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Crown of Coral and Pearl

by Mara Rutherford

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994201,157 (3.9)None
For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine... Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that's ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince--while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land. Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor's dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home--a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren's brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen...and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave. In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.… (more)

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*I WAS PROVIDED A PHYSICAL ARC FROM THE PUBLISHER IN RETURN FOR MY HONEST REVIEW. THIS DOES NOT AFFECT MY OPINION*

If you're looking for a stunning, debut novel from a brilliant new author, you've found the right book.

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford had a rocky beginning. It was fairly slow to start, but once it got going, it didn't stop. We're thrust into meeting our MC Nor, who's given up everything in life for her sister. In their small, water-bound village, beauty is everything. Even the smallest blemish could cause you to lose everything. And that is exactly the fate Nor is subjected to.

However, when her sister is injured beyond forgiveness and Nor is put to blame, Nor is forced to travel and act in her place to marry the rumored-to-be cruel prince Talin. It is then that we are subjected to the cruelty the kingdom is facing due to its prince taking position of power while his father, the king, is out of commission.

However, when Nor recognizes a man she'd thought to be a visitor to their village, and who actually is her betrothed's younger half-brother, prince Talin, she is faced with a complicated decision: put up with Ceren and be faced with fear for the rest of her life, or fall in love with Talin and help save their kingdom's future.

Other than that rocky beginning, the rest of the novel was fantastic. For that, I rate it 4.75 stars. I look forward to reading more from Rutherford, and I do suggest you pick this novel up when it releases. ( )
  booking_belle | Nov 8, 2019 |
A Crown of Coral & Pearl by Mara Rutherford is a darkly magical tale about the bonds of sisterhood, and the depths one can fall into obsession. In Varenia, girl children are raised to be beautiful. It becomes their sole focus (and soul focus too). Once a generation, one Varenian woman is chosen to be the bride of the Ilarean prince, a tradition heralding back centuries, when a princess named Ilara was drowned with her forbidden lover. The Varenians have made their home over the fabled location of the wreckage, living in stilted houses and traveling by boat. It's time again for the Choosing, and twins Nor and Zadie are taking part, having been primed for this day their whole lives.

Zadie is the favoured to be chosen, and when the day comes, she is indeed picked. But this is not the life she wants. In a bid to stay with the one she truly loves, Zadie takes drastic measures that leave her scarred and nearly kill her. Nor is sent in her place, being her identical twin and all, with an ointment to hide the tiny scar on her face. This is a good thing The Ilarean court, and the cold and cruel Prince Ceren would have crushed Zadie's gentle spirit. Nor, on the other hand, quickly realises things are not at all what they seem here in Ilara, and begins to take steps to help her people.

This was a wonderful read! I really enjoyed the depth to Varenia, and even to Ilara. Both cultures were equally fascinating to my anthropologist's soul. I resonated with all of the main characters. Yes, even Ceren. He may be cruel and cold, but you learn exactly why, and it's heartbreaking. All that lost potential turned to obsession. Zadie and Nor are raised to attain a prize neither really want. It's their mother's obsession, after she was denied the crown in her generation's Choosing. In her mind, Nor's tiny scar, the lasting reminder of her love for Zadie, makes Nor the imperfect, lesser daughter. My heart bled for her when this was fully confirmed after Zadie's 'accident'. It's made her as strong and adaptable as the fathomless ocean itself.

Zadie, too, has her own kind of strength. It took courage to do what she did, to take a stand for what she wanted. Talin was my favourite character though, by far! He's witty, and kind, and I love that he sees Nor for who she is, and isn't bothered by the tiny scar that so defined her Varenian life. Nor and Zadie's mother took me longer to accept. She proved her true priorities after Zadie's accident. The Varenian culture shaped her as much as it shaped her daughters, and she's chosen to hold fast to bitterness. That she believed Nor hurt Zadie in order to go to Ilara flabbergasted me. It's harsh to learn your parent only ever saw you as a means to an end.

Overall, a highly recommended read!

***Many thanks to the Netgalley & Harlequin TEEN/ Inkyard Press for providing an egalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Reviewed for FFBC Blog Tours ( )
  PardaMustang | Sep 9, 2019 |
I really enjoyed the idea of CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL when I read the blurb and had no trouble getting into the story.

