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Troubled Waters (An Elemental Blessings Novel) Mass Market Paperback – September 27, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Elemental Blessings Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Shinn (Quatrain) carries readers away into a vivid new fantasy world where the five elements control everyone's lives. Alone and in shock after the death of her father, Zoe Ardelay is invited to the capital to become the king's fifth wife and create a much needed numerological balance both politically and at court, where the four queens vie to promote their children for the role of heir to the throne. Then Zoe learns she is the new œprime  of Lalindar clan, which saves her from the marriage, but thrusts her into a world of dangerous political scheming, secret agendas, and an increasingly risky attraction to royal adviser Darien Serlast. This entertaining and suspenseful story is full of lively characters, and the intriguing new system of magic and politics provides plenty of potential for sequels.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This coming-of-age story begins with Zoe Ardelay mourning her father and follows her on the road to power as she discovers who she really is and what that might mean to the kingdom. The palace is where she must eventually go, and the court itself could have been taken from any of the scheming and backstabbing courts of Europe in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. There is a complicated love story woven into the main theme, and it also shows Zoe’s growth from a naive young girl into a strong, determined young woman. The world Zoe inhabits is well described, and the idea that the five essential elements rule everyone’s lives is something that has roots in the Western philosophies of the past, though never to the extent that it became a religion. This easy-to-read tale will be enjoyed by readers who like stories with hints of Western European aristocracy and elemental magic, and with a happy ending. --Rebecca Gerber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: An Elemental Blessings Novel (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441020895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441020898
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sharon Shinn is a journalist who works for a trade magazine. Her first novel, The Shapechanger's Wife, was selected by Locus as the best first fantasy novel of 1995. She has won the William C. Crawford Award for Outstanding New Fantasy Writer, and was twice nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has lived in the Midwest most of her life.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a big Sharon Shinn fan, and this newest novel does not disappoint! Zoe Ardelay has been living in exile with her father since she was 13, and as the novel opens he has just passed away and a royal messenger arrives to bring her to the royal city and marry the king. In the new world of Welce that Shinn has created, there are 5 "traits" that must be in balance, and Zoe is of high birth and possesses the blood/water trait that is needed at the palace. As any reader of Shinn knows, though, her heroines rarely do exactly what they're supposed to. Zoe escapes from her escort and finds her own way once they reach the royal city, supporting herself while she figures out what she wants to do with the rest of her life. As is par for the course with Shinn, too, there is a love story arc woven in, though it is not the primary focus of the book. Zoe has to find her place as an aristocrat in this society, and unravel the mystery of why her father was banished and her mothers family cut all ties with her. (Or did they...)

While fans of the Twelve Houses series will find echoes of the same courtly intrigue and politicking, and while the world Zoe lives in reminded me quite a bit of the world of the Safekeepers Secret series (Shinn's lovely Young Adult trilogy), and even while Zoe herself brings to mind the contrariness of Tamar in "The Alleluia Files," the book is entirely separate from all of these. Rather than reading as a rehash of earlier work, it comes off as the best of Shinn's repertoire; she has really hit her stride.
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Format: Hardcover
Zoe Ardelay and her father, once the king's closest advisor, have been in exile for ten years. After her father dies, the king's new advisor, Darien Serlast, shows up in Zoe's village to escort her back to court because she's been chosen to be the king's fifth wife. At first Zoe is numb with grief and shock, but by the time they reach the capital city her "water" personality asserts itself and she begins to flow around the obstacles in her way -- obstacles such as Darien himself, a man of "wood" who's strong, stubborn, and immovable.

Filled with vivid characters, beautiful scenery, sweet friendships, surprising destinies, political intrigue, mystery, a slow satisfying romance, and an interesting take on personality types, Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn is a book that just feels good. I listened to the audio version produced by Audible Frontiers and read by Jennifer Van Dyck. It was 14 hours long, but I enjoyed it so much that I finished it over a weekend, which kind of annoyed my family. I even considered trying to extract myself from a couple of social engagements so I could spend time with Zoe instead.

Troubled Waters is definitely a romance -- and some of the verbal sparring felt a bit contrived, as if set up just to create that tension -- yet mostly the romance brews in the background as Zoe navigates her way through her changed world. Some readers won't believe in the romance, and others might feel that things work out too easily for Zoe, but I enjoyed this low-stress novel. It features a strong and likable heroine, a love-interest who's my kind of guy, a diverse supporting cast, a leisurely pace, and it focuses on a variety of human relationships. It is likely to appeal mostly to women.

Troubled Waters can be read as a satisfying stand-alone story, but there may be more books to come. If so, I'll definitely be picking them up. Meanwhile, I'll be trying out some more novels by Sharon Shinn.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some of my favorite fantasy novels were the Mystics and Riders series. And I was expecting a lot from Troubled Waters, because Sharon Shinn created such realistic and engaging characters in that series, with plots that were both character and action driven. In Troubled Waters, I felt that the main character was hard to relate to. The decisions that Zoe made didn't seem consistent (even given that her character, governed by water, was supposed to be changeable). Zoe felt contrived to me. Also, although there was much detailed description, the story didn't come alive. It seem a lot of the author's focus was to develop the underpinnings of the world she was creating in this series (I'm assuming it will be a series). On the plus side, the concepts of the novel were extremely interesting. There are many fine characters, and a rich world in which to spin new plots. I can imagine the next book could be amazingly engaging and entertaining.
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Format: Hardcover
I went into this book with high hopes as I like quite a bit of Sharon Shinn's work and enjoy fantasy novels with less war games and more political intrigue. However, I was really disappointed in this book and can only hope that if others follow, Shinn actually tries to develop her characters.

I won't go into the plot too much, as it has already been dissected a dozen times. I will say, however, that the characters Shinn chose to act out this often-written storyline - someone (a poor, common, or outsider someone) is brought to the court as an heir/a wife/a person of great power - were wooden and two-dimensional. I felt that there was little effort put into trying to develop any of the characters beyond stock stereotypes. Each of the king's wives was a caricature - almost as if you propped up some of Henry VIII's wives and exaggerated them. The main character was given to ridiculous bouts of temper, which ultimately offered resolution at the novel's end. And this was such a slipshod way to handle the story (honestly, how could Zoe's irrational - if not entirely unwarranted - lashing out been allowed at any court?) - as well as improbable. Also, the romance seemed contrived and, personally, I cared little for Darien.

However, this novel's saving grace and the reason, I believe, that it has garnered so many stars and the reason why I would read a sequel, is that the world Shinn has developed is quite intricate and interesting. Her religion has been well thought out, is believable and tangible. I liked the kingdom, and I even enjoyed the backstory. I feel that the problem with Troubled Waters is that it relied so heavily on the surrounding world that the characters and storyline were never fully developed. Hopefully, subsequent novels will have more ingenuity in their characters and plots.
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