Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn (2013)

Book #2 in the Elemental Blessings series. Book #1 reviewed here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1q1

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In Royal Airs, the second book in Sharon Shinn’s fantasy romance series Elemental Blessings, readers are once again transported back to the fictional country of Welce and back into the lives of that country’s royal family.

The scandal that rocked the country, and especially its royal family, is now several years in the past and the aftershocks that came with the reordering of the royal wives and princesses have mostly faded. The kingdom is now ruled by a Queen and her five magical advisors, the “Primes” who control the earthly elements. With Zoe Ardelay, the heroine from book one, happily ensconced into her new life, attention is given in book two to Josetta, one of the four royal princesses of Welce.

Josetta is not your everyday princess, closeted in a palace and guarded day and night. Instead, we find a gentle, loving young woman who has dedicated her life to serving the poorest residents of the capital city. She runs a homeless shelter and resides in her own apartment there, rather than in the palace or in one of the other royal residences.

Where Zoe in book one was affiliated with the element of water , Josetta is affiliated with the air. She is selfless, giving, dedicated to others, but in no way is she easily manipulated or controlled. She serves the poor in her shelter and also her kingdom when called upon to do so. She feels everyone is entitled to respect and dignity, and when she meets Rafe Adova — a traveling gambler who shows his honorable side when he rescues one of Josetta’s sisters from peril — she welcomes him into her circle of friends as if he were royalty.

Soon it becomes clear to everyone that Josetta is falling in love with Rafe and he with her. Josetta welcomes their love, by Rafe worries his humble circumstances mean he is an unsuitable match for a princess. In a traditional fantasy novel, their match would be forbidden. However, Sharon Shinn has written a series of feminist fantasies where women rule kingdoms; control the elements; liveĀ  on their terms; and chose who they want to marry.

The series has been fun to get absorbed with and I find myself looking forward to book three, Jeweled Fire, and the exploits and adventures of yet another one of Welce’s royal princesses, Corene.

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