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Sharon Shinn
book cover

2001, April, Ace trade pb

Who recommends: JW, Julie, Preeti, Lori, Edith, Danielle
Who discommends:

Just finished reading Sharon Shinn's latest. I enjoyed it, quite a bit, but the romance, such as it was, was unsatisfying to me. It's one of those where there are more than one prospective love interest and you don't know which one is "the one" until almost the very end.

It's always my feeling that if the big mystery is "which one is the right one" then I don't get much emotional satisfaction from the HEA anyway. If anyone reads Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels -- I'm a dyed-in-the-wool fan -- she's done several of those "which one will she choose" subplots, and I like them the least of all her books. (Which is not to say they're bad, just not as enjoyable as others.)

Anyway, this is a fantasy novel about a young girl, the bastard daughter of a nobleman who lives with her healer/witch grandmother but who spends the summers with her father's people at court. The story is told in the first person, beginning with a rather naive girl who will have to learn some hard truths as she begins to see that the idealized world of her childhood is not so ideal after all. Like all of Shinn's novels, the world she creates is rich, detailed, and compelling. It's interestingto see the heroine grow and develop, though one of the problems with the first-person narrative is that the reader sees a lot which the narrator seems oblivious of. All in all, this was a very good read, if not a memorable romance.

Has anyone else read it yet? Any thoughts?--JW (27 Apr 01)

Well, I just finished it too. So JW, thanks for being first so you could do that nice review. :)

I would have to agree with you somewhat about the romance plot, the fact that we had three possibilities for a love interest was a little irritating. I did however guess pretty early on who it would be, based on Shinn's prior heros. As a lot of authors do, she does use the cookie-cuttter method for her H/H.

But overall it was a very enjoyable read. It was quick and fun and I always enjoy the world she creates.--Julie (27 Apr 01)

I actually read this trade paperback a few weeks ago. I marveled that SUMMERS IN CASTLE AUBURN is almost straight historical fiction/romance but for the fact that it's clearly set in a fantasy realm (or another planet or something). The fantasy elements that I can remember are this: the heroine is learning to be a witch-healer from her grandmother, and an elusive and dangerous fey alien species is hunted and enslaved by humans for the peace their touch provides. There is some nice world-building around Castle Auburn and the neighboring mysterious alien land, but else this book reads like historical fiction.

The premise is that a bastard child of a deceased nobleman is welcomed by her uncle and half-sister to stay with them for the summers. She gets to see this noble world through a semi-outsider's view, and we get to see how her perception of this rarefied world changes as she herself matures and moves from being an observer to an actor. Even though we see the realm and denizens through the young heroine's blinkered eyes, Shinn still provides the reader with enough clues to guess what's really going on.

I enjoyed the world Shinn created very much. Lots of court intrigue because the heroine's beloved half-sister has been betrothed to the heir to the crown--the same prince on whom our young heroine has a mad crush. But there's a more solid guy waiting in the wings to give this book a very satisfying ending. I recommend.--Preeti (31 Aug 01)

SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN starts when the heroine is 14, and has a lot of elements of a YA, I think.--Lori (14 Mar 02)


While I liked the heroine a lot, the generic setting wasn't very convincing. (Quotes from THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND kept popping into my head while reading.) And frankly, I disagreed with the romantic pairings - I could see who was going to end up with who, and why, I just didn't agree. <g>

It was a nice, sweet read, and everything is resolved happily, if a little unrealistically. Another mild recommend - it would be a good choice for an undemanding comfort read.--Danielle (8 Feb 03)

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