Thursday, December 2, 2010

Troubled Waters

Blessings. Elements. Uncovering the Truth. The recently released fantasy novel Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn is beautifully woven together with the concept of blessings. “Blessing” is used both in the traditional sense and in the second sense of being elements—air, wood, fire, water, and earth—similar to the elements used in Eastern medicine.

Temples contain barrels filled with small metal tokens with a blessing on them, such as courage (a wood blessing) or patience (an earth blessing). These might be drawn for guidance or inspiration. The father of a newborn child goes out and asks three strangers to bestow a blessing on his child, usually drawn from the temple barrel, but sometimes given from a token already in the stranger’s possession. These three blessings become a sort of identity and inspiration throughout the child’s life.

In the story, individuals and families are also defined by particular blessings/elements. The blessings influence their occupations and shape their temperaments. They have an affinity for that blessing/element in nature. Rare individuals called “primes” can even control their element.

This world of blessings is the setting for the story of Zoe, a young woman who slowly uncovers the truth about who she is. In the beginning she is a lost young woman who is dealing with the death of her father, a man who has lived with her in exile the past ten years. As the story progresses, Zoe also uncovers the truth about intrigues in the royal palace. Zoe has the blessing of water, and the plot moves like water, sometimes slow and gentle, sometimes fast and racing.

This is the first book I have read by Shinn, and I had an enjoyable experience. I was fascinated by the blessings. Even though Zoe is a strong female character, the book has a gentle, feminine feel to it, which is a nice change of pace for me. I am hoping that Troubled Waters is the first in a series.

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