Summers at Castle Auburn
By Sharon Shinn
Published 2001, Ace Books
Paperback, 342 pages
As a child, Coriel Halsing spent many glorious summers at Castle Auburn with her half-sister-and fell in love with a handsome prince who could never be hers. But now that she is a young woman, she begins to see the dark side of this magical place...With all of the series that I constantly fight to keep up with, this was a nice change with an all-in-one plot. The story is told entirely from Coriel Halsing's point of view, so the reader only gets to know things when she learns of them. Sometimes first person P.O.V. is limiting and somewhat claustrophobic, but in this case it simplified the story line and helped me to better get inside the mind of Coriel.
I grew to love Coriel as her story progressed and she matured into a strong, independent young woman. I love that she is not just a pretty face, but possesses both intelligence and wit. In many ways, this book is her coming-of-age story with a fantasy background that could have easily been traded for some other setting without compromising the character of Coriel Halsing.
I also love that Coriel is not the center of royal attention - like her sister, Elisandra - and the "handsome prince" is neither meant for her nor remotely appealing to me, the reader. It was quite entertaining for me to be constantly guessing as to whom Coriel would eventually wind up with. When the man was finally revealed, I was very happy with the results, though I would have enjoyed a bit more wooing on his part.
All of the different characters are well-developed and unique, from the narcissistic handsome prince Bryan, to the always-composed Elisandra, to the many aliora that populate the book. The aliora are quite fascinating, comparable to fairies or elves in description, but still unique to Sharon Shinn's design. In many ways, the aliora act as catalysts for political intrigue within Castle Auburn, as well as Coriel's personal development and maturation.
As an adult fairy-tale, this book can easily appeal to both teens and adults, as the romance is tastefully done and the risque topics, such as slavery, suicide, and illigitimacy, are handled with care and respect. Personally, I loved this book as much as I have loved everything else I have read from Sharon Shinn.
The Cover: The cover is a simplistic scenic design that features the likeness of Coriel. I would have liked some image to represent an aliora, but it is still nice.
First Line: "The summer I was fourteen, my uncle Jaxon took me with him on an expedition to hunt for aliora."
Right away I want to know what the aliora are - a great way to hook the reader!
Read For: I Want More Challenge