Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Published: October 2010
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.
Mini Review: So many people have praised Shinn’s writing, and I have to agree. She’s created a brilliant fantasy world, one that feels wholly unique and full and developed. The use of elemental magic isn’t all that original in magical worlds, but the way Shinn used elemental magic for specific individuals in certain families (primes), and others with the spirit of certain elements (like personality descriptors), was really neat. Though I found the court scenes in the second half of the book to be a little dull, I can’t blame Shinn on that — I’m generally not a fan of royal politics. I’m in love with the world enough that I fully plan to read the next book in this series!
This qualifies as book 8 of 5 library books in 2017.
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: April 2013
Genre: historical fiction
Summary: Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie. Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As Molly helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, she discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.
Mini Review: I was far more invested in Vivian’s narrative than Molly’s, probably because the book’s historical focus was so fascinating. I’m not as familiar with this moment in American history. How often do we get to read about the Great Depression outside of the major cities? What’s going on in the Midwest, in the heart of the country, with ordinary people? Not only that, but I had no idea the orphan trains began as early as the 1850s. Watching the development of the American foster care system (and adoption system) and seeing how it hasn’t exactly changed too much — more paperwork and regulations does not necessarily mean a better experience — was certainly eye-opening. The story ties up nicely, but truly, I found the historically-set narrative far more engaging. Kline knows how to keep the pages turning!