Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Good Romance, If a Stretched One

I'm not sure if I've mentioned her before, but Sharon Shinn is one of the 15 or so authors for whom I keep track of new publications (wow those prepositions were hard to get right :)) Anyway, her chief appeal is that she seems to be as big a fan of romance as I am :) That is, her books are technically science fiction/fantasy - actually, they *are* SF/fantasy - but she almost never fails to offer up a good romance as well.  The first book  I read of hers, Archangel (wait, now I remember, of course I've mentioned her before, I reviewed The Alleluiah Files a few months ago), was described to me by Peryl as a romance disguised as sci-fi.  That's not really true, as I've discovered since reading both genres a little more widely, but I'm not sure I would even want it to be true, since that would make the book a lot more trashy.  Anyway, the point is, Sharon Shinn's books are mostly composed of world description and a good romance, often with some transparent morality lesson woven in.  Her series that just finished up last year, The Twelve Houses, exemplified this, and also contained the added element of a continuing plotline involving political unrest in the fantasy land of the setting.  I had thought her new book, Troubled Waters, was the start of a new series set in a new world, but I'm not quite sure now that I've read it.  In any case, that's the book I'm reviewing now… which is all I really had to say :)

So like I said, what I mostly expect of these books is a decent romance, while I tolerate whatever else Sharon Shinn throws in there as she pleases.  In this one, I kind of liked what she threw in there anyway, it was a rather simple world where the emphasis was on the five "elements" of air, earth, fire, wood, and water.  There were very few complicated rules (some innocuous details about blessing coins light enough to be charming) and most of the magic seemed to be centered on our very powerful heroine (yay :)) You know I never say no to the main characters being awesome… and here we have the head of one of the most powerful families in the land along with the king's most trusted advisor, a pretty cool man in his own right too (I was going to write guy, but he's just not the type ;)) And big bonus, the plot was mostly court intrigue rather than national danger / war, which was a nice change from the Twelve Houses.  Because court intrigue can be dangerous, but it just doesn't reach to the level of tension of all out battle.  And we all know how much I *dont* like tension :) The book actually reminded me of Court Duel in that respect - though court duel did have the threat of war underlying all the polite chit-chat - it was just very underlying and didn't really emerge all that dramatically :) (one day I'll reread court duel and then you'll all get a more thorough review, don't worry :)) ANYWAY, what I'm saying is that there was really nothing not enjoyable about the rest of the book.  And it even ended pretty solidly, with nothing much left unresolved, which makes me think that there might not be a sequel in the works.  I mean, I guess there's room for one (though I'm not sure who would feature as the romantic couple) but there certainly doesn't need to be one… which of course makes this ending all the more satisfying. 

So that's all well and good, I'm sure you're saying :), but what about the romance? Isn't that why you read these books in the first place? Yes indeedy-do, you are correct in that assumption (not surprisingly, since I think I stated it very clearly a few paragraphs ago :)) Anyway, the romance… so I said to S.B., if I had read this book a few years ago I think I would have thought the romance was AMAZING.  He likes her from the beginning, there's TONS of interaction, and they don't get together till the end.  What more could I need (other than more from the guy's POV, of course :)) So it was good… but it was a little weird too.  They really both like each other from the beginning, and while they don't acknowledge it, they don't really hide it either.  So there's very little tension of the good sort (romantic, that is :)) Maybe I would always have noticed this? I'm not sure, but I definitely noticed it now.  Was *quite* a weird dynamic.  Like if these characters were other people or in other circumstances, there would have been no romance (at least in the sense I define it) at all.  But these characters (proud, stubborn, very different) and these circumstances (tense, happening times) mean that there is a whole book for them to play out the courtship dance.  So okay… I can enjoy that, even if it takes just a *little* more effort than usual.  And the truth is, these days I find myself saying sometimes, but *why* does he like her? where's the attraction, the shared sympathies? (also something I never paid much attention to before - I wonder if it's the blog or just getting older?) In any case, there was none of that - they make sense together, two powerful people (with complementary personalities, as is emphasized to some length in the book - since the whole premise of the world is elements and how each person is drawn to one of the five).  So they make sense, and I don't have to get annoyed about that at least.  All in all, quite satisfying… Nothing to complain about, lots to enjoy… no wonder I had no trouble getting through this book, between a late Friday night, sleepless Shabbos afternoon, lazy motzei Shabbos, and relatively early night at a luxury hotel, all in the midst of my vacation :)

Verdict: 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment