Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn (2010)

Book #1 in the Elemental Blessings series



Recently, I read an interview with Sharon Shinn was intrigued by the way she described her fiction novels and so I picked up a copy of the first book in the Elemental Blessings series, Troubled Waters. This series of books are categorized by the library as Science Fiction but, after reading them, I find they are better classified as fantasy-romance novels. The four books in the series are set in far-off lands, filled with magic and mystery, and featuring a cast of strong royal women who find love while defending their beloved kingdom, Welce.

The kingdom of Welce is governed by a large royal family who rule their empire with the aide of five powerful magicians — called The Primes — who have the power to control the five earthly elements: air, water, earth, wood, and fire.

The people of Welce believe that everyone born in their kingdom is guided through their life by one or more of the earthly elements. At their birth, each resident is bestowed three “elemental blessings” that will guide their life choices: their personality, career, love, and even whether they should live in the city or country.

In Troubled Waters we meet Zoe Ardelay , a young woman living in a small rural village on the edge of Welce who is still reeling from the death of her beloved father. Just days after his death, a regent of the King of Welce arrives to tell her that she has been selected to be the King’s fifth wife and she is bundled off to the capital city and the king’s palace.

Before she can be delivered to the king, Zoe escapes to live on the streets. With the help and kindness of strangers she makes a life for herself along the river that flows through the city and is happy there, as she a woman whose life is guided by the element of water. Soon it is revealed that Zoe is a very powerful woman who must fulfill her destiny as a ruler of Welce…only not as one of the Kings wives.

Newly endowed with power, money, and land; Zoe is swept up into the chaos of the royal family, all of whom are locked in a constant power struggle marred by intrigue, deceit, and scandal. Zoe uses her elemental powers — and her strong personality — in an attempt to bring balance back into the rulers of Welce. Of course, on her way to power Zoe finds love and, rather than weakening her as it does for so many of the other royal women, it makes her a stronger woman and a better ruler.

I am not a huge fan of fantasy novels in general, and I find it especially  challenging to engage in fantasy novels set in fictional lands. These books strike a nice balance between traditional romance novel, fantasy novel, and historical (if fictional) novel. I could categorize them as Game of Thrones-lite. Filled with love, affairs, danger, murder plots, and political posturing; readers will find some similarities to Game of Thrones, but with a noticeably more powerful and likable female characters; with no explicit sex scenes (are though they are hinted at); and happier endings. While these are not the best books I have read lately, they were entertaining and I am a sucker for a series…I love have a stack of books lined up on the bedside table to plow through, and the Elemental Blessings series fit the bill nicely.



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