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review 2017-08-21 02:08
Unquiet Land
Unquiet Land: An Elemental Blessings Novel - Sharon Shinn

In the kingdom of Welce, they believe that all people are affiliated with one of the five elemental groups Coru (water/blood), Elay (air/soul), Sweela (fire/mind), Torz (earth/flesh) or Hunti (wood/bone).  These affiliations come with personality inclinations embodied in the associated blessings.  Welce is headed by a king, but his rule is supported by the approval of the 5 Elemental Primes, one for each affiliation.

 

Troubled Waters, the excellent first book in the Elemental Blessings series by Sharon Shinn, follows Zoe Ardelay on her journey from unknown refugee to Coru Prime. Along the way is much enthralling court intrigue and a slow burn romance that is long on the emotional and short on physical engagement (as I prefer my books to be).  

 

Zoe plays a supporting role in the second book in the series, Royal Airs, which follows Josetta, a princess of one of the Five Families.  Josetta is and trying to figure out her place in the world after the exciting finish to Troubled Waters causes a significant change in her circumstances.  Her Elay soul is drawn to building a shelter to aid the many poor in the slums of the capital city.   Shinn builds another, satisfying, slowly developing romance as Josetta tries to figure out why Rafe Adova, a career gambler in the slums, is seemingly devoid of elemental blessings.

 

The third book, Jeweled Fire, centers on Corene, another of the princesses.  This strong-willed and fiery Sweela young woman along with her loyal bodyguard, Foley, stow away on a ship bound for a neighboring kingdom Malinqua.  Once there, Corene is drawn into the intrigue surrounding the competition to marry one of the Queen’s nephews and so win a kingdom of her own.  She is assisted by Leah Frothen, spy for the Regent of Welce.  My critique of Jeweled Fire is embedded in a Readathon Update

 

The most recent book in the series, Unquiet Land, continues the story of Leah Frothen, who identifies as Torz.  Unquiet Land very much fit my mood and was quickly and enjoyably devoured.  While better than Jeweled Fire, Unquiet Land in no way lived up to the first book in the series. The romance aspect was more explicit, with a bit too much agonizing about whether she deserved to trust/love her man.  The evil deeds committed by the villains are a bit more explicit than I prefer.  In addition, I felt like Ms. Shinn recycled too many plot elements from previous books

How many times is the love interest going to turn out to be a long-lost prince or other person of courtly importance?

(spoiler show)

 

Goodreads doesn’t (yet) list a #5 in the series, and the only characters that comes to mind as having a Hunti affiliation are the Regent, Darien Serlast and his Aunt Mirti the Hunti Prime.  But I’m hoping that Ms. Shinn will find a Hunti young woman to feature so this series can continue for at least one more book and we can have a complete set of elements. 

 

As a sidenote, Sharon Shinn has made a set of blessing coins and once a week she posts the blessings she pulls to her Facebook page.

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review 2017-08-03 01:22
Archangel (Samaria #1) by Sharon Shinn

 

 

 

AuthorSharon Shinn

Title: Archangel

SeriesSamaria

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Through science, faith, and force of will, the Harmonics carved out for themselves a society that they conceived as perfect. Diverse peoples held together by respect for each other. Angels to guard the mortals and mystics to guard the forbidden knowledge. Jehovah to watch over them all...

Generations later, the armed starship Jehovah still looms over the planet of Samaria, programmed to unleash its arsenal if peace is not sustained. But with the coming of an age of corruption, Samaria's only hope lies in the crowning of a new Archangel. The oracles have chosen Gabriel for this honor, and further decreed that he must first wed a mortal woman named Rachel.

It is his destiny and hers. And Gabriel is certain that she will greet the news of her betrothal with enthusiasm, and a devotion to duty equal to his own.

Rachel, however, has other ideas...

 

 

 

 

I actually had this book on my shelves at home but I couldn't remember ever finishing the book and I also couldn't remember why. So when the author was recommended to me I decided to pick it up and finish it.

