Fantasy novelist Sharon Shinn follows up her Twelve Houses series with a stand-alone adult novel, particularly suited to young adult readers. The first chapter is freely available on the book’s rather lovely website.
Adult/High School–A romantic coming-of-age set in a new world, Shinn’s novel should please fans of her previous adult work and is also an excellent next step for anyone who has read her YA trilogy, beginning with The Safe-Keeper’s Secret (Viking, 2004). The intricate world, where elemental magic defines so much (from personality to politics, and serves as religion as well), is nearly a character in its own right. It’s also a world that a non-fantasy reader can appreciate, as science plays a role and inventions like elaymotives (horseless carriages powered by a naturally occurring gas) make this wildly different from the too-often-seen faux medieval fantasy lands. Zoe is 23 at the start of the story and, as a Coru woman (one governed by water), she has tended to go with the flow, usually of her once-powerful father. When he dies, Zoe finds herself summoned to the capital and thrust into intrigue and power. Her awakening from docility and grief into a powerful agent of change is gradual and all the more believable as a result, and is a truly an adolescent journey. Her growing fascination with Darien Serlast, the king’s closest advisor, eventually blossoms into a romantic connection that will make this a hit for those who like their magic laced with romance. But this is still more Zoe’s own story than a love story. It’s perfect for fans of Robin McKinley, or those who want to be immersed in something a bit more contemplative than a paranormal.–Karyn N. Silverman, LREI (Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School), New York City