Twin Crowns

Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins/. (Twin Crowns: Bk. 1). May 2022. 480p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063116139.
Gr 9 Up–A swap between twin princesses leads to the downfall of a corrupt regent. Magic-working Princess Wren of Eana has spent 17 years in hiding, plotting to kill Rathborne, the man who murdered her parents. Rathborne now rules in the name of Wren’s twin sister, Rose, and oppresses indigenous witches. Wren steals Rose’s place, planning to restore witchcraft to Eana, but she faces an arranged marriage to a foreign prince. Meanwhile, Rose is whisked to a secret colony of witches and grapples with her magical heritage. Familiar tropes abound. An oasis leads to chaste partial nudity; sidekick wolves assess dating compatibility; a sexy bandit discovers a stolen princess is unexpectedly “spirited.” Rose is traditionally feminine and Wren is a “tomboy”; both their lovers are warriors. While the novel gains its greatest energy from the romantic plots, deviating from martial masculinity means death for Rose’s domestic fiancé. More happily, Eana has a multiracial population where individuals can marry along the gender spectrum. However, some anachronisms disrupt the believability of characters’ motivations. Benignly, minstrels play waltzes and characters exclaim “wow” and “sheesh.” Inexplicably, northern foreigners swap frock coats and gowns for fur bikinis. Also, should readers believe that Wren can easily erase the legacy of a colonial act occurring a thousand years ago? What is her plan for decolonization, beyond vowing that rivers will “run red with our enemies’ blood”?
VERDICT This anachronistic romp about self-discovery through sisterhood, sexy men, and magic is weakened by clunky prose and a lack of nuance.

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