I ended up with 4 stars *sigh* even though I enjoyed the two books so much (stayed up til 3am for the first book, while having a test in the next morning...) But anyway, despite its enjoyability, there are certain problems that I just could not pretend that they don't exist.
Perhaps I am being a bit unfair to compare these books to those of Meghan Whalen Turner or Melina Marchetta, considering the others' books are soooo much longer. Marchetta's books are obviously geared towards older readers, a lot of emotions and sufferings, the world, the humanity etc. Turner's are too smart and, sometimes I feel, too perfect (how the hell can an YA really be written so superb???)
Anyway, coming back to Crown and Court Duel. Plots are good enough. Well, yeah, they are sometimes predictable, but still they are not carried out in such a too-predictable-fashion. Mel is pretty convincing for me, especially her being not so awesome, not so smart, not so "deeply, emotionally scarred," or her fighting not so well, and thanks God, no praising all the time of her supposed "awesomeness." She's just her and very frank, truthful to herself, proud and sometimes too stubborn, but never annoying and never too idealistic. She's, in short, likable, the way I like.
But this serie is too short. Going towards the end of both books, they are just too fast and end too... superficially. Dead-or-alive battles are carried out in the form of flashback in about, what, 2 pages? And great, yeah, here we are, victorious and happy, problems solved swiftly. Damn. I wish for more, something more dramatic and grand, epic? Well... 200 hundred pages, could not ask too much right?
That's said, this book is a kid's world, a nice and lovely one that is. The problem is, however, that child's world is pretending to be something else, more complex and intrigue. It strives to show a political battlefield driven by greed, power, and commerce. It strives to feature a magical element, with sorcerers and "Hill Folk." It strives to make some characters so "cool" and terribly "sneaky," full of schemes. In fact, that world is really more complex, but the complexity of the world and the smoothness of its success do not match, no matter how nice the flow is, how lovely these characters are. It's a trade-off, a compromise made by author, but leaves the audience feeling so unfulfilled.
But I still love it, though. Because everything else is just great and characters are impossible to dislike.