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Book Review: Coronets and Steel by Sherwood Smith

Today, is the type of day where I come home thinking, “Read. Breathe. Relax.” It was a long, tough day at work, but I came home to a happy family. Meow Meow was in rare form and cracked me up by running back and forth from room to room at top speed. What a weirdo…

To help me relax even more, I’m planning on snuggling under the covers later with the fantastic book, Wither! Don’t forget you can still ENTER TO WIN this YA dystopian novel until April 18th!! 😀

Title & Author: Coronets and Steel by Sherwood Smith

Genre: Fantasy, General

Release Date: September 7, 2010

Series: Book 1 in a two-part series

Publisher: DAW

How I Got the Book: Bought


“California girl Kim Murray is unsatisfied with grad school and restless in life. Modern men disappoint her, and she studies ballet and fencing because they remind her of older, more romantic times.

She lives with her parents and her beloved but secretive aristocratic grandmother, who speaks only French and refuses to share stories about the mysterious family she left behind in Europe, inspiring Kim to travel there and find her roots.

Kim soon finds herself swept up in an adventure of fantastic deceptions and passionate intrigue-and a shocking realization about her own bloodline that leaves her reeling.”


Scouring Europe for clues about her family ancestry, UCLA grad Aurelia “Kim” Murray is mistaken for the missing princess of Dobrenica. Thinking that he’s found his missing bride-to-be, the dashing (of course) prince Alec kidnaps Kim and whisks her away into his small, otheworldly kingdom.

Kim experiences unforeseen twists and turns throughout her journey across the romantic and historic countryside and discovers more than she ever imagined about her family’s hidden past.

The novel is set in modern day but has strong historical references that give it the feel of a later time.

Lush Landscape, Undeniable Chemistry

After reading the first couple pages of Coronets and Steel, I was pretty impressed. I read The Trouble with Kings by Smith last year and was left feeling a little “blah.” With this book, I felt an immediate desire to learn more about Kim and her adventures across the European landscape.

My brief experience in Europe is limited to Paris, so I especially enjoy reading about places that I’d love to travel to. Kim wanders through a lot of Eastern Europe, which adds a cultured feel to the story. There’s also a good balance of descriptive writing that avoids becoming dull or over-worked.

From the very beginning, Kim meets, well…is abducted by Alec. That mistaken identity situation gets settled fairly quickly, and Kim and Alec travel together for most of the book. I love this in novels- potential love interests actually TALKING for the majority of the story.

Forget “gazing longingly” and casual meet-ups! I mean, those romantic elements have their place in books, but sometimes I just want one-on-one interaction between characters! I want to actually “see” the flirtatious conversations and the emotional build-up. (Note: this is not a spoiler as there is a huge romantic cliffhanger at the end, but I’ll get to that later.)

In this novel, Kim and Alec have an undeniable chemistry that is wonderfully conflicted. Isn’t that always how it works out?? 🙂

The Trouble with Cliffhangers, Allusions and Dialogue

Even though I’m reviewing Smith’s latest novel, I feel like I’m talking about The Trouble with Kings due to the, well…trouble areas that were hard to overlook.

Some things that bugged me:

  • Absolutely heart-wrenching cliffhanger- (it’s seriously so painful!!)
  • Overuse of historical, cultural and social allusions (think Gilmore Girls on crack)
  • A “fantasy-lite” story
  • Dialogue that’s trying too hard to be trendy

One of the biggest charms of this book is the historical background. Dobrenica is steeped in history and a lot of the “hidden secrets” that are revealed happened during the World War II era. This is fine and makes perfect sense, however throughout the entire novel there was a multitude of allusions to French and German culture, American brands and obscure historial references that spanned decades.

I honestly couldn’t keep up, and the references hindered my interest instead of spurring it onward.

Also, the fantasy elements of this novel were what I call “fantasy-lite,” as the magical elements stood more in the background vs. taking center-stage. Kim, more or less, experiences glimpses of the past that are overlaid in real-time. That’s it. The “fantasy” ends there. Oh, and throw in a random vampire and some fey creatures, and the fantasy in this novel is done. I would have personally classified this novel as “romantic fiction with some fantasy elements.”

And, the dialogue can be summed up in this one exchange:

“Is this stuff real?” Mom asked

“Oh yes,” I breathed. “Although, I no longer quite know what ‘real’ is.”

“Far out. Let’s go to Gran’s room, and you can tell us all. Dinner can wait, ” Mom suggested.

There were worse instances of cheesy, too-trendy dialogue, but I couldn’t find them. This particular chat between Kim and her mom was enough for me, though!


I definitely enjoy this intriguing romp through history and European culture! If cliched dialogue gets under your skin or if you dislike being unable to catch every allusion, then this book may not be for you. Personally, I found that I could look past these plot bumps and still find pleasure in this romantic book about family, duty and love.

The next book, Blood Spiritswill be released September 6, 2011!!

How to things like cheesy conversations or other weak story devices affect your reading of a book? Is it enough to make you stop reading?

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • This actually seems pretty interesting. I can already tell I’ll have similar issues as you have, I haven’t heard anyone use “far out” in ages, but overall it does seem like a great “escape with a cup of coffee/wine” book. For me it really depends on the rest of the story, sometimes I can become completely oblivious to cheesiness, if the story is interesting enough. I have rarely just put a book down and walk away, and when I have it’s been because of the overall feel of the book. One author I just can’t seem to read is Clive Cussler. His writing is clearly intended for men, and nothing’s wrong with that. But personally, I can’t read through that much testosterone.
    As for this book, I can’t wait to get ahold of it.

    • Lisa

      Megan!! I’m glad this book peeked your interest! 🙂 I have a high tolerance for cheese (probably because I can be so cheesy), so the writing really wasn’t too much of an issue. I think the overall merits of the book really outweigh the troublesome issues. I’ve never read Cussler- doesn’t he have a lot of ships and stuff like that on his covers? ….which is probably why I’ve never read him. lol

      I really hope you enjoy Coronets and Steel! When you’re finished, I’d love to hear what you thought!
      P.S. I’m so sorry I haven’t emailed you back yet- this week has been crazy! I will tonight or tomorrow night! 🙂

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  • Celesta Hubner

    I just got this book on your recommendation and am uber excited to give it a try. I LOVED Ms. Smith’s Crown Duel series so hope this one brings me as much of an escape!

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