Summers at Castle Auburn, by Sharon Shinn

>> Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TITLE: Summers at Castle Auburn
AUTHOR: Sharon Shinn

PAGES: 352

SETTING: Fantasy world
TYPE: Fantasy romance
SERIES: None, stands alone

Coriel, the illegitimate daughter of a high-ranking aristocrat, spends most of her life learning herbal medicine from her grandmother, but she spends her summers with her half-sister, Elisandra, at the royal castle where Prince Bryan resides. Corie has always been secretly in love with Bryan, but she is slowly realizing that he is a spoiled, selfish, dangerous man—and that Elisandra dreads her upcoming marriage to the prince. Corie hopes that the prince’s cousin Kent will save Elisandra, while she wonders if the taciturn guard Roderick might play a bigger part in her own life.
Corie is a young woman brought up in two different worlds. The illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, she spends most of her year with her herbalist grandmother and her summers in her father's world, a world of aristocrats and palace intrigue.

The story starts when Corie is 14, and she gets an inkling of what her father's world is really like. She accompanies her uncle on a hunt for aliora, magical fairy-like creatures which are hunted by humans and held as slaves by the aristocracy. She also begins to see a different side to her long-time crush, Prince Bryant.

The years pass, these first glimpses of the real world solidify, and Corie needs to decide what her life is going to be.

Summers in Castle Auburn seems to be the Shinn book everyone loves. Me, not so much. It's probably my least favourite of her books so far, and it's a testament to how good those are that I can say that while also saying that I did mostly enjoy SACA.

On the plus side, it's set in a beautifully imagined and put together world, full of interesting characters and events. There's some nice romances (actually, a few romances), which while not the focus, are quite satisfying. And there's also the issue of the plight of the aliora, which is a very important part of the book, and which serves to highlight Corie's increasing growth and maturity. As a young girl, she basically sees nothing wrong in how the world she lives in works. She loves the aliora, and loves having them there in her world. After all, the ones she's aware of are well-treated and admired. It's only as she grows up that she starts to understand what's really going on and why it's wrong, and that coincides her growing up and her view of the people around her becoming clearer.

It's harder for me to pinpoint what the negatives were, why the story didn't satisfy me as much as other books by this author. I think part of it was that it felt a bit YA-ish, when I'm used to properly grown-up books from Shinn. Maybe it was that the story starts when Corie is 14. She does grow up and most of the book happens when she's of age, but the YA-ish feel remained for me. There's also the fact that palace intrigue and plotting are not my favourite plot points.



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