Review: Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

Review: Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon ShinnSummers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
Published by Ace on April 30, 2002
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 342
Format: Paperback
Source: Gifted
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four-half-stars

As a child, Coriel Halsing spent many glorious summers at Castle Auburn with her half-sister-and fell in love with a handsome prince who could never be hers. But now that she is a young woman, she begins to see the dark side of this magical place...

 

 

 

 

This backlist title has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity in the book blog community over the last year or so. Several people have told me that I simply must read this book, but Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) was the one who finally nudged me into it by sending me a copy for my birthday. I didn’t have much of an idea what to expect, other than that I know that anything Gillian recommends will almost definitely have a great ship, and the book’s description certainly would not have helped a whole lot. It’s not wrong, but it’s…misleading. It makes everything sound way melodramatic, which is like the total opposite of Summers at Castle-Auburn, which is an understated, voice-driven, charming coming of age fantasy with a lovely cast and, yes, fantastic ship.

As I said, I didn’t know what to expect particularly, but I still managed to be completely surprised by the opening of Summers at Castle Auburn. We meet Coriel at age fourteen, excited to be going on an aliora-hunting excursion with her Uncle Jaxon and a veritable harem of boys, including her crush Prince Bryan. Corie’s voice immediately charms. She’s young, naive, sweet, and impossible not to love. It’s massively hard to pull off a character like Corie and have her come off as genuine and young, rather than stupid.

Corie’s just this remarkably sweet, friendly, trusting person, so she doesn’t question what she’s been taught until she gets older. The whole book is Corie’s journey from blind faith in those around her to realizing the darkness underlying her idyllic world. As a child, her only complaint is that the people at court expect her to behave in particular (read: boring) ways, but, as she grows, she has to confront the problematic racism (the aliora are fae creatures with intelligence and their own community), the fact that Prince Bryan is actually kind of a shitty human, and that, generally, no one is as simple and perfect as she had thought.

Summers at Castle Auburn takes place primarily over three summers: Corie’s fourteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth summers. At fourteen, Corie’s adorable and precocious. Her naivete could be trying, but she’s been sheltered from the world’s harsh realities, both by her situation and the fact that others try to protect her; no one wants to be the one to crush such a sweet, happy nature. In her seventeenth summer, Corie’s eyes are opened (perhaps by a potion in an adorable set up or just by growing up), and she’s working on understanding the world in this new way. In her eighteenth, Corie returns a bit less perky and a lot more determined.

I love Corie in every incarnation, and I love watching her change and grow up through the years. I love how boy crazy she is, and I love that this does not remotely translate to wanting to get married; she dreams of a life as an herbwitch, not as a wife of some lord. She’s got this puppy love crush on Prince Bryan, because he’s so cute; if Bryan had a fan club like Prince Char does, Corie would have been the president.

Enough gushing about Corie, though I could go on. Her relationship with her sister is absolutely precious. It’s so freaking adorable that Corie has trouble understanding that Bryan doesn’t love Elisandra because Corie simply cannot conceive of anyone not loving Elisandra. To her, Elisandra is a paragon of womanhood, but there’s so much more going on under the surface. Elisandra’s way more complex than that, but she does love her sister with a fierceness.

The romances are super fucking adorable. I totally shipped all of them from the first scenes the couples had together, because this is my realm and clearly Shinn is a fan of shiptrash just like I am. Based on the shirtless scene and the dancing and the carriage scene, Shinn is such a shipper, and just bless her really. Kent is such an adorable goober who is trying so damn hard but being waaaaaay too subtle about it. Darling, precious Kentley.

Plotwise, Summers at Castle Auburn reads very much like a fairy tale; there’s a dreamy, magical quality to everything. Some plot elements, particularly the aliora, while being a big part of the book, don’t necessarily get the handling you might expect. Villains don’t always get punished, View Spoiler » and some plot developments only appear as a casual aside in one letter or bit of narration. Summers at Castle Auburn is subtle, and you definitely need to pay attention to catch everything (including Corie’s secret snark).

View Spoiler »

What an incredibly lovely novel! I’m already making plans to work through Sharon Shinn’s novels, because any author who brings the ship like that is an author I need to read obsessively.

Favorite Quote:

<spoiler>“Do you love me?” he asked.
I fell silent.
“For the rest of it is glitter and noise,” he said. “At the heart of it all is love. You make that choice, and you go forward from there.”</spoiler>

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

4 responses to “Review: Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn”

  1. Gillian says:

    OMG I LOVE THAT GIF IN THE SPOILER TAG

    My love for this book knows no boundssssss I’m just so happy you loved it toooo

    PRECIOUS KENT PRECIOUS CORIE BAD ASS ELISANDRA <3 and yes the synopsis is a DISGRACE
    Gillian recently posted…Recent Reads Roundup, Achievements, Quirks, and Imaginary CupcakesMy Profile

  2. Anya says:

    You have convinced me!
    Anya recently posted…Crunchtime!My Profile

  3. I’ve never heard of this book, but I’m in the mood for a good romance. Thanks for the great review!
    Leigha @ Shelfleigh recently posted…Slavic MythologyMy Profile

  4. Awww this sounds adorable! I’ve had Mystic and Rider, Archangel, and Troubled Waters on my TBR for far too long but clearly I need to add this one too. And maybe read some of them. Yeah, that’s a great idea. lol
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – Most UniqueMy Profile

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