- Pub. Date: October 2010
- Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
- Format: Hardcover, 400pp
- Goodreads.com synopsis: 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
Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn was an enjoyable stand alone set in an original magical world that focused on the five elements, earth, wood, air, fire, and water. The writing style was easy to read, giving a clear understanding of how this world works without getting lost in endless descriptive detail. I was thoroughly drawn into this world and the array of unique personalities that inhabit it.
The main character, Zoe Ardelay, was fascinating. Being raised by her father in exile and growing up in a small village far from court intrigues, she had to overcome a lot of obstacles to find her place as the head of one of the five families, which constitutes nobility in this world. Given insight by both the blessings bestowed upon her at birth by 4 strangers, and the blessings drawn from the baskets at various temples, Zoe learns that her strength lies in the elements of water and blood. Zoe then uses this affinity to help her navigate the complex scheming of the court, sometimes letting her temper cloud her judgement on how to best use her new found power.
The relationship between Zoe and Damien Serlast remained rather combative, it was clear from the beginning what direction they were heading, however, I felt that this romance was a bit underdeveloped and not quite believable. Darien alternately helps her and hides things from her throughout the book.
Some of what I found most fascinating were the blessings themselves. There are 43 blessings, 8 from each of the elements, and 3 that do not belong to an element. Each blessing describes either a personality trait or something to expect, for example, some of the blessings include love, beauty, change, surprise, joy etc. I loved how these affected the lives of those who drew or was given each blessing.
The ending, for me, felt rushed and incomplete, leaving a lot of questions unanswered for a stand alone novel.
Overall, I would rate this a 4, the incredible world that Shinn created in this novel makes it one I would definitely recommend to fans of fantasy.