Well I was hoping that I would be able to get this second review out yesterday but then got involved in a rather long, hmm, contentious debate on twitter (must be Memorial weekend, everyone has been online all weekend long) and didn't have the energy to be coherent any longer once that finally wound down so apologies, for once this one isn't just my fault! As for the book itself, it's funny but this book really reminded me of Tamora Pierce's various Tortall series for some reason. Meliara isn't very similar to any of her protagonists yet I did notice that this book came out around the time some of Pierce's earlier books did, perhaps there was some common source of inspiration which led to both of these.
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
Summary: Meliara and her brother swear on their father's deathbed that they will overthrow the current, corrupt king who assassinated their mother and then rule together in his stead. Thus the two of them embark on a gurella war and, even though she doesn't want to, Meliara ends up learning more about her enemies than she wanted.
The Good: Meliara is a pretty likable lead and at first I thought the story was going to make everything too easy for her, such as when she's captured and later escapes but that wasn't the case and the story managed to keep the tension up during those bits as well. She was a bit thick in places, thick enough to be slightly unbelievable, but thankfully not so much that I disliked her. One random note, I've think I've said before but I'v read a lot of fantasy YA, enough to the point where I can usually pin-point the year in which it was written fairly accurately. While I did get Tamora Pierce, specifically early Pierce, vibes from it at points I'm still a bit surprised that this book came from the 90s, it has a lightness and flexibility to it (just, less emphasis on the "inspired by medieval Europe" part of the setting and a bit more on the "fantasy" side) that I usually see in post 2000s books so I think that it probably appeals to a wider bunch of readers than other books from the same year do.
The Bad: This is a fairly slim book, although I need to keep in mind this is before Harry Potter became big and publishers would publish larger books for young adults, and is often the case with slim books the plot was a bit too simple for my liking. It worked and straightforwardness isn't a bad thing yet I kept feeling like the story was a bit too pale, like a soup where someone has forgotten a few key ingredients. I'm not sure what else the story would have needed, it had intrigue, plotting, enough characters, and good pacing, maybe it just needed more details.
So, 3 out of 5 stars for this book. I'll also note that I didn't realize until I was already done that there's a sequel to this, Court Duel and it seems like there are even editions where both stories are bundled together, and since I already had to place an interlibrary loan for this book and it was right at the end of the school year (ie, before I move for the summer) I don't have a way to get a hold of it. Honestly I'm not sure exactly why there's a sequel, everything wrapped up so nicely I'm not sure why Meliara had to go to court and apparently get into trouble, but from what I'm seeing on goodreads there is also a revised edition out there so I'm wondering how different that version is.