Troubled Waters ~ Sharon Shinn

  • Title: Troubled Waters
  • Author: Sharon Shinn
  • Series: Elemental Blessings #1
  • Genre: fantasy
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  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.

I love Sharon Shinn. She has done it again. She created a new world, a new highway to multiple sagas, and a new unforgettable heroine.

Numb with grief, Zoe just lost her father, a former adviser to royalty, banished from court ten years ago. When a young nobleman Darien arrives in Zoe’s village to take her back to the capital, the girl doesn’t resist, even when she learns that she is to become the fifth bride of the king.

At first, she seems passive and docile, an unlikely protagonist. She follows Darien without demur, until a mischance on the road leaves her out of his supervision for a moment and the door of the carriage open. Without any prior thoughts of rebellion, Zoe steps out of the carriage and disappears into the throng of the capital. Suddenly, she realizes that she doesn’t want to become the fifth wife of the old king.

But what does she want? Zoe doesn’t know. She only knows that she is coru, a child of water. In the world where everyone’s personality is affiliated with one element—water, fire, earth, air, or wood—Zoe explores her options as she follows the river: from the poor squatters’ camp on the river shore to her ancestral home by the river’s headwaters, to the king’s palace beside the waterfalls. Her final revelation, that she is coru prime and her mind can command the capricious river, turns her life and the fate of the kingdom upside down.

As she gropes for answers, the story pulls the reader in. Tension escalates, while the author’s new world unfolds in all its magnitude and controversy. Populated by all kinds of people—poor and rich, wicked and kind—it seems a kin to our own world, even to the small and quirky detail that everyone, men and women alike, wear pants.

Some reviewers mentioned that not much is happening in the first half of the book, and that’s true… on the surface. The action transpires much deeper, inside Zoe’s mind and soul. For most of her life, she had existed invisibly, hidden from the world and from herself under her father’s shadow. He was an extraordinary man while he lived, and only now, after his death, Zoe is beginning to discover who she is besides her father’s daughter. The process of her awakening takes time, for Zoe as well as for the readers, and Shinn’s trademark low-key, lyrical narration fits the storyline perfectly.

The novel’s magical system is complex and unique, enclosed and limited, unlike any other magical system in any other writer’s universe. An adept storyteller, Shinn weaves her heroes’ characters with the same mastery as she builds her world. Every detail is important. Every nuance serves a purpose, like a colored thread in a tapestry.

As a result, Zoe comes out three-dimensional and contradictory, like a neighborhood girl. One moment, she is strong and compassionate, ready to risk her life to help a friend. Another moment she is spiteful and naive, destroying the city to save one little princess. All the while she grapples with questions only she herself can answer. Can she use her powers wisely? Can she refrain from abusing it? Can she distinguish where wisdom ends and abuse begins? Can she find her heart in the deep, troubled waters of Sharon Shinn’s imagination?

I look forward to the next book of the series. Hopefully soon.

Highly recommended. 

Part 2 – Live It! by Steven O’Connor

Soo from Silk Screen Views invited me to write about my journey as a writer. When I began, I quickly discovered I could ramble on for quite some time, meandering over many topics. Here then, in an attempt at tidiness, is the second of three shorter posts I have provided to Silk Screen Views, touching on some aspects of writing in my personal life.


Growing up in one country, and then finding oneself at the age of 12 needing to start again in another country at the bottom of the world can be … bewildering. That bewilderment can stay with you for quite some time. My family migrated to a certain place I will call – being polite –unwelcoming. It wasn’t just a shift between countries; it was an adjustment from a metropolitan city to a slow and sweaty lifestyle of a semi-industrialized country town.

Bear with me. You will see what this disclosure of mine has to do with writing in a moment. I promise.

The youth population of the town tended to regard any long-haired teenagers who were from overseas and into music (let alone writing) in urgent need of bashing up. I had no idea who or what I was supposed to be. It’s not surprising that I spent every waking moment looking back to my old country, trying to imagine what my life should have been like, and emulating those perceptions and images as much as I could. I grew more and more withdrawn all the time. And angrier.

This is no doubt a typical migration experience for many teenagers, and I won’t dwell on it in detail. But why am I telling you about it? Because this is why I began to write in secret. At the heart of this secrecy was a fear of more ridicule and abuse from others. Exposure. I was an adolescent living in a constant state of vulnerability and uncertainty. I was in a family whose other members were busily distracted by their own issues associated with being in a new country. Sadly, my father, the one person in the family who had clearly wanted to migrate, died shortly after settling in the country.

This secrecy or privacy in writing can have significant implications. It can affect your growth as a writer. For me, it’s the reason why I never pursued a writing career with gusto, or found another person, a mentor perhaps, who might have helped with that pursuit as I grew up.

Escaping to the bigger Australian city of Melbourne was a very good thing for me socially, but I continued to keep my writing hidden over the years. I rarely submitted anything to competitions or journals. Even though I experienced a degree of success when I did. How could I possibly develop my writing skills further if I was not properly reaching out with my writing? It’s an important part of my identity. Yet, if I’d stopped, no one would have noticed.

Like all older writers, I have hundreds of thousands of words buried in various places throughout the house. Under the bed in my bedroom, at the back of bookshelves in the living room and in boxes in the attic. It feels as if my words trail behind me back through the years, reaching through the nineties and the eighties to the seventies. They exist on handwritten scraps, in notebooks, dusty manuscripts (from the heavy, so-called portable Olivetti typewriters with their messy ribbons), in WordPerfect files saved on large and fragile floppy discs (saved by my monochrome Amstrad word processor), in MSWord files on mini-disks, and currently backed up on a portable hard drive that I keep separate from the computer.

I grew up on vintage sci-fi TV shows. Watching the likes of Dr Who and Star Trek from their very start in the sixties. My writing is heavily influenced by sci-fi and fantasy elements. I embarked on a professional Social Work career in the early eighties and to say it has given me material to write about is an understatement. Not that that is why I became a social worker! Hence themes of illness, addiction, recovery, mental health and wellbeing cannot help but also be present in my writing as a back drop, theme or as central to the plot. EleMental: A First-person Shooter is my first published novel. It is both an exploration of addiction and a young-adult sci-fi thriller about virtual video games.

I am happy to report, I finally opened up as a writer on Monday, 10 January 2000. The day I enrolled in a professional writing and editing course. I have my mother to thank for that. At her suggestion, we enrolled together in a college in the heart of the city. I have never been closer to my mother than now as she has become my writing buddy. Good on you, writing, for giving me that. She has successfully published two biographical books and has a third novel on the way. I also wrote my first published novel in the first year of those studies.

My advice: Don’t write in private.

Do you want to get good at something? Make it an important part of your life? Then don’t quietly beaver away for years in a back room, never telling anybody. That’s fooling no one but yourself. Push your words out to others (not just family and friends either). Get feedback. Find beta readers. Join a writers’ group or buddy up with a fellow writer.

Talk about it. Shout about it. Live it!


Read:  Part 1 To Be A Writer (A Secret)

For more information about Steven O’Connor and his work, check out his website.