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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 2016-01-15 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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review 2015-12-06 01:35
Jeweled Fire
Jeweled Fire (An Elemental Blessings Novel) - Sharon Shinn

I liked this one better than the previous book in the series, Royal Airs (An Elemental Blessings Novel) - Sharon Shinn   but the first book, Troubled Waters - Sharon Shinn   is still by far the best.


This one features the Princess Corene whom we last saw stowing away on a ship to go to the far land of Malinqua to run away from the disappointments of her life.  To be fair, poor Corene has had it a bit rough. 


Her mother Alys is probably one of the most scheming, poisonous characters in the series.  She is a woman who is completely ruled by her ambition for power and would use anything -- her status, her body, her daughter, her daughter's virtue -- to get it.  Corene had every expectation of being named heir to the throne after all her father had been the king, and one of his daughters needed to be chosen.  But a huge paternity scandal put a an end to that when it was discovered the King had been impotent and fathered none of his children.  Added to that Corene's awful stepfather tried to molest her.  And because of the way she was brought up, she has a reputation as being not very nice.  So yeah, Corene has seen better days.


In the first book Corene was a spoiled little snot.  But credit to the author for making it apparent in the course of the story that what we saw of Corene wasn't necessarily her own personality.  It was the effects of a young girl being brought up in a royal court with a mother like Alys.  There were flashes where Corene is shown to be vulnerable and more decent than first impressions.  This is further evidenced once Corene is brought under the influence of her stepmother Zoe (the heroine of the first book) and her biological father, the powerful Regent Darien.  Under their loving guidance, Corene blossoms, but she is still adrift.  What does a princess do when once can't really Princess?


Well she runs off to find a prince for one.  Just like in her own home kingdom of Welce, Empire of Malinqua's succession isn't a clear cut thing.  There are four pretenders to the throne, including a newly discovered secret heir.  And three other princesses who are there for the same reason as Corene: to marry the heir.


When Corene arrives in Malinqua she finds herself in familiar territory -- amidst court scheming, succession wars and surprisingly... murder.


I wasn't sure I was on board with reading a book with Corene as the center.  But like I said the author did lay the foundation for redeeming her in the previous book.  Most especially since in those books she was a very young girl and can be excused for being a bit selfish.  In this one she is now a grown up young woman and we see the pay off of being part of Zoe & Darien's life and away from her toxic mother.


But I love books full of court intrigue and this one had it in spades.  Actually this one kinda reminded me a bit of Summers at Castle Auburn - Sharon Shinn , especially with the younger set hanging out and being friends and bonding.  That was a cool part of this book, Corene and the other princesses all became good friends instead of catty rivals.  So much so that they make lifelong friend pacts and actually help out each other when things become really life or death in the palace.


This is also a bit of a murder mystery.  A whodunnit?  Who is slyly killing off people to affect the succession?


There is also a romance and I love that Corene and Foley end up together.  Foley had been Corene's sister's Josetta's indefatigable bodyguard and a quietly awesome character throughout the series.  I was a little bummed he didn't end up with Josetta in the previous book, but I can't be too mad at him.  By the time this book ends, Corene has become such a root-worthy heroine and she deserves the bad-ass Foley. Even if he isn't a Prince.


Looking forward to the next book in the series and hope we get some follow-up on what happens with Alette, Liramelli and Melissande (the other princesses) .

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