Cross-posting my review from Wordpress - http://chachic.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/sherwood-smiths-crown-duel/
This is a duology, originally published as two books (Crown Duel and Court Duel) but Firebird combined both books in one edition.
Meliara (Mel for short), the impoverished Countess of Tlanth, tells the story from her point of view. I loved the fact that Mel is such an unreliable narrator and how the story unfolded from the way she sees things. The first part of the book involves a war against a tyrant of a king because both Mel and her brother Branaric promised their father that they will do what they can to oust the king from the throne. While the second part of the book involves court intrigue and politics. Mel is a believable character because she blunders and is not afraid to admit when she makes mistakes.
I've been giving this book as a gift a lot lately and to one friend, I included a note that said "I know you haven't read a lot of fantasy and this is a good book to get you started because this is YA fantasy at its finest." This book has everything - incredible world-building, believable characters, intelligent dialogue, subtle romance, court intrigue. I've reread this book a couple of times and it just doesn't get old for me.
Sherwood also posted a couple of outtakes in her website. You can check these out after reading the book because these are scenes of Crown Duel, written from Vidanric's point of view.
Originally posted here.
I always say that in order for me to like a book, I have to be able to relate to it somehow. No worries on that department when it comes to this one because I could TOTALLY relate to Ellie. Twenty-something Filipina working in a corporate job but really doesn’t know what her career path is? That could be me! Ellie’s thing is traveling and making plans for hypothetical trips abroad. While I do love to travel, I don’t get to do it that often so I guess it would be better to say that my thing is reading and blogging about books. I’ve never experienced an office romance like Ellie did but the breaking up with a boyfriend-who-was-a-friend-before-you-became-a-couple? Been there, done that. Ellie also has several circles of friends, from her high school barkada to her office mates and I’m like that as well. Each set of friends has a different personality and I like to think that each group brings out a different side of me. Ellie is really believable as a character – she’s a representation of me, my friends and every young Pinay out there looking for her own fairy tale.
I keep my reviews spoiler-free so I don’t want to mention any names but I want a guy like the male protagonist! Seriously.♥ I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Ellie and her attempts to get her life back in order after the breakup. Fairy Tale Fail is a light and fun contemporary romance that gives a glimpse of middle class life in the Philippines. If only the paperback was as cheap as the e-book edition, I’d buy lots of copies and give them as Christmas gifts to my girlfriends. Unfortunately, the paperback is more expensive at P350. The good news is the e-book is available both in Smashwords and Amazon so for all international readers out there, you could order this anytime you want. If you want a peek at what our lives are usually like (and by us I mean young professionals in the Philippines), then go and read this book! At $0.99, it’s cheaper than your average Starbucks coffee. It’s really short too, more like a novella than a novel. I’m interested to see how readers outside the Philippines will react to this one. One minor quibble though, I wish Mina included footnotes to define some of the Filipino words used in the book like kuya, barkada and bulalo so that foreigners will be able to understand them. That said, I’d like to thank Mina for coming up with a well-written Filipino chick lit novel. :) I look forward to reading her other book, My Imaginary Ex and I hope she comes up with a thicker novel next time.
Love Your Frenemies is a sequel of sorts to Mina's other book, My Imaginary Ex, but I believe it stands well on its own and there’s no need to read that one first. It would be a good idea though because you’d get a picture of how other people see Kimmy instead of just being inside her head. Love Your Frenemies is told from alternating past and present situations so you get an idea of what Kimmy was going through during the events of My Imaginary Ex. Kimmy got dumped by her fiancé days before their supposed wedding. He suddenly realized that he’s still in love with someone else and that he couldn’t go through with the wedding. Harsh, right? But a lot of people believe that Kimmy deserved what she got because she’s such a bitch.
I was surprised by how much I liked this book more than My Imaginary Ex. You know the saying that goes, “there’s always two sides to every story”? This is Kimmy’s side. I can understand why other people find her rude, manipulative and heartless. Kimmy is smart, beautiful and she knows it. She admits that she tends to be overconfident. She doesn’t go out of her way to hurt and manipulate other people, it’s just that she can’t be bothered to be nice. Kimmy has a turbulent relationship with her best gal pal, Chesca, because they’re the epitome of mean girls. Kimmy and Chesca ruled their high school – they got to decide who would become members of their clique based on how useful their classmates were. Both girls understand how the other person thinks and that’s why they’re such good friends and why they also have the worst fights. They know what to say to get the other person riled up. Another person who is one of the major reasons why Kimmy’s so messed up is her first love, Manolo. Handsome, charming and witty Manolo. Can I just say that I can’t get over his name because it’s such an old school Filipino name? I feel like if I knew someone named Manolo, he’d be nicknamed something shorter and more modern like Manny or Nollie. Ever since they were teenagers, Manolo has been blowing hot and cold and Kimmy knows it’s stupid to hope for a steady relationship but she can’t help it. Kimmy’s story isn’t centered on the romance but instead focuses on her relationships with the Country Club set of people that she grew up with. It’s not surprising that she’s not a nice person because of all the drama in her life – it’s like a constant soap opera.
What I love about Mina’s books is how believable they all are. I may not love all of her books but I can believe that her stories actually happen to other people. It’s everything about her work – the familiar places, the situations that you can relate to, the characters that feel like they could be your friends. Maybe it’s also because I feel like I’m the target audience of her books – a twenty-something Filipina. This is another enjoyable read from Mina V. Esguerra and as always, I look forward to reading her next one.