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Summers at Castle Auburn    by Sharon Shinn order for
Summers at Castle Auburn
by Sharon Shinn
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2002 (2001)
Softcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Sharon Shinn writes wonderful romantic speculative fiction, the most notable being her Samaria series, in which angels and humans co-exist under the direction of a spaceship machine intelligence. The heroine of Summers at Castle Auburn is tomboy Corie, who is illegitimate of mixed parentage. She lives for most of the year apprenticed to her wise woman grandmother in a cottage, and summers at Castle Auburn with her beloved half-sister, the lovely, delicate Elisandra.

The author develops Corie's relationships with the grand, and not so grand, folk of the castle through many summers, as she grows from fourteen to adulthood, and matures in judgement and in her sense of right and wrong. Initially Corie has an extreme crush on the arrogant young prince Bryan, who is betrothed to her sister, but she develops friendship and warmer feelings for a guardsman, Roderick and for Bryan's cousin Kent.

At the heart of the tale are the fey aliora, who are hunted and enslaved by Corie's people, in particular by her beloved uncle Jaxon. The aliora are valued for the attributes that eventually make their captivity so abhorrent to Corie, their gentleness and magical ability to comfort. But it takes a while for Corie to conclude that her own people's actions are wrong. In fact the tale opens with her participation in an expedition to the Faelyn River, supposedly to hunt aliora.

Summers at Castle Auburn is a delightful light romantic fantasy, that deals with important issues - to do with a people's injustice to a race they consider inferior; the value of a real versus a utopian existence; the importance of working out one's own view of universe; and (not least) several lessons about judging by appearances.

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