Beast and Crown
He decides to risk everything for a chance to accompany a young nobleman to the Diadem Rite, a magical ritual that chooses the heir to the Summer Crown. Ji doesn’t care about crowns or ceremonies, but he vows that this trip will grant him and his friends new lives, far away from boots and bowing. What Ji doesn’t know is that he and his friends have a dangerous part to play in the Diadem Rite. One that will change them forever.
From the author of The Fog Diver
Jiyong is a boot boy in the Primstone Manor, where he is friends with Sally, a maid, as well as the governess Roz. When the nephew of the owner of Primstone is chosen to go to the city to participate in the Diadem Rite, he is hopeful that he will be chosen as the heir to the throne. Sally and Ji are glad to accompany him to the city because they hope to buy Sally's brother Chibo from the tapestry factory where her has been working. Brace's uncle doesn't want to take him to the city because of a lotus flower blooming in the tombs under the manor, so Ji and his friends help him sneak in and destroy the flower. This works a little-- Brace will now go to the city, but the children don't have a chance to retrieve the loot they were going to use to buy Chibo. With ogres attacking the city, the Summer Queen is anxious to chose an heir and attend to this impending problem . Unbeknownst to Ji, when he and his friends help Brace in the Diadem Rite, they are not expected to survive. Through an odd set of circumstances, they do, but they are all greatly changed. Will they be able, in their altered forms, to save the kingdom, and can they ever trust Brace or the queen again?
While Ji is certainly the driving force in the group, the supporting characters are distinctive as well. Sally is fairly single minded in her desire to retrieve her brother, and she takes to the adventure well. Roz, as a governess, has a large vocabulary and frequently confuses the others with her language. The queen, as well as most of the adults in charge, have a veneer of kindness built upon a hardrock maple base of evil. Brace is a bit of an enigma for most of the book; will he turn up on the side of evil or good by the end?
The plot is easy to follow (which is always important to me, since I frequently find fantasy books confusing) and moves along quickly with the help of quirky goblins, ogre attacks, and frequent flights from the forces of evil. Readers who are looking for a good dose of traditional fantasy that is delivered by series such as McMann's The Unwanteds, Sutherland's Wings of Fire or Owen's
The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica will find that the imaginative twists in Beast and Crown can keep them occupied while they are waiting for the next book in one of these favorites.