later political YA like The Selection or To Play the Lady. In which our brash bold outrageous hero, must learn the subtle art of court manipulations.

“She couldn’t read or write, wouldn’t even sit still indoors. All summer she would disappear for a week at a time, roaming in the hills. I think she knows more about the ways of the Hill Folk than she does about what actually happens at Court.”

In a way, this is the journey my YA reading took. From these simpler takes on the hero’s journey that were common in the 80s and 90s to the politically driven stuff that owes a lot, I think, to feedback loops between YA fantasy and adult epic fantasy and space opera.

I really like this journey told in one book, it’s not often one you see with the same character. All too often they style of a YA fantasy novel is either one or the other. It’s fun to watch a character archetype of the first kind, transition to the second.

You can even see it in the cover art, where the first image above shows an old-fashioned Pierce-like cover while the second shows a more current style icon cover (made popular by Twilight and then the Hunger Games books).

One of my favorite things about this book is the romance thread. I love the secret letter writing confessional (very Ella Enchanted) and I am a huge fan of the enemies to lovers romantic trope (AKA the Pride & Prejudice model).

Shevraeth said, “I’m very much afraid it’s my fault. We met under the worst of circumstances, and we seem to have misunderstood one another to a lethal degree.”

I like how Mel’s willful misunderstanding of Shevraeth is part of her generally stubborn and blundering country-girl personality. She is wild and willfully ignorant (huh, yet again with the Lizzy Bennett comparison) and that is why she can’t and won’t understand his careful political maneuverings, and also his own reserved interest. They are good match in the end, because they are so different.

Again like Lizzy and Darcy.

And like them she refuses to do anything but call him by his last name.

In the end a fun book and a  chronic re-read for me. A good offering to YA fans of wide tastes in the fantasy genre, both old fashioned and modern. I hope you all felt the same.

Join the discussion on Goodreads.

{Gail’s monthly read along for April is Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman.}


  • Secret Project SAS ~ Novel by G. L. Carriger
    Status: With Copy Editor
    Contemporary m/m paranormal romance featuring a snarky mage and a gruff werewolf. Hella raunchy. Super dirty. Very very fun. Spin off of Marine Biology.


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Emile Bernard (French artist, 1858-1941) Breton Girls with Parasols 1892

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Coop de Book Review: Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford

Posted by Gail Carriger

Let’s be clear about one thing, Gentle Reader: if you like Black Dog Blues, it’s because you like the main character, Kai. Me, I love Kai. Kai is my favorite type of character – the tough, scrappy, outcast, snark-monger extraordinaire. He is swimming in snark, splashing about happily and not caring if he drowns everyone else with his vicious wit.

What do you give a man like that for love, balance, and story conflict? What could match all that snark? Aristocratic arrogance, of course. Which is why I also love Ryder. Oh he’s a prat, but an adorably clueless one. And he really likes Kai. Which, let’s be clear, I sympathize with. So I can’t really get too mad at him. Although Kai sure does, pretty much right off the bat.

“I wanted to crawl into his mouth, down his body, and possibly under his skin. If I hadn’t already decided I hated him on sight, it would have made me start.”

Black Dog Blues is much more fighting and more violent than I usually read. But I kind of guessed that going in, from the cover and blurb, so I was too perturbed. It has other elements that I enjoy. For example I like it when immortals act like immortals, which is to say slightly confused by and utterly un-connected to the pettiness and emotional resonance of mortality. I appreciate a Pinocchio character (Data was always my favorite on ST:TNG).

“My reflection in the bathroom mirror surprised me, as it always did. I forgot I wasn’t human.”

I loved the world building of this series. It’s based on a clear and simple concept, as much of the best world building is. That the fae realm and ours collided, destroying much of each and leaving behind the weird-post apocalyptic California with vast empty areas filled with vicious wild dragons, and lost cities, and new elf ones merged on top of or inside our own. This leaves behind humans who are only just surviving, and elves who are slowly fading away. Of course, this world is a metaphor for Kai himself ~ a merged creation, annihilated and mutilated in the act of birth, but possibly greater than the sum of his parts.

The second book in this series is Mad Lizard Mambo which I have also read and enjoyed. Rhys is working on the third*, Dim Sum Asylum (best title EVER). I’m sure I will crow about it once it lands, because, I’m gonna read it.

*Update: See comments, this isn’t the third in this series.

I’m switching things up for next month’s read, we are going YA fantasy adventure and court intrigue with Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith.



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A steampunk lesbian romance featuring a maid bent on seducing a brilliant cross-dressing scientist who’s too brokenhearted to notice. Or is she?


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“I think myself I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense… But it’s unquestionably good escapist literature, and I think I should rather like it if I were sitting in an air-raid shelter or recovering from flu.”

~ Georgette Heyer

Book News:

Soulless made this list of 4 Fantasy Must-Reads for Austen Fans:

“My favourite thing about Gail Carriger is her sense of humor. If you love Austen’s dry wit, you will definitely enjoy the Parasol Protectorate series, starting with Soulless.”

(Funnily enough my AP English Essay was on Austen’s use of humor for social commentary.)

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~ Oscar Wilde

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