Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

There are NO spoilers in this post.summersatcastle

starstarstarstarstar

5/5 on Rachel’s Rating Scale
PG for mild violence and sexual references
Young adult, fantasy, royalty, magic, fairy

I actually find it refreshing that the title of this book is not something flashy and dark like most young adult book titles these days (ie. City of Bones, Bloodlines). I never realized it before, but the title fits the book so well because it describes exactly what the books is–a lilting, beautifully crafted tale that flows gently along with the laziness of the summers in which it takes place. Like the maturing of summer, the book matures as the main character grows up. I read this for the first time when I was seventeen, and Sharon Shinn did what so few authors have ever been able to do. She had me hooked from the very first sentence: “The summer I was fourteen, my uncle Jaxon took me with him on an expedition to hunt for aliora.”

I don’t know how to describe it. I’ve read other novels by this author, none of which I found particularly wonderful, but there was something about this book, and this first sentence, that I knew instantly that I had found one of those rare gems.

It was the book I was reading when this picture was taken:

backpacking

Yes, that is my seventeen-year-old self backpacking and reading this book. I was only 10 pages from the end when we got off the boat that had taken us 3 hours across Lake Superior to Isle Royal, where my family and our friends would be backpacking through the wilderness of the remote island national park for the next week. And yes, it was for these ten pages that I was willing to stuff an extra hardcover book in my backpack (which is NOT something that is recommended for backpacking . . . I took this book over an extra pair of underwear) and lug it around for seven days. And I finished those ten pages before we had hardly stepped onto the island. I think I actually held up the other nine members of our group so I could finish it.

It was worth every extra minute and every extra pound.

Coriel Halsing has spent glorious summers at Castle Auburn since she discovered she was the illegitimate child of a nobleman, summers made even sweeter by her love for Prince Bryan–a love every other girl in the realm seems to share. But Prince Bryan is engaged to Corie’s half-sister, who seems to be the only girl in the kingdom not thrilled to be marrying the heartthrob prince. As the years pass and Corie grows up, the once light-hearted days at Auburn subside, and she must come face to face with a darkness in those she thought she knew–particularly through the castle’s conflict with the fay aliora, and Bryan’s approaching coronation.

So that’s something of a summary. But seriously, Sharon Shinn crafts an incredible tale of magic, romance, and intrigue (my three favorite things) that is blindingly subtle and will leave you guessing until the very end.

Of course, there is romance, and, like in Crown Duel, the romance is so wonderfully understated and intelligent, completely unlike most young adult romances that are generally based on sexual attraction. This romance is slow, deliberate, and surprising, particularly for Corie, who is far more surprised than the reader when everything comes out.

This is a definite must read for anyone who enjoys fantasy, medieval style tales, fairy tales, intrigue, and romance.

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