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Troubled Waters Hardcover – October 5, 2010
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- Item Weight : 1.4 pounds
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0441019234
- ISBN-13 : 978-0441019236
- Product Dimensions : 6.25 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Ace; 1st Edition (October 5, 2010)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,432,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The society of the Kingdom of Wence is built around the balance of the five natural elements with related character traits & blessings: water (blood), fire (mind), air (soul), earth (flesh), wood (bone) & people’s resonance to one them.
Besides the King, the country is ruled by five great families with a particular affinity to one of the elements, especially embodied in the heads (Primes) of the families: water (“coru”) - Family Lalindar, air (“eelay”) - Family Dochenza, fire (“sweela”) -Family Ardelay, earth (“torz”) – Family Frothen , wood (“hunti”) – Family Serlast.
The story is about Zoe Ardelay-Lalindar, how, instead of marrying the King as his 5th wife, she comes into power as the new Prime of the Lalindar (her mother’s) family, how she is growing up to / into her role and how she navigates the troubled waters of high society & court intrigue.
Things I loved:
- Sharon Shinn managed to “create” a story that flows simply & naturally without great fuss, pointless grandiosity & forced BIG revelations. Every detail seems to be in its place & fits naturally into the greater picture. She did indeed achieve BALANCE.
- The concept of the world building based on the 5 elements & loosely on numerology. The author builds up her world slowly, but surely, with lovely, interesting & intriguing details of geography, religion, politics, social customs without being over- or underwhelming.
- The magic, if it can be called magic at all, is understated. It is more like natural powers coming to characters in-synch with their intrinsic elements, with greater power being concentrated in the Primes of the 5 houses. It is an important feature, but not the actual drive behind the story.
- The heroine, Zoe: she is not your typical kickass one (not that I have anything against them in general), but still has a solid inner strength to her in perfect harmony with her natural element (water) that is very appealing.
She IS actually lovely, likeable & easy to relate to. She is not perfect & has no false humility about herself either. And that, my Fellow-Readers, is no mean feat considering how many authors seem to miss the point entirely by creating these „oh-so-very-speshul snowflakes” whose specialness lies in being insufferable („oh, please don’ tell me I am special, for I know I am not, though everone else keeps telling me I AM”) and spoils the whole reading process, even if the story is a good one.
It is also a refreshing change that Zoe – upon learning that she is heir to her Coru grandmother & Prime of the Lalindar family – instead of denial and running away from her fate in the usual fashion of „chosen ones” of most fantasy novels, actually takes to her role like a duck is taking to water (pun intended), flowing into & filling in the space she needs to occupy naturally without any needless rumpus.
- The characters in general: main as well as secondary characters are well drawn. There is no black & white characterisation.
- The love affair is also understated: part of the story, without events having to evolve around it all the time. There are no earthquakes, fireworks all screaming: „HE/SHE is the ONE!!!” It is still believable how the 2 characters are influencing / are slowly being drawn to each other without the author having to hit us on the head every other page with how much they are in love, describing every move / look / facial expression / thought / feeling in excruciating detail.
The spoiler-averse should stop reading now....
There are romance elements, and palace intrigue, and Zoe is thrown into difficult situations, but her essentially kind nature helps her form new and lasting friendships in a way that I found very pleasing. I never felt worried that any permanent harm would come to her beyond the hurt she's suffering in the opening pages. As the story begins, Zoe is worn out by the vastness of her grief at her father's death. For me, that grief was beautifully evoked and very moving. I think that's mostly due to the author's compassion and skill, but it's partly because it resonated with my own experiences, stories being a strange alchemy between what's written on the page and what the reader brings to a story. Beyond that opening I enjoyed the book in its entirety, but wasn't as deeply stirred again.
3.5 stars out of 5.
About my reviews: I try to review every book I read, including those that I don't end up enjoying. The reviews are not scholarly, but just indicate my reaction as a reader, reading being my addiction. I am miserly with 5-star reviews; 4 stars means I liked a book very much; 3 stars means I liked it; 2 stars means I didn't like it (though often the 2-star books are very popular with other readers and/or are by authors whose other work I've loved).
Top reviews from other countries
This book contains many elements familiar to readers of Sharon Shinn's other novels. There is of course the very gentle romance that develops although with more suspicion on the part of the heroine than usual. There is also a genuine sense of mystery as Zoe tries to uncover all the secrets of her father. In particular like her Twelve Houses series this book has characters who have mystical abilities divided into specific groups in this case: earth, air, fire, water and wood. The author does her usual excellent job of weaving this mystical concept into all of the world building.
Set in a different world to any of her previous novels this one has some particularly enjoyable differences. The drawing of blessings, coins with certain symbols, is a theme throughout the book and is an interesting concept. You can have a look at the symbols assigned to each blessing on Ms Shinn's website. Another difference from the Twelve Houses is that everyone has a mixture of the five elemental traits and there is a lot of reference to characteristics of individuals as being more of one than another.
As to be expected with Ms Shinn all the characters are well drawn so that even minor characters have a depth to them. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would love to spend some more time exploring this world. I can only hope Ms Shinn writes a sequel.
This one runs for three hundred and ninety nine pages and is divided into thirty three chapters.
It's a completely new setting for any stories from this writer, with no tie ins at all to any of her previous work or series. And it is pretty much self contained, although it does leave the door open for more stories from this world and with these characters at the same time.
Our heroine is Zoe Ardelay. The world she lives in is quite an interesting creation because although this is a fantasy world it's more advanced than the usual one. The level of civilisation and technology is largely 18th - 19th century from our world, and rudimentary vehicles feature. But the land is ruled over by a King. And there's magic all around. In the elements. And everyone is attuned to one of them in particular. People will go to temples and draw out coins from there which have symbols on them that give guidance.
Zoe has been living in a remote village with her father, who was exiled from the royal court. But he has just passed away. Soon after the funeral she is summoned to the royal court. To become the King's latest wife. She travels there with Darien, a rather serious man who was sent to summon her. But she takes a chance to slip away and to find and her own path in life. Which is one that reveals she has a great deal of power.
All of which will come in handy when dealing with the intrigues that await...
This is not a book of incident for the most part. It's one of character and of setting. Two things that this writer excels at. And the first half of the book does pass by very nicely as it deals with this. The world you're introduced to is a fascinating creation and Zoe is a very appealing lead. And the supporting characters she interacts with as she learns about her surroundings are an appealing lot as well.
This does treaten to sag a little when it gets beyond that point as Zoe is put into a different setting. But then it grabs again thanks to some intrigue and drama and a whole new set of interesting relationships for her.
Plus a very nciely handled romance. Another thing that the writer excels at.
A likeable heroine in an interesting and genuninely original fantasy setting results in a very good read.