Book Review: Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

9 Feb

Summers at Castle AuburnCorie is the bastard daughter of a high lord, a village witch and the sister of the future Queen of Auburn. She spends her summers at Castle Auburn learning to be a lady. She can mix potions and dance at fancy balls. For a while, she loves the time she spends at Castle Auburn, but soon the reality of her life there catches up with her. Suddenly, she sees her sister’s engagement to Prince Bryan as disastrous; she realizes the aliora are not pretty court decorations, but people too; and she herself is seen only as someone to make a marital alliance, no matter how old or boring the intended man is. Worse, there’s no escape for anyone–at least, not at first glance.

This is one of the books I picked up at Bookfest that I’d been wanting to read for years. I think it initially popped up as a recommendation for people who enjoyed Crown Duel, which is one of my favorite books. I could see some similarities, though I will say that this is one of those slower books that probably isn’t for everyone. The pace is somewhat plodding (particularly in the first third), the plot is slow to reveal itself, and there isn’t a lot of action. I don’t say these things as criticisms, as I tend to enjoy this sort of story, but I recognize that not everyone does.

First, the good: the setting was beautiful and magical–perhaps not as well-described as some, but I thought the addition of the aliora was an interesting one. I wished Corie had been able to see their home, Alora, just to see what she thought of it, though I suppose that would have had little to do with the actual plot.

I also quite liked Corie and Elisandra. It did astound me that Corie’s naivete could last so long, but I liked how headstrong she was and that her naivete sometimes made her see things a lot more clearly than others. I mean, why shouldn’t her sister just wander off and live in a cottage with her rather than marry Prince Bryan? As for the others, I loved Elisandra’s calm, cool collectedness, and I love that she was the one to, ah, “deliver the gift” in the end, let’s say. Kent was level-headed and a nice foil to Bryan, and Roderick was as steadfast as you’d hope a guard to be.

That said, there’s a reason I gave this book just 3 stars. The ending.

The ending felt like it had been slapped on just to stitch a few things together without a thought about what had happened in the rest of the book. I was fine with Bryan’s ultimate demise as that needed to happen, and I’d actually seen it coming from the time Elisandra asked Coriel about the various herbs in her satchel.

What I didn’t like was the relationships. I know, I know, I just wrote about never reading a book where the author got this wrong. But this was crazy. I felt no chemistry between either of the couples–Elisandra/Roderick or Corie/Kent. Rather, I think I would have liked it more of the boys had been switched around. Granted, the little hints dropped here and there meant that I did see it coming, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

And while I can get over the whole Elisandra/Roderick thing, it drives me mad to think that this was Corie’s ending. She had spent so many years unhappy at Castle Auburn, saying she was never going to marry, least of all marry a noble which would mean spending so much more time at a place she didn’t like. And then she goes off and marries the king after thinking about it for three seconds? She herself says she’d never even thought of it as a possibility. And the last line, “I was content?” I don’t believe it. There was nothing to suggest that much had changed at Castle Auburn.

So, all in all a good enough story with an enraging ending–and not a good sort of enraging either. But worth a read if you like castle politics.

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One Response to “Book Review: Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn”

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  1. 2014: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 31, 2014

    […] Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn **** […]

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