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Coronets and Steel    by Sherwood Smith order for
Coronets and Steel
by Sherwood Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Sherwood Smith, author of the enthralling Inda fantasy series and of wonderful YA adventures like Crown Duel and the Wren trilogy, now brings fans something a little different from her previous works. Coronets and Steel opens an urban fantasy series (that both YA and adult readers can enjoy) which reads rather like a Prisoner of Zenda rewrite with an athletic (skilled in ballet and fencing) Californian heroine, Aurelia Kim Murray.

Kim travels on a personal quest. Four months before, her beloved grandmother feverishly told her that Kim must return and 'heal the breach.' Gran has said nothing more since, but has just sat in her chair staring out the window. Kim wonders what breach, and embarks on genealogical research to find her grandmother's family. It takes her to Vienna, where she sees ghosts, and senses that she's being watched.

Treating herself to an evening at the Opera, Kim is seated beside a man she sums up as Mr. Darcy. She meets him again, they go out for drinks and he drugs and kidnaps her, calling her Aurelia. After various adventures, Kim learns that it was a case of mistaken identity. Alec (who is actually prince Marius Alexander Ysvorod) believed she was his missing fiancée, her aristocratic lookalike cousin Aurelia Dsaret - who only resembles Kim on the surface.

Though the evidence seems to point to her mother being born on the wrong side of the blanket, it appears that Kim is related to royalty. She seeks her family roots in Dobrenica, where she finds out more about her background; is embroiled in a plot against the throne; makes good use of her fencing skills; and is attracted to both Alec and her bad boy cousin Tony (who's after the family treasure). And, oh yes, she continues to see ghosts.

Along with Kim, readers learn of legends of vampires and a Nasdrafus (fairyland) coexisting with Dobrenica. A royal marriage on a particular day is said to invoke the Blessing, a miracle that protects the country from outside threats by shifting it into another dimension where otherworldly beings exist alongside humans.

As this first book ends, Kim puts aside her own feelings, returns to California, and leaves the way open for the Blessing to be invoked in Dobrenica. Then her Gran starts speaking once more ... I very much enjoyed Coronets and Steel and am keen to find out where Sherwood Smith takes the series - and her delightful heroine - next.

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