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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 2017-04-09 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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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 2016-01-15 08:02
Princess of fire
Jeweled Fire (An Elemental Blessings Novel) - Sharon Shinn

In Welce, there is a surplus of princesses. The Empress of Malinqua needs a princess or two as brides for her three nephews. When Princess Corene of Welce decides to accept the Empress’s invitation to visit Malinqua, she defies her father’s wishes but she is determined to forge her own life. Unfortunately, when Corene arrives at the royal court in Malinqua, she discovers that the situation is much more complex than she had thought and much more lethal.

The Empress hasn’t named her heir yet, and many of her surviving relatives jockey for the position. The key word is ‘surviving’, as there is a long tradition in Malinqua of eligible royal relatives dropping dead – of illness or accident, of course. But the body count is just too high for Corene’s peace of mind. Could she be the next victim of a convenient accident? And who is responsible for so many corpses?

Corene is an unusual heroine. Strong-minded and sharp-tongued, she is not very likable in the beginning. She could be downright rude, exploit people’s weaknesses without remorse, or throw a tantrum, if it suits her goals, but inside her prickly exterior, there is a vulnerable little girl who yearns to be loved for who she is. Combined with her inexhaustible courage, her experience of the palace intrigues at home, and her desire to find a purpose in life, she makes an explosive and fascinating protagonist.

The characters surrounding her are just as complicated and very diverse. There are two other foreign princesses in Malinqua: the flirty Melissande and the tragic Alette, both of whom become Corene’s friends as they face the unknown dangers together. There are three nephews of the Empress, all aspiring to the throne, all with their own problems. There is also Foley, Corene’s bodyguard from Welce – her stalwart supporter and watchful protector. And maybe even more.

The plot unfolds slowly, as many Shinn’s novels do. Nothing of import seems to happen at first. Corene shops and chats and flirts and explores her new surroundings. She is learning to navigate the treacherous waters of the court, but subtle tension always thrums underneath the mundane, and suspense mounts quietly but steadily. Corene must figure out fast who of her new friends might be her bitterest enemy if she wants to survive her visit to Malinqua.

In the end, when the tension finally snaps, and the embers that’s been smoldering burst into a conflagration, the author flings her reader towards a fiery denouement. The ending is the only flaw of this book. Not the actions, no, they are as absorbing as the rest of the tale, but Corene’s final decisions seem unrealistic and questionable in the milieu of the novel.

Until the very end, I believed the story. I sympathized with Corene’s quest to find a true meaning to her life. But when she ‘found it’, I said: “Huh?” The story didn’t really end. It just took the next logical step, so all the anguish and terror and heroism seemed for naught.

Despite the disappointing finale, the journey was worth the reading. I hope there are more books in this series. I definitely want to read them.

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