A High Fantasy novel by Sherwood Smith consisting of two parts, Crown Duel and Court Duel. The story is set in the kingdom of Remalna, where the people's agreement with the Hill Folk to not cut down trees or burn wood has altered the standard Medieval European Fantasy setting.
In Crown Duel, Countess Meliara Astair of Tlanth swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, which threatens the very people they are trying to protect.
In Court Duel, Meliara is summoned to live at the royal palace, where friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms. If she is to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting-with wits and words and secret alliances.
This book provides examples of:
- Annoying Arrows: Averted. The whole continent has a pact against using archers
- Barefoot Poverty: Though a noble, Meliara only ever wore cast-off clothes and only bothered with too-large shoes in winter
- Big Damn Heroes: Nessaren and her riding show up just when the wagon drivers are about to kill Mel.
- Book Dumb: Meliara, at first, as her father had burned their library when she was young.
- The Dandy: Shevraeth has this reputation. He surprises everyone by being incredibly competent
- Dead Guy on Display: What would happen to the Astairs if Galdran got to them
- Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: The first few chapters of part two involve Nee teaching Mel about Court etiquette.
- Evil Is Petty: This is what brings down Galdran, who insisted on fighting the rebels himself after Mel made Debegri look the fool.
- Fascists' Bed Time: The army imposes this on the towns they pass through while hunting for Mel.
- First-Name Basis: Savona asks Mel to call him by his first name after their first dance, which almost no one else at Court uses. Shevraeth also asks to be called by name once he and Meliara resolve their differences.
- Gambit Pileup: All over the place. Most of part one's unpleasantness could have been averted if Shevraeth had worked with the Astairs from the beginning.
- Go Through Me: "I know I can't fight forty of you, but I'm going to stand here and block you until you either go away or my arms fall off, because this, too, is an oath I took."
- Good with Numbers: After learning to read as a teenager, Mel takes over Tlanth's business and taxes.
- Heroic Willpower: Meliara is a queen of this. She rides for at least three days with no sleep and faces down forty wagoneers, even though she has no hope of defeating them in a fight, just to help the Hill Folk.
- Home Field Advantage: The Tlanthi led Galdran's army deeper into the mountains for this
- Ostentatious Secret: Meliara uses this to spread word and anticipation for Nee's adoption party
- Royal Blood: Mel and Bran's mother was the last of Remalna's greatest royal line