Next Author: John Shirley
Previous Author: Gillian Shields

Sharon Shinn

book review Sharon Shinn(1957- )
Sharon Shinn is a journalist who has written for The Professional Photographer, DECOR, and BizEd. She writes fantasy in the evenings and on weekends and has won numerous awards for her novels. Learn more at Sharon Shinn’s website.

The Shape-Changer’s Wife: A beautiful fairytale romance

The Shape-Changer’s Wife by Sharon Shinn

Aubrey is a young wizard, apprenticed to Glynrenden, the most powerful shape-changer in the land. Aubrey wants to learn all of his magical secrets, but instead discovers a mystery surrounding the shape-changer’s wife, Lilith, which may change everything Aubrey has ever known.

The Shape-Changer’s Wife is a beautiful fairytale romance, with a haunting, slightly creepy undertone. Glynrenden is a menacing character, and Shinn does a wonderful job of eliciting a sense of dread during his interactions with the other characters. Similarly, the interactions between members of Glynrenden’s household and the local villagers underscore the simmering tension and a growing realization that something is not quite right. This makes for an effective counterbalance to what could have been an overly sweet love story. Shinn also manages to write a novel that is appropriate fo... Read More

Archangel: A grand sweeping love story

Archangel by Sharon Shinn

Gabriel is about to become Archangel. He is required to lead the annual singing of the Gloria on the Plains of Sharon in just a few months with his wife, the angelica, at his side. There is just one problem: Gabriel isn’t married. Faced with this dilemma, he goes to the oracle to find out who he is supposed to marry, and is given the name of a woman, Rachel, but he has no idea where to find her. With the months slipping away before his voice raised in song is the only thing that can turn away the wrath of the god Jovah, he crisscrosses the land, and finally locates her — an Edori slave girl who has no intention of marrying an angel and spending her life in a different type of servitude. To make matters worse, the current Archangel, Raphael, seems less likely every day to peaceably hand over his position to Gabriel.

Archangel is an amazing book. Sharon Shinn h... Read More

Jovah’s Angel: Intelligent character-driven fantasy

Jovah's Angel by Sharon Shinn

Set about 150 years after Archangel, Jovah’s Angel returns to the world of the Samaria books to find a new set of problems besieging the land. Terribly destructive storms are wracking the land, and the angels, who for hundreds of years have been able to intercede with the god Jovah for protection, can no longer work their magic. When one particularly bad storm hurls the Archangel Delilah to the ground, breaking her wing and leaving her no longer capable of flight, the oracles are approached to name a new Archangel. The pronouncement they receive from Jovah is a shock to everyone: the reclusive scholar Alleluia should be the new Archangel.

I loved Archangel and was concerned about whether any sequel could possibly live up to the first book. Sharon Shinn very wisely sets the action significantly later, so while the events of the firs... Read More

The Alleluia Files: Beautifully written, emotionally compelling

The Alleluia Files by Sharon Shinn

Set one hundred years after Jovah’s Angel, rumors are abounding that Alleluia had discovered the truth about the god Jovah — that he is actually a large spaceship orbiting the planet. While these ideas are declared heretical, a small cult has sprung up around finding the files Alleluia is said to have left behind. The Jacobites are declared criminals, and the Archangel Bael brutally suppresses their existence. But there are enough people believing the rumors that Bael can’t stop them all, and what they find could change Samaria forever.

The Alleluia Filesis told through two different storylines running simultaneously. One plot follows Tamar, a Jacobite on the run for her life, who finds an unlikely ally in Jared, an angel and leader of the host at Monteverde. The other storyline features Lucinda, an angel raised in isolation her entire life, and her quest to find h... Read More

Angelica: SFF with a strong romantic streak

Angelica by Sharon Shinn

The settlers of Samaria were brought there from a distant world, cupped in the hands of their God. Jovah settled them on this harsh land where they could find a new start far away the technology that had torn their old war apart, and then blessed them with angels — winged messengers to intercede with Jovah on the mortals’ behalf. Now, a few hundred years after settlement, the Archangel Gaaron has three problems.

First, he has to convince the Edori woman Susannah to be his bride and the titular Angelica, even though she loves another. Second, mysterious black-clad strangers have been seen appearing and disappearing at random, leaving settlers and settlements alike burned to oblivion in their passing. And third, his recalcitrant sister Miriam has fallen in love with one of the invaders, and will do anything to protect him.

This fourth book in the Read More

Summers at Castle Auburn: A lovely YA romance

Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

Summers at Castle Auburn (2001) was my first exposure to Sharon Shinn's fantasies, and it was pretty much insta-love for me (I like to think that Shinn returns my affections in a distant and anonymous fan-appreciation kind of way). It instantly set me off on a search for more of her books.

Corie is the teenaged illegitimate daughter of a nobleman who died before the story begins, but the royal family is still keeping close tabs on her. Most of the time she lives with her grandmother in a remote village, learning medicinal herbs and a bit of witchery from her. But her summers are spent with the royal family in Castle Auburn.

We follow Corie over the next several years as she hangs out with her half-sister Elisandra; Bryan, the stunningly good-looking ― and knows... Read More

The Safe