Yep, didn’t take me long to read this one! I went ahead and put my own work on the back burner for a couple of days because, you know, you have to have priorities. Besides, not like I’m on a tight schedule, plus I’ll need to interrupt myself anyway when Caitlin gets back to me with editorial comments for PURE MAGIC so what’s another minor interruption here or there? Plus, after the INDA marathon, I was totally in the mood for something non-epic. (For me, a little epic fantasy goes a long way. If there is such a thing as “a little” epic fantasy.)
You know, the setting for TROUBLED WATERS and ROYAL AIRS is pretty unusual. How often do you find a fantasy where the medieval world is just now giving way to the Industrial Revolution?
Granted, this particular Industrial Revolution involves technology with quite a large magical infusion along with the engines. But. Smoker cars. Elaymotives. Aeromotives. Factories where all the above are made. We’re mad about vehicle technology, in this world. It makes so much sense that Rafe in particular — Rafe the gambler — would fall in love with the idea of aeromotives and flight and become a test pilot. And I like how Shinn doesn’t candy-coat the dangers of testing new planes. Though I must say, Rafe did not need another way to get himself beaten up or nearly killed; he seems to spend the whole book recovering from one pounding or another. AND I like the way Shinn doesn’t candy-coat that, ether. No getting your ribs broken one day and bouncing cheerfully out of bed the next.
So, yeah, Rafe. I like him a lot. And Josetta. I did find myself rolling my eyes a bit about the shelter she runs for the poor of the city. That whole thing is a bit simplistic, but then trying for a realistic treatment of poverty and the poor and shelters would probably have been out of place in this book, which is not meant to be an Issue book (thankfully), but rather the kind of warm, comfortable story you can relax into. (Which it is.) I definitely thought Rafe and Josetta were perfectly suited and really enjoyed the romance between them. Because you know romance tropes are central for most of Shinn’s books, right? The more restrained, less explicit treatment of romance in this series is perfect for me.
Still, in this book, I actually liked Corene more than Josetta — more any other female character. She’s the one with the biggest issues to deal with — my goodness, her mother! — and I love her combination of vulnerability and fierceness. I was SO pleased that she would not give an inch over that thing with Dominic. Go, Corene! And it’s plain that Corene is being set up to be the protagonist for a potential third book, which is great!
I liked seeing Darien again. I loved him in the first book and I love him in this one and I really enjoyed the little twist at the end, which I didn’t see coming, though I can’t imagine why not. Oh, well, yes I can, it’s because I thought I knew how that particular dilemma would be resolved, so Shinn took me by surprise when she did something else. Yes, and the discussion involving this issue — yes, I know, I’m being very vague — but that suggestion of Kayle’s about how to handle this particular problem offers a great and unexpected hook for a potential future book, too.
Okay, let me just add, if you had to pick one fantasy world to live in for the rest of your life, Welce would be a good choice. It really would. Much more so than your typical fantasy country. But its neighbors! Ugh. Berringey is almost as bad as Soeche-Tas, not that any country can be quite as creepy as Soeche-Tas. You remember Soeche-Tas from TROUBLED WATERS? Corene was going to be married off to the viceroy? Ick ick ick, right?
Well, Berringey isn’t necessarily a huge improvement on Soeche-Tas, though less creepy and more just . . . sort of smugly vicious. I did think it didn’t seem altogether reasonable that the princesses of Welce would know so little about Berringey’s more eye-popping customs, but then there are very clear implications that Welce is protected by some fortunate accident of geography from the aggression of other countries, so perhaps people in Welce just don’t have to care about the barbaric / violent / creepy / horrifying customs of their neighbors. Which is lucky for them, but if you visited this world, you would definitely want to land in Welce and not anywhere else.
Plus, the blessings everyone draws in Welce are just . . . charming. They really are. It says just about everything you need to know about this country that every single one is a blessing, right? I mean, you can draw honesty, but not deceit; resolve, but not obsession. Sharon Shinn should totally set up a way to draw blessings at her website, if she had a website. Or a personality quiz to find out what kind of person you are! That would be fun. I think maybe I’m more torz? Or hunti? Definitely not elay or coru.
Anyway, if you’ve already got this one on your TBR pile, enjoy! And if you don’t, yet, then if you want a warm cuddly book to read while curled up on the sofa drinking hot chocolate, this would be a good choice.
Want another take?
Here’s Heroes and Heartbreakers