Gr. 5-8. Different in setting, structure, and tone from Crown Duet (1997), the first volume of the Crown & Court Duet, this book begins with Meliara back at the home castle, reading a letter from a powerful courtier and trying to decide if the writer is friend or foe. When she travels to court, Meliara finds herself constantly trying to tell friends from enemies as she endeavors to learn the subtle language of the courtiers, who communicate in a language of gesture and intimation that is quite foreign to her native bluntness. Readers who loved Crown Duel for its strongly realized fantasy world, adventurous characters, and scenes of action may find the sequel disappointing. The character and voice of Meliara are as compelling as ever, and several others are intriguing as well; however, readers will find it difficult to maintain a high level of engagement, given the more static setting, the many details of courtly behavior, and the general lack of something happening. Still, libraries with readers for the first volume should offer the second as well, since Meliara's story is incomplete without it.