Sunday, January 9, 2011

Troubled Waters

Author: Sharon Shinn
Publisher: Berkley, Penguin
Released: October 5, 2010
Genre: Fantasy (Romance)

Zoe has spent the last ten years in exile with her father, an Ardelay, one of the Five Families, who had fallen out of favor with the king. But right after her father's death, Darien Serlast, the king's closest adviser, comes to the little village where they had lived in exile and takes Zoe to Chialto where she is to marry the king. In a daze of grief, feeling numb, Zoe goes along, but once they get to Chialto, she slips out of the vehicle and makes her way to the river flats where she hides for as long as she can, making friends and keeping busy. But when the water responds to her and protects her in unnatural ways, Zoe is forced to realize that she is actually the coru prime, the head of the Lalindar water family. When she steps forward to claim her title, Zoe is thrown into the palace world of intrigue, dealing with the pettiness of day-to-day life with the queens and the huge scale of international relations. Hardly knowing whom to trust and where to turn, Zoe navigates this new world with the help of her river friends, and she begrudgingly accepts Darien Serlast's help, but as long-hidden secrets are shockingly revealed to the coru prime, Zoe's constant blessing of change comes true again and again.

Wow. All I felt for a while after I finished Troubled Waters was - wow. Sharon Shinn knows how to take you on a journey and immerse you completely in the world she creates through a skilled weaving of language, suspense, and emotion. Every time I had to put down the book, I wanted to get back to it as soon as possible, and every time I did, I was immediately engulfed in the world ruled by the five elements.

Zoe is a great character to experience this world through. She's a strong heroine, one who has to learn her strengths and also learn how to control them and use them properly. But she's troubled, an ordinary young woman when it comes to regular life, wanting friends, wanting love, shocked, confused, bewildered by what she learns. Darien is a bit harder to describe, because for so much of the book Zoe doesn't know what to think of him. But I have to admit that I liked him only a few pages after he was introduced. He's actually a great fit for Zoe, complementing her turbulent personality with his hunti, wood and bone, immovability.

The plot is so intricate that it never stops moving for a single page, and the action just flows from one thing into the next. At the same time, it was very easy to follow what was going on, because everything was so clear. There are many characters, but each one is so distinctive that again it was very easy to keep track of who was what. Drawing on the elements to characterize the people was a bit confusing to me at first, but once I got a handle on which element was what, it made keeping track of people and families that much easier. I love the balance of having so much going on but being so smooth and flowing that it doesn't slow anything down.

I think this book is one I'll be revisiting in the future, because it's so rich and inviting. Definitely I'm going to read more of Sharon Shinn and her amazing writing!

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