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Troubled Waters    by Sharon Shinn order for
Troubled Waters
by Sharon Shinn
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've very much enjoyed all Sharon Shinn's romantic fantasies over the years, from the Samaria novels to her Twelve Houses and YA series. Now she brings us what I hope is only the first in yet another series, Troubled Waters, set in a world in which everyone is aware of their elemental affiliation - sweela (flame), hunti (wood/bone), torz (earth), elay (soul/air), or coru (water/blood) - that strongly influences personality.

Zoe Ardelay's fiery sweela father Navarr used to be the realm's royal advisor. He was sent into poverty and exile (accompanied by his young daughter, her coru Lalindar clan mother having already died) ten years ago. They settled in a remote village. Troubled Waters opens on Navarr Ardelay's death after a long illness during which Zoe nursed him.

After the funeral, royal advisor Darien Serlast arrives in the village, traveling in a fancy new self-propelled wagon. He has come to take Zoe back to Chialto so that she can marry King Vernon (who already has four queens). Still numb from grief, Zoe goes with him, but slips away once they arrive in the capital. She finds refuge on the banks of the river where the city's poor gather to sleep. There she makes friends who help her find work.

Over time, almost accidentally, Zoe discovers that she has remarkable power over water. She learns that she is, in fact her grandmother's heir, the Lalindar prime. She wends her way to the Lalindar mansion and claims her heritage. There, the ruthless Darien Serlast catches up with her again, with the king's invitation to take up residence in the palace.

Zoe soon finds herself embroiled in politics, her talent exposing dangerous secrets - about her father and about the monarchy - but Darien has her back. As always, Shinn delivers a highly satisfying story in a well realized fantasy world, with an engaging romance and a happy ending. I'm looking forward to a sequel.

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