by Sharon Shinn
Cover Artist: Jonathan Barkat
Review by Mel Jacob
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441019236
Date: 05 October 2010 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
In Zoe's world, people are born with characteristics of or affinity for one of five elements: air, wood, fire, earth, or water. Zoe inherited mostly coru (water) from her mother, but with a touch of sweela (fire) from her father. At birth, she is given three blessings: beauty, love, and power. She considers herself no beauty, but believes her mother and father loved her. Power, however, seems far from her world and her abilities.
She grew up in the small village where her father fled after banishment by the king. Only hazy memories remain of the capital city and her high-born relatives. Grief holds her captive when the king's advisor arrives and, with no future in view, travels under his care. However, once in the city she escapes and sets off to live life on her terms.
Homeless, she seeks shelter with others along the river flats where once she and her father hid before fleeing the city. Her one possession is a colorful shawl of her mother's that also holds fifty gold coins, enough to keep her fed and clothed until she can find work or decide what to do next.
When a street urchin snatches the shawl, she gives chase that ends in a seedy part of the city. Three teenage boys threaten her and she runs. Lost, she ends at a cliff by the river's edge with the three close behind. She jumps into the river, but something strange happens. Underwater she feels loved and held in safety as the current carries her away and then leaves her by the river flats far from where she jumped. To her amazement she survived a long trip underwater. Only later does she learn what it all means and what incredible power she now commands.
That power brings responsibility and demands decisions. Negotiating the shoals and reefs of court politics and making the right decisions test her strengths and makes her aware of ignorance and weakness. She also learns to see her beloved father in a very different light. Fulfilling her destiny takes Zoe on a twisted path as she learns to use her power wisely and ensure safety for those she loves. Shadowed by the threats of death, disgrace, and loss, she fights to survive.
Award-winning author Shinn provides an interesting world, fascinating personalities, and plenty of action to hold the reader's interest. The novel will appeal to both fantasy and romance readers. She blends paranormal powers and science with ease.