Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Troubled Waters, by Sharon Shinn

Ignore the cover. Ignore the official blurb on the back of the book. Neither of them do this book any justice. If you enjoyed Sharon Shinn's Angel books, I recommend you pick up this one as well.

The main character of Troubled Waters is Zoe Ardelay. Her father was once a respected member of court, but he fell out of favour and was exiled from the capital when Zoe was 13. For the past ten years Zoe has lived in a small village in the far western reaches of the kingdom.

As the book begins, Zoe's father has just died, and shortly after the funeral, an emissary from the king arrives to take Zoe back to the capital to become the King's fifth wife. Zoe is too overwhelmed by her grief to object. But when the emissary turns his back as they arrive in the capital city to deal with blockages in the road, Zoe steps out of the carriage and disappears into the city.

Zoe has always had an affinity for water, and makes a life for herself among the vagrants who live along the river's edge. Over time, she comes to terms with her grief and begins to learn more about her family heritage, both her father's and her mother's. And she comes into power, both political and physical. And, as with most of Shinn's novels, this one is also a love story.

I really enjoyed this book. Sharon Shinn tends to be my go-to author for comfort reading, and this turned out to be the perfect book to curl up with over Christmas. That said, it wasn't just fluff. The characters had depth and edges. There were interesting questions raised about the use and abuse of power.

And there developed a truly fascinating relationship between Zoe and the memories of her late father. As she moves through the story, she begins to learn things about her father and herself that she never knew. Things that are complicated and upsetting. She discovers the lies he told her. And she can't confront him, can't talk to him about any of it. And Shinn allows Zoe to embody all of the complexity that that entails.

And all of that is encased in another delightful world that Shinn has created. It's incredibly detailed, and as with the Angel books, this one contains a religion that is simple but also holds great depth. And there is a similar mixture of an old world feeling with new burgeoning technologies. I really enjoyed spending time there, and I hope this one isn't just a stand-alone. The world Shinn created here has breadth enough to support a series of books. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed.

Troubled waters is a good read; it's comfortable enough to immerse yourself in with enough substance to keep your mind engaged and Shinn's deft touch of romance. Recommended.

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