>> Monday, March 31, 2008
AUTHOR: Sharon Shinn
TYPE: Fantasy romance
SERIES: Part of Shinn's Samaria series, together with Archangel, Jovah's Angel, The Alleluia Files and Angelica.
Angel-Seeker was the last Samaria book published, but chronologically, it comes right after Archangel, which was the first published. In fact, these two are the only books that take place in the same time, with the same supporting cast. You, could, therefore, read it before Jovah's Angel and The Alleluia Files.
REASON FOR READING: I'd been hoarding this one, as it was the last Samaria full-length book I had left, but I couldn't resist any longer.
Elizabeth has arrived at the new angel hold of Cedar Hills, determined to improve her lot in the world by seducing an angel and bearing his baby. To her surprise, she learns that she might be able to earn her keep instead by becoming a healer. Meanwhile, one of the Cedar Hills angels, Obadiah, has been sent by the Archangel Gabriel to try to make peace with the quarrelsome Jansai tribes. Obadiah unexpectedly meets and falls in love with a rebellious Jansai girl named Rebekah, who would be put to death if her family knew she was seeing an angel. Everything changes on one fateful day when Elizabeth, Rebekah and Obadiah all come together.THE PLOT: I don't have much to add to the summary above. I believe this isn't the book blurb, but something Shinn's written herself, so it really describes the essence of the book perfectly. All I could stress is that for most of the book, we get two parallel storylines, that of Elizabeth, the woman who moves near an angel hold to become and angel-seeker, and that of Rebekah, the Jansai woman who falls in love with an angel. The angel Obadiah (Rebekah's love) is somewhat of a link between the two stories throughout the book, and it is only at the end that both come together quite spectacularly.
MY THOUGHTS: As with all the Samaria books, the minute I started reading this I felt completely immersed in the story. It's strange, because as much as I've adored Shinn's other books, and as much as they absorb me, it's not quite the same feeling. Samaria is just special, I suppose.
I mentioned quite recently, in my post about Susanna Kearsley's The Winter Sea, that when I get two simultaneous stories, I'm often more interested in one than in the other. TWS was the exception, but Angel-Seeker wasn't.
I was most interested in Elizabeth, not least because I've been intrigued by angel-seekers from the very first book. In all the other stories they had only been mentioned in passing, almost derisively by all the other characters. Even with my slight knowledge of their role, every time I saw this I wanted to protest their automatic condemnation. I wanted to know more about them and see them portrayed in a more positive light. After all, they seemed to me as if they were just doing the best they could in their circumstances.
With Elizabeth, we get this. Shinn shows why a woman would put herself in that position, not condemning her, but simply and matter-of-factly explaining her circumstances and those of the other women with her same objectives. One of the most interesting aspects of this storyline was seeing the interactions between these women, the sisterhood and the rivalries and the shades of different objectives.
Elizabeth is an interesting character. Even as you can see that she not suited for it, you can't help but understand why the perceived easiness of the life of an angel-seeker would appeal to her, and why she'd resist changing her life for so long, when an option so patently better for her was within reach. But she does do some soul-searching in the end, and her final choices, both in career and in romance, were perfect.
The story of the Jansai Rebekah and the angel Obadiah, which one could argue was the more prominent (the book's title notwithstanding), I liked less. That was basically because the lack of any positive things about the Jansai (a very patriarchal society, where women are ruthlessly oppressed) made Rebekah's reluctance to leave very frustrating. I found it very hard to sympathise with her. If she saw the evil in the Jansai's ways so clearly, what was she waiting for? Maybe it's because I'm an immigrant myself, but her "It's what I've been familiar with all my life, how can I leave?" hand-wringing didn't strike a chord. Honestly, I think the very wonderful Obadiah was wasted on this woman.
Still, in spite of this, I enjoyed the book immensely. The plotting was great, the world-building as fantastic as ever and I especially enjoyed the ending.
MY GRADE: A B+.