Mary’s Book Review: Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

How Excited Was I To Read This Book? I’d say 7. I purposely sought out a Shinn book to suit my mood – it had been a long day and I wanted a fantasy escape. Plus the teen room of the library had already closed for the day (quel tragique!) so I had to be resourceful!

How Excited Was I When I Finished This Book? I wasn’t! Because I wanted it to continue and I was disappointed there wasn’t a sequel I could immediately run and pick up!

Book Jacket: 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.

Review: I generally really enjoy Sharon Shinn, but I obviously still enjoy some more than others. This one was a definite like. And it’s hard to pinpoint why! Usually I would point to the obvious culprit: I’m a sucker for a good romantic sub-plot. But there are other Shinn romances that I like more (Tayse and Senneth from Mystic and Rider for one).

I think Shinn is just a great storyteller and that was what I most enjoyed in this book. I loved the country of Welce that she described, especially the concept of 5 powerful families, each with a leader who would control one of the elements. And I loved how people in this world defined themselves by those elements. For example Zoe was coru, defined by water, flexible and changing but resilient and persistent. Darien Serlast, a hunti, defined by wood: stubborn and unbending but also loyal and determined. Their personalities were both strongly drawn, but everything in the Welce world really was about balance. In personalities and in power. That is a complicated story to convey, but Shinn did a great job doing so across an absorbing plot.

I liked Zoe, even though I did not really identify with her. Which is also a testament to Shinn’s storytelling abilities. Zoe has to be strong because of circumstances. She is empathetic and nice, but I especially loved it when her temper flared. Zoe is awesome when her righteous anger takes over. It was easy to root for her and even for Welce and its future. I won’t give away any more than that because this is one book that repeatedly caught me by surprise!

Unresolved-But-Maybe-Resolved-Sexual-Tension: I loved the twist of the romantic subplot at the end. There were actually two twists. I liked the happy one. Above all else, the relationship built between Zoe and Darien was a mature one. They both acknowledged each other’s respective responsibilities and they were in no hurry to, well, get together! It was nice, but I think other Shinn romances have been sweeter.

Re-readability: 9. Because I read it not long ago and I’ve already reread it!

Recommended for: Fans of fantasy. Those looking for a more grown-up Tamara Pierce-type story.

If You Liked This Book You Should Also Check Out: Hmmm they are more kids books, but maybe the Sabriel trilogy? Also Mystic and Rider. I actually did not like Shinn’s Archangel books as much, but they are many people’s favorites!