Friday, July 25, 2008

Summers at Castle Auburn; Sharon Shinn

Ok, I'm falling way way behind here. This is my last June write up, then I've gotta get going with the July books. Procrastination is my middle name. Summers at Castle Auburn was published by Ace in 1991. Link to author's website in the title above. Nowadays it can most often be found in the young adult section. Cover image courtesy Fantastic Fiction.
For those of us who have no idea where Cotswold England is, here's a map courtesy of Cotswold PC. Ms. Shinn has set this novel in the Cotswolds area, albeit way back in the mists of alternate history.

Coriel and Elisandra Halsing are what contemporary folks would call half siblings. Unfortunately, Coriel was born on the wrong side of the blanket, so she was pretty much left with her granny until her father dies. Then her uncle convinces Coriel's wise woman granny to allow Coriel to spend the summers with him and his niece Elisandra at the seat of power: Castle Auburn. Elisandra has been betrothed to Prince Brian Ouvrelet since they were infants. Appearances are deceiving with Elisandra, beware coming to quick conclusions. Bryan is what he seems, unfortunately. Selfish, petulant, manipulative and cruel Bryan is destined to become the next King when he reaches his majority in several years. Kent Ouvrelet is Bryan's cousin, nurtured from the cradle to the responsability and duty of his position. Currently that seems to be mainly smoothing over ruffled feathers in Bryan's wake.

Coriel is the odd girl out. The reader benefits from her perspective as the outsider, but her lack of knowledge of some of the hidden currents of political and social events colors our perceptions. Through her eyes we watch events unfold over the summers: alliances made and alliances weakened, the young folks grow and change. More reckless, more aware, creating public personas, each person develops over the course of the years. Could Coriel be more unaware of the feelings of those who love her? Could the reader have seen it coming sooner? Finally the denoument arrives. Decisive actions and far reaching choices must be made. What happens to Coriel and Elsisandra makes for fascinating reading.

Very highly recommended.

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