Friday, July 9, 2010

REVIEW: Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

ISBN 0-441-00928-X
Genre: Fantasy
(c) 2001, Ace Book, Berkley Publishing Group
Sharon Shinn's website

Rating: 2 stars

Buy Link: Book Depository

"Good story but with flaws"

Corie is the illegitimate child of a dead nobleman with the daughter of a village witch/wise woman. When she was six, her uncle Jaxon came at the behest of her dead father and bargained with her grandmother for her to live her summers at Castle Auburn with her half-sister Elisandra. Corie lives for her summers at Castle Auburn, but as she grows older, she realizes deeper and darker things are afoot at the castle.

Sharon Shinn writes a wonderful story that both entrances you and makes you stop and think at the same time. In this book, she touches on the subjects of slavery and abuse, but more than that, it's about growing up and seeing the world through different eyes, learning that the world isn't quite the way you thought it was. It's about coming into your own principles and beliefs and acting according to what you know is right, even if it is against the way of the world. It's about Corie and her growth from a young girl into a woman.

I have said before that Sharon Shinn is very good at characterization and character development, and it is true again here, especially in the person of Corie, whom I like very much as a heroine. At 14, she was charming and engaging, despite being forthright and liable to say anything she thinks. She could wrap Bryan (or any man) around her finger if she so wants.

She was infatuated with Bryan (as did many girls), blinded by his handsome features. Still, she possessed a fierce loyalty to her sister, to whom Bryan was betrothed, in that even as she enjoyed Bryan's attention, she was aware he was her sister's and didn't think of fighting with her over him, and later on, her intense need to save Elisandra.

As Corie grew older and the veil of innocence was taken away, she became aware of Bryan's true nature--that he was handsome, yes, but he was cruel and selfish and may not make the realm a good king nor her sister a good husband. Her moral compass was also being challenged with regard to the aliora, fairy-like creatures who became the humans' slaves when captured.

Possible spoilers below, so be warned.








I've always liked a Sharon Shinn story and this is no exception. However, I have some complaints:

1. Maybe because I'm a romance reader, I wish there were more romantic moments (more development of the romance) between Corie and her future husband (not telling who, so as not to spoil your reading pleasure). Corie's thoughts regarding her feelings for him also came across as...not strong enough. (Actually, I'm tempted to write, "What feelings?", but there were hints, like not wanting to read news about him dancing with another girl, etc.)

I'm not convinced she loved him because her reaction to him was rather bland. She even wanted him to marry her sister (to save her), even after he told her that he didn't love her sister that way. So, I'm a bit disappointed here. However, that said, I realize this is a fantasy novel and I'm content with what I can get. The consolation is that the guy is more forthcoming and we really see that he likes her through his actions (though how she couldn't see this is a mystery, and instead she was always attributing it to something else) and his declaration of love toward the end more than makes up for Corie's lackluster emotions.

(I want to quote some of his lines but they're very revealing as to who he is, so...sorry. Read the book if you want to know.)

2. I think Jaxon's "romance" with Rowena, the Queen of Alora, is more exciting. However, so much about them happened in the background. I wish we could've seen more about what had happened between them before that shocking entrance into Castle Auburn, proclaiming that they had married along the way. I'm very interested to know how their bargain was struck and if there were feelings on Rowena's side for him, or if she was doing it merely for her people.

3. Elisandra's actions at the end. This is the only point that truly disturbed me. I know why she did what she did, and I empathize with her situation and I really believe she only did it as a last resort to a very difficult situation. I now know why she is portrayed as so cool and calm all the time, because only a person of such..."cold-bloodedness", I should say, could have done what she did.

Despite the justification, I'm not sure I agree with her method. Granted, Bryan is an evil man and his eventually being king and her husband would spell doom for the realm and for her. He is very cruel, as shown in his callous disregard for his illegitimate child and the way he punished Andrew. Perhaps Elisandra is merely delivering her own brand of justice. Perhaps she agonized over her decision before finally being resigned to the fact that there's no other way. However, I just...don't...quite...agree with the method of his downfall. As I was reading, I thought this book could also be classified as YA, but when I came to this part, I think not. Or perhaps, it can be read but with parental guidance.

Perhaps this was balanced in Corie's and her future husband's "condemnation" of Elisandra's actions later on, but the fact that Elisandra got away with it, that she wasn't punished but moreover was "rewarded" with possession of Jaxon Halsing's estate plus the love of a good man, well, that may send the wrong impression to a young mind.

So, much as I love this story, I couldn't give it the rating I wanted. Since I believed that the third point is a very important one, I have to give the story a rating of 2.


Erotic Horizon said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this..

I love fantasy and the niggles you had are things I can live with...

I love a decent character in my fantasy though - they either make or break a story


Silver @ TRR said...

Being a long-time romance reader, I tend to take my romances seriously. LOL Anyway, if you're looking for a sweet romance in fantasy, you can try Dark Moon Defender. It's my favorite of Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series.


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