Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king's fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river. It's there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood—and the secrets of the royal family—she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court."
Review: First off, I WANT SHARON SHINN'S VOCABULARY. BAD. There were multiple times when I turned to Mike pointing to an unfamiliar word to ask if he had ever even seen that word before. He hadn't. For any of the words I showed him. I think my vocabulary is decent, but man Shinn's got me beat by miles. It didn't feel like her story was over-thesaurus-ized. I think she's just a grandiloquent sesquipedalian. (See what I did there??)
Anyway, the book. The story follows a girl, Zoe, who is coru, ruled by the elemental sign of water. This means that she has a certain proclivity towards adaptability, resilience, change, unpredictability, and other aquatic traits. And Zoe certainly was unpredictable. That was one of the reasons I enjoyed the novel so much, I never had any idea what she would do next. Zoe is intelligent and elementally powerful, but hardly ambitious. She's obviously an introvert; every time she bemoaned her fate at having to attend a grand party at the palace filled with dozens of people she didn't know I wanted to fist-bump her and say, "I HEAR YA, GIRLFRIEND." Zoe has her faults - her flexible nature makes her a bit flighty and unreliable, and she tends to make decisions based on impulse rather than calculation - but on the whole I liked her.
I felt that the novel as a whole shared many of Zoe's characteristics: it flowed from one page to the next in a smooth but unpredictable way, keeping me guessing and entertained when I guessed wrong. But it also seemed to be anchorless at times, and I wished the plot was more tightly designed, rather than running from scene to scene in a leisurely and sometimes inconsequential way.
I also wish some of the characters were a little less caricature, displaying more than one or two personality traits at most. Zoe felt much more fully realized than many other characters, which I was grateful for since I spent the entirety of the novel in her head.
There were too many things to enjoy to let that keep me down for long, though. I loved the verbal sparring between characters. Excellent world building. The culture, economy, politics, religion, history, and even fashion were well thought out and finely portrayed on paper. I felt I had a solid grasp on this tenuous kingdom and on Zoe's place in it. I know some didn't like how strongly the elements were used in the story, but I thought it was so integral to the characters and their culture that it had to be so prominent.
All in all, I very much enjoyed the story and would definitely recommend it to YA lovers. I can't wait for the sequel, which is coming out November 5th!!! I've already got it on hold at the library.
One last note: Someone please tell me what to think about this cover. On the one hand, I like that her attire alludes to the Arab influences in the novel. But the cover as a whole just reads so blah to me. I know it's YA, but something about it feels too juvenile. I wish I could copy and paste the cover of Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth to this book. It would be so much better. Yes?