November 13, 2012

The Cup and the Crown

by Diane Stanley
ages: 10+
First sentence: "
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Molly, who was once a scullery maid and is now a lady, is best friends with the king. There's no one he trusts more than her, it's Molly (and her... something... boyfriend? best friend?... Tristan, as well as a knight, translator and a lady companion) that he sends to find the Loving Cup, something which the king will use to make a princess fall in love with him and marry him. (I think she was betrothed to his brother, who was murdered.)

Before I go much further, yes this is a sequel. And no, I didn't read the first one first. (Though I kind of want to now. When there's time.) In many ways, though, this one works as a stand-alone: Stanley gives you enough information to get the gist of the previous story, but I don't think it got in the way of the telling of this one. I may have felt differently had I read book #1 first, but I didn't, so there it is.


Molly goes on her quest to find the cup, which turns out her grandfather was a specialist in making. Also, it turns out her grandfather was from a super-secret magical place where Everything Is Perfect. Except when they find it, they arrest all Molly's friends and take her prisoner. So they can teach her. And it's for the protection of the city because if their secrets got out, it would be Bad.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. Molly's a great character: strong, stubborn, opinionated, yet loyal, trusting, and resourceful. I enjoyed watching her figure out how to get out of her prison, and how her friends rallied around her at the end.

But, it also felt clunky. I think it went back and forth between the right amount of showing and telling, to lecturing me about what the characters were doing.  In the moments when there was a balance, I loved it, but then I would be jarred out of the story for a while, until I could get my groove again.

Maybe that's a fault of my own, for not having read the first book, because I really did like the overall story (and while the story ended, I'm not sure it's quite done). Even with its faults, it's a good book.

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I've been asked to make sure y'all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)

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