The storyline in book one of the Crown of Coral and Pearl series was unique. I really enjoyed the village that Nor lived in and I enjoyed learning about their days there. The bond between the sisters was strong and beautiful to watch. The land portion of the storyline wasn't my favorite location wise, but the pace did pick up some and a lot of danger was introduced.

I felt like the romance between Talin and Nor fell short. I wanted more development between the two. Their connection at first was really strong, but felt like there was more development between Nor and Ceren and that kinda sucks as he was the bad guy.

The ending didn't do much for me. Not a lot about it surprised me, it added more questions to other things I was waiting for answers too and just didn't feel like a smooth wrap up.

Although I didn't totally fall in love with CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL I would still read more. I will be on the lookout for book two.

* This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  STACYatUFI | Aug 28, 2019 |
Crown of Coral and Pearl has had me excited to read it for nearly an entire year now and to have had the opportunity to read an ARC and review it for this tour is an immense honour for me. You could tell by the amount of squealing and screeching that could be heard throughout the Orlando area when I got the news. My neighbours know when I've got a good book, okay? And Crown of Coral and Pearl was a good book, y'all.

"Your mother taught you to believe your scar made you ugly, but it has made you brave."
I applaud Ms Rutherford. Her writing is vivid and captivating. In Crown of Coral and Pearl, she created characters that drew me in and held me captive every step of the way. I loathed Zadie and Nor's mother with every fibre of my being and I felt not just pity for Lady Melina but also a deep respect for the woman's bitter (ah, so bitter) resolve. Throughout the story, you can see Nor's character develop from a naive girl with a brash sense of bravery, where she acts without weighing risk and outcome, to a judicious and indomitable young woman who understands what she's risking when she rebels. I was actually on edge at several parts of this story, worrying my nails away, as I held my breath. Because of scenes involving a certain fictional sociopath, I have no nails left, y'all.

"Sorrow is good for the soul.....Those who have never known pain or adversity are as shallow as the waves lapping on the shore.
And what is wrong with being shallow?
What lies beneath the surface of shallow waters? Nothing. It's only when you go deeper that the ocean comes alive. The deeper you go, the more mysteries and surprises await."
Crown of Coral and Pearl was an amazing read for me. To save her sister and her country, Nor volunteers to take the injured Zadie's place as Prince Ceren's bride, knowing she'd never see either again. She goes in the hopes of making Varenian lives better but quickly learns that the shark, jellyfish, and blood coral she grew up diving around pales in comparison to her intended and his court. The only ones she somewhat trusts in Ilara are Prince Talin, Lady Melina, and her lady's maid, Ebb. Right from the start, Nor (and me!) can sense something off with Ceren and begins to understand the new depths she's found herself in.
"Mother always made Varenia sound so perfect. She said there was no violence or crime. I imagined it as a paradise. And when I came to visit, that's what I saw. I saw you."
The romance within Crown of Coral and Pearl is woven throughout, but it doesn't overshadow the actual story, the love one Varenian girl has for her sister and her country and what she'll do to save them both. I hardcore ship Talin and Nor, y'all. I'm not really a big 'forbidden love' triangle mess fan but sign me up! Talin first sees Nor when he visits Varenia before the girls switch places and when he meets Nor masquerading as Zadie on her way to Ilara, he suspects the truth and begins to fall more and more for her throughout the story despite her being destined for his brother. Nor begins to understand Zadie's reckless actions that lead to the switch the more she's around Talin. Ebb is the ultimate fangirl and does as much as she can to help the pair get together. We are all Ebb, okay.
"It's like a tiny star marking you as something special for anyone too senseless not to know it."
Overall, I'm giving Crown of Coral and Pearl all 5 of my bright and shiny stars. It gets 1 flame for the romance, no hot and heavies, just a light, slow burn throughout. I am absolutely in love with CoCaP and I cannot wait to put a physical copy on my shelves. I'm also willing to pledge fealty to Thalos to read the sequel when it's ready. I'm just saying. Content & Trigger Warnings are available on my site (https://www.onceuponatimeireadabook.com/2019/08/blog-tour-giveaway-review-of-cro...) ( )
  OUATIReadABook | Aug 27, 2019 |
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To John, for giving me the world.

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Sometimes I wonder if it was our names that determined our fates, or the other way around.
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