Round 1, Match 2: Crown Duel vs. The Demon King

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Judged by Tori • find her on Goodreads and Twitter


One of the pulls that keeps me coming back to YA fiction again and again is seeing young people placed in extraordinary circumstances – and then overcoming those circumstances.

There’s something so genuinely hopeful about being on the cusp of adulthood – the raw potential of knowing that a character’s life could literally go in any direction. When that is combined with heroism and overcoming adversity, it just keeps me coming back over and over again.

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima presents a full and vivid world, one whose history and characters immediately leap off the page and into the hearts of the reader. But what struck me the most about The Demon King was just how genuinely adolescent its characters were, despite the fraught and dangerous circumstances with which they’re presented.

As an adult reader, I might be frustrated with Raisa for forgiving the obviously sinister Micah after his almost successful attempt to enchant her, but it’s certainly understandable. I’d even go so far as to find sympathy with Micah and the way he’s caught up in his father’s plots. Despite the larger than life quality that comes with these kind of fantastic stories, Raisa, Micah, and Han are so obviously teenagers in so many of their decisions and actions. And it’s this kind of ignorant, naive youthfulness that does give the story life and hope.

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith has many of the same qualities. Meliara especially is an amazingly compelling character. However, despite the fact that I went into the book not knowing it was originally published as two separate stories, it was exceedingly obvious to me as a reader. The first half of the novel feels jumbled and almost cluttered with too much plot. It was difficult to keep track of all the players and pieces and places straight.

The second half is a lot more compelling, perhaps because the larger portion of it happens in one place. And while there is certainly no less happening in terms of intrigue, coups, and characters, it was easier for me as a reader to sink my teeth into the story and really enjoy. It’s no coincidence that this coincides with the development of Mel and Vidanric’s relationship. I particularly enjoyed the fact that their courtship developed in tune with Mel and her own version of romance rather than having her adapt to a court romance. Throughout the novel Mel stays entirely true to herself while growing out of her – perhaps naive – ideals about what it means to rule a kingdom.

Both novels focus on the responsibility a person has to one’s kingdom and sovereign. Both novels look at what it means to lose faith in what was previously believed to be right. Both challenge the status quo in the best ways that YA can, but for me, Chima’s holds the reader from start to finish. Despite being tempted to advance Smith’s book for essentially being a combination of Game of Thrones and You’ve Got Mail, Chima’s The Demon King is the clear winner here for me, and therefore my choice to advance.


Congratulations to The Demon King, which moves on to Round 2!

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4 thoughts on “Round 1, Match 2: Crown Duel vs. The Demon King

  1. This was maybe the hardest battle for me to choose a rooting interest in. I gave up on Court Duel the first time I read it because I found the first half such a struggle to get through. I tried again for this battle and ended up really loving the second half.

    I especially love the point about how Mel grew throughout the book. I really love that she got to be kind of stupid and LEARN and change her mind. (And, yes, remain herself, too! THAT IS AWESOME.)

    The Demon King, though, is a much solider read throughout. And also SO MANY POINTS for being a YA epic fantasy. Let’s have a thousand more of those! And I did think Micah was so well done. I sure didn’t root for him and Raisa, but I UNDERSTOOD him.

    Anyway, I think I’d give it to Crown Duel because the second half took me to emotional heights that I don’t remember The Demon King reaching. BUT. It’s been a while since I read The Demon King, so I might change my mind if I re-read it.

    Actually, just typing this out makes me want to change my mind. Demon King! No, Crown Duel! No! BOTH.

    1. You know, the first time I read it (when my friend lent me her copy), I told her I couldn’t get through the first part, too! And she told me to skip to the middle, that it was worth it because it was amazing. And she was right! But that’s definitely a commonly-noticed flaw in the book, I think.

      Re: The Demon King – the book I reread most in the series is The Gray Wolf Throne. But I just reread this one and it’s a really, really excellent setup, and I think the writing is great, too. AND YES. More YA high fantasy, please! Why is this the only one I can think of?!

      It makes sense that Crown Duel worked better emotionally, because it’s a complete story! The Demon King isn’t, and there’s a lot left unresolved.

      This was a really tough one for me.

      1. You told me that before and I thought about doing it, but in the end, I JUST COULDN’T DO IT. READING OUT OF ORDER IS HARD.

        More YA high fantasy, please! Why is this the only one I can think of?!

        There must be more?!?! But, no, none of the YA fantasy that’s coming to mind is really high fantasy.

        1. Ha, my friend read it in order and she told me the ending really surprised her, because of Meliara’s colossal misunderstanding in the first half. That did not happen for me.

          Exactly! There’s more paranormal and dystopian than we could possibly read, but no high fantasy. It’s such a pity!

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