Genre fiction lover: Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
I liked this one better than the previous book in the series, Royal Airs (An Elemental Blessings Novel) - Sharon Shinn but the first book, Troubled Waters - Sharon Shinn is still by far the best.
This one features the Princess Corene whom we last saw stowing away on a ship to go to the far land of Malinqua to run away from the disappointments of her life. To be fair, poor Corene has had it a bit rough.
Her mother Alys is probably one of the most scheming, poisonous characters in the series. She is a woman who is completely ruled by her ambition for power and would use anything -- her status, her body, her daughter, her daughter's virtue -- to get it. Corene had every expectation of being named heir to the throne after all her father had been the king, and one of his daughters needed to be chosen. But a huge paternity scandal put a an end to that when it was discovered the King had been impotent and fathered none of his children. Added to that Corene's awful stepfather tried to molest her. And because of the way she was brought up, she has a reputation as being not very nice. So yeah, Corene has seen better days.
In the first book Corene was a spoiled little snot. But credit to the author for making it apparent in the course of the story that what we saw of Corene wasn't necessarily her own personality. It was the effects of a young girl being brought up in a royal court with a mother like Alys. There were flashes where Corene is shown to be vulnerable and more decent than first impressions. This is further evidenced once Corene is brought under the influence of her stepmother Zoe (the heroine of the first book) and her biological father, the powerful Regent Darien. Under their loving guidance, Corene blossoms, but she is still adrift. What does a princess do when once can't really Princess?
Well she runs off to find a prince for one. Just like in her own home kingdom of Welce, Empire of Malinqua's succession isn't a clear cut thing. There are four pretenders to the throne, including a newly discovered secret heir. And three other princesses who are there for the same reason as Corene: to marry the heir.
When Corene arrives in Malinqua she finds herself in familiar territory -- amidst court scheming, succession wars and surprisingly... murder.
I wasn't sure I was on board with reading a book with Corene as the center. But like I said the author did lay the foundation for redeeming her in the previous book. Most especially since in those books she was a very young girl and can be excused for being a bit selfish. In this one she is now a grown up young woman and we see the pay off of being part of Zoe & Darien's life and away from her toxic mother.
But I love books full of court intrigue and this one had it in spades. Actually this one kinda reminded me a bit of Summers at Castle Auburn - Sharon Shinn , especially with the younger set hanging out and being friends and bonding. That was a cool part of this book, Corene and the other princesses all became good friends instead of catty rivals. So much so that they make lifelong friend pacts and actually help out each other when things become really life or death in the palace.
This is also a bit of a murder mystery. A whodunnit? Who is slyly killing off people to affect the succession?
There is also a romance and I love that Corene and Foley end up together. Foley had been Corene's sister's Josetta's indefatigable bodyguard and a quietly awesome character throughout the series. I was a little bummed he didn't end up with Josetta in the previous book, but I can't be too mad at him. By the time this book ends, Corene has become such a root-worthy heroine and she deserves the bad-ass Foley. Even if he isn't a Prince.
Looking forward to the next book in the series and hope we get some follow-up on what happens with Alette, Liramelli and Melissande (the other princesses) .