I remember now.

In Archangel Shinn creates a really fantastic world by blending spiritualism and fantasy in one place. Our angels reach a sort of promotion stage in becoming archangels but there's a catch. They have to sing, and they need human assistance.

This is where readers find themselves following along the early stages of Gabriel's oncoming promotion to becoming an archangel when he has to find and convince Rachel to sing with him.

This is where my interest I think the first time around really failed to follow along to the end of the book. Rachel is one of the most god awful heroines to be paired with Gabriel. No matter how nice he is, no matter what he does, Rachel is constantly cruel, cold, rude, and completely careless of why she suddenly has this bigger purpose and why its so important.

She doesn't really care about anything or anyone outside of herself because she is still so caught up in herself that she can't think of anything outside of her own selfish self centered wants and desires even as she is so inconsistent when it comes to really investing in that self absorption when confronted with it.

Its really odd and clashes with your hopes that she will overcome her past to blossoming into this better more humble person and achieve healing but readers never really get that.

In the end I felt like the choice in heroine was completely wrong for this kind of story and it didn't mesh with me. I uprated because I liked the angels and the world that Shinn created but poor character personality kept me from rating the book much higher than that. 

I read Archangel after receiving an author recommendation from Olga Godim.

 

 

 

 

Until next time book lovers...

 

 

Krissys Bookshelf Reviews purchased a print copy for personal collection.

All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

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review 2017-04-09 06:30
Leah dithers
Unquiet Land: An Elemental Blessings Novel - Sharon Shinn

I liked this novel – I like everything by this writer – but it’s not her best work. In fact, the story seems an afterthought to Shinn’s latest series. It utilizes many of the characters I have encountered in the prior books.

The protagonist, Leah, also appeared before, in Jeweled Fire. There, she played a supporting role. Here, she is given a chance to shine, but sadly, her shine is a mere sparkle.

After 5 years of spying for the Regent in a foreign country, Leah returns home and tries to find a place to belong. She has a young daughter, Mally, whom she abandoned 5 years ago. Mally doesn’t even know Leah is her mother. Leah also has a former lover, but she is still resentful for his rejection 5 years ago. It seems, everything of importance in Leah’s life happened 5 years ago, but the story in this book happens now, 5 years later. Now, Leah tries to establish a new connection with Mally. Now, Leah tries to fit into the society she abandoned 5 years ago. Now, Leah tries to find a new purpose in life and a new love.

Leah’s story is quiet, as is Leah herself, and her new love grows gradually. There is no insta-lust there but lots of doubts. One of Leah’s doubts actually turned me against this book and its heroine. Her new love interest, Chandran, confesses to her early in this novel that a decade ago he killed his wife. She was a monster, or so he says, but he still feels guilty for taking her life.

After his confession, Leah is reluctant to trust him completely. She is dithering, afraid to jump full-tilt into the affair. Even though she is clearly in love with him, and he with her, she is stringing Chandran along, keeps him dangling.

The more I read about Chandran in the tale, the more I liked the guy. He is one of those men who doesn’t shy away from hard decisions but does what he feels right and then accepts the consequences, no matter how painful. He is a rare thing – a man with integrity.  

As the book progresses, the facts unfold, showing us that his former wife really was an evil bitch and deserved what she got. And still Leah holds back. Then, close to the end of the book, she gets in trouble. Her life is in mortal danger. Chandran is not in a position to help; he isn’t aware of the danger she faces, but her friend, a female soldier, jumps in and kills her enemy.

Afterwards, Leah doesn’t hesitate to feel grateful to her friend, doesn’t withhold her trust and affection the same way she has been doing with Chandran for the entire length of the book. In this case, killing is a good thing, right? If someone kills protecting her, that’s okay. But Chandran killed protecting someone else, in a situation unknown to Leah, so different standards must apply. The entire conditional approval of killing rubbed me raw and it poisoned the whole story.

Other than that one serious objection, I enjoyed this book.

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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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