The Cup and the Crown

 Anyone looking for lessons in courage, determination, ingenuity, and selfless giving should read Diane Stanley’s medieval fantasy, The Cup and the Crown, the second in her series featuring Lady Marguerite, aka Molly.  For her brave loyalty and other acts of fealty, a royal decree has transformed Molly from scullery maid to lady.  But this tough, hard, brash, resilient, and joyful girl who can not embroider, sew, or read poetry struggles to match the conventional definition of lady.  A descendant of the great silversmith and magically gifted William Harrows, Molly possesses her own magical gift of visions and other unharnessed powers.

To locate one of her grandfather’s Loving Cups for sixteen year old King Alaric who seeks a marriage alliance, Molly and her entourage embark on an adventure-filled quest searching for the lost city of Harrowsgode with a raven as their guide.  But can ravens—which are “said to be the ghosts of murdered people or the souls of the damned” (168)—be trusted, especially since numerous dark events await the travelers?  On her journey, the straightforward, honest, and trusting Molly learns the tremendous power in keeping her thoughts and emotions to herself, to “buckle on her armor” to protect her secrets.

Besides its plot twists and turns, Stanley’s book offers interesting observations about human tendencies, like believing an inability to read and write makes one ignorant—when, in fact, Molly is as sharp and clever as any young lady; she just hasn’t had a formal education.  Likewise, the ratcatcher, Richard Strange, is as loyal and competent as any nobleman, although he does not bear the title of lord.  Readers learn that there are many ways to be smart, powerful, and talented if we harness our powers, if we are willing to do the work to learn to bend our gifts and talents to our will. Stanleyalso explores how our perspective of others predicts our treatment of them.  To see someone as a foreigner, as different and therefore dangerous, predisposes an individual to prejudice and cruelty, and to live a parochial life robs one of wisdom and minimizes one’s ability to engage the world.

Like Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy, Patricia Wrede’s Thirteenth Child, or Patricia McKillip’s Riddle-Master trilogy, Stanley’s book features a feisty fantasy female—another reading perk with this novel targeted for tween readers.

  • Posted by Donna

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