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review 2016-12-14 02:40
Too close to home
Heart of Gold - Sharon Shinn

That was a powerful book, a scary book. It explored the sensitive themes of racism and terrorism under the quaint camouflage of fantasy. The action, allegedly, takes place someplace else, where people’s skins are blue and gold instead of brown and white, as they are here, but the punch this book delivers is all the more potent because of it. I read it and thought: even in fantasy, with its unlimited possibilities, the author couldn’t find a solution. How could we, in real life, do better?

There are two major races in the world of this novel: indigo (blue skin) and gulden (golden skin). The indigo race are old aristocrats. They own land and wealth. They are also a matriarchal society. The women inherit, hold government positions, get education. The men, traditionally, just serve as consorts and sperm donors, although the situation has been changing in recent decades. Some indigo men nowadays refuse to get married. They want to have an education and to hold a job, but that’s still rare.

The gulden race is the opposite. They are intensely patriarchal. The majority of them still live in their mountains. Women in the gulden society are property. They can’t even shop for food without permission – a special tag – from their husbands or fathers. Physical abuse of women and children is common in gulden families. Some women try to escape, but it is still rare. Most die in the process.

Both races look at each other as barbarians, indecent in their practices. The only place of change seems to be the city, where both cultures collide. Here, in the city, indigo men could find jobs. Here, in the city, gulden women could hide from their men-folks.

And here, in the city, a young gulden leader unleashes a string of terrorist bombings to force the indigo government to... do what? Now it gets dicey. What he really wants is unclear. He screams: “Freedom!” All terrorists do everywhere, but it feels like he wants to stop progress. Or maybe he just wants the indigo to back off and leave his people the way they are, and his women chattel forever.

I hated the guy. I hated his entire culture, but one of the protagonists, the indigo woman Kit, sees hidden qualities in the gulden way of life. A rebel in her own rich, aristocratic family, she prefers gulden, men and women, to her own people. She grew up among the gulden, as her father, a sociologist, studied the gulden race. It goes even deeper: Kit is in love with a gulden man. In fact, she is full of compassion and understanding for everyone, but is her compassion needed amid the racial hostilities and political intrigues? Is her understanding enough to make a difference?

Another protagonist, an indigo man Nolan, isn’t a rebel in the usual sense. Like others of his race, he doesn’t really accepts gulden as civilized, but he works with them. He is quiet and introspective, a man of science, a biologists, and he likes his job. He is not sure he wants to get married but he will accept life the way it is supposed to be.

When Nolan, by accident, discovers a plot threatening genocide of all gulden, his conscience pushes him to take steps, to ensure such horror doesn’t become reality, and the only one who could help him is Kit. They didn’t even know each other before their crazy attempt to save the gulden race, and Nolan makes some hard decisions along the way. He is so much out of his comfort zone, it’s hard to read, but still he doesn’t waver in his determination. Not everyone would consider his choices moral or ethical. Actually, no indigo did in the story, except Kit, and I’m not sure I do, but he did accomplish his goal: he saved the gulden from extinction, at a great personal cost. At a cost to all indigo, actually.

The terrorism stopped too, but that was in a fantasy tale. Unfortunately, the associations with the real life are too deep in this book, and the decisions and heroes of our life never go the way of Nolan and his ‘happy ending’. I don’t see a happy ending for our global terrorism threat. Things change even here, on this Earth, but much slower than in this author’s fantasy world. And not always for the better. So the reading of this story was a pretty painful experience for me, laced with disappointment and fear for the future. I wish it was as ‘simple’ for us as it was for Nolan and Kit.   

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review 2016-10-13 00:00
The Safe-Keeper's Secret
The Safe-Keeper's Secret - Sharon Shinn Sharon Shinn is one of my comfort read authors. I don't find her books particularly ground-breaking and they don't make me think too hard but they're comforting to read and I enjoy slipping into the worlds she creates. This one though kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, which is a shame as there were parts I really liked.

The book is really more world building then plot heavy, as nothing much happens beyond two characters growing up and discovering their place in the world. Fiona and Reed are the children of the village Safe-Keeper Damiana, though Reed isn't actually her son but a child left on her doorstep as she was giving birth. And they grow up, there are some sorrows in their lives and at the end the big secret of parentage is revealed leaving an opening for the sequel to further explore what happens next.

The world building is interesting, there are Safe-Keepers, Dream-Makers, and Truth-Tellers. All magical positions. Truth-Tellers cannot lie, and often know the truth of things unbidden. Dream-Makers can make wishes come true simply by being around those wishing. The Safe-Keepers keep secrets, all manner of things that people tell them and they will not reveal. And it's the Safe-Keepers where some of my distaste comes from. In this society they act very much like priests hearing confession, they bear the burdens of those terrible truths that people need to tell and there is no danger that those terrible secrets will be revealed. In order to show just how much a Safe-Keeper will keep a secret it's revealed that one of the secrets Damiana keeps is that a woman abuses her children, like leaves them bloody and tied to a door abuses them. But she doesn't tell anyone until that woman is dead. I, obviously, have a lot of issues with this. Especially as it's presented as a neutral thing, not good not bad, just neutral. Not my favorite.

The other thing is a bit more spoilery and it has to do with the romance that Shinn develops in the story between Fiona and Reed. I don't like it, and I think it's gross. I know they aren't technically blood-related, but even so they were raised as siblings.

As I said, Shinn's books are generally comfort reads, and aside from those two issues, this one isn't really that different. I liked it enough to think about picking up the next book in the series, but it's not my favorite work of hers.
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text 2016-07-16 22:17
TBR: More series books to be read...
Jeweled Fire (An Elemental Blessings Novel) - Sharon Shinn
Threading the Needle: Book Two of the Ley - Joshua Palmatier
Archangel's Heart - Nalini Singh
Fire Touched - Patricia Briggs
The Undoing - Shelly Laurenston

Well,.. these will be next (some not quite published yet but pre-ordered).  Scrolling thru Fictfact's email updates on series and authors I read probably shouldn't be done while I have an itch to burn through the apple settlement credits.  Not to mention the huge backlog of books I still need to review.  But, temptation calls!

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review 2016-06-12 09:16
Bare Bones Book Review: Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Troubled Waters - Sharon Shinn

Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king's fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river.

It's there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood—and the secrets of the royal family—she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court

 

 

Good Stuff:

 

  • Gorgeously unique world building based upon the elements, blessings and superstitions.

 

  • Simple, yet gratifying character development.

 

  • Rolling, well-checked pacing.

 

  • Tackles hard subjects, but with a gentle hand.

 

  • Easy, controlled prose.

 

  • Sweet, but not overpowering romance.

 

 

Not Quite So Good Stuff:

 

  • Not the most mystifying of mystery elements.

 

  • Felt a little too contrived at times.

 

Conclusion:

 

A little quieter in tone than my usual tastes, but I still look forward to seeing how the rest of the series plays out. A really enjoyable time out from the bustle of the battle heavy, or grimdarkish fantasy that's crowding the scene at the moment.

 

 

 

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review 2016-04-20 18:37
Troubled Waters
Troubled Waters - Sharon Shinn

I recently found the third book in this series in the library, but it had been long enough that I couldn't remember the details.  Just as successful on the 2nd read as the first time around.  

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