I really like Diane Stanley’s beautifully written and illustrated picture book biographies of famous historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Peter the Great and others. And Brown Bear Daughter and I both enjoyed her fairy tale fantasy Cinderella story, Bella at Midnight. But The Cup and the Crown, a sequel to The Silver Bowl (which I haven’t read), just wasn’t up to snuff in comparison to the biographies or to Bella.
Molly’s friend King Alaric asks her to find a Loving Cup for him, a magical cup with the “power to bind two souls together for life, to bless their children and their children’s children down through the generations.” He needs the cup to make a neighboring princess fall in love with him and thereby gain a strategic alliance for the kingdom. Strike one against this story. I didn’t care if Molly ever found the cup or not, given the rather mercenary purpose of her quest.
Molly, accompanied by several friends and companions, travels to the north in search of the cup, and lead by a magical raven, they discover a hidden city where no one is allowed to enter lest they give the secret location of the rich and powerful city of Harrowsgode. But Molly is allowed in by an inhabitant who should know better, and then she is imprisoned so that she can never leave and give away the secret. Strike two. Why did Master Pieter let Molly in? Even more to the point, why did Master Pieter let her friend Tobias in when he knew that Tobias’ life would be forfeit?
Then, by hard work and a little magic, Molly and Tobias manage to escape, someone makes them a Loving Cup, and they all live happily ever after—maybe. Strike three. I made it all the way through the book, but I was not rewarded with a very satisfying ending. I think there’s a third book in the series yet to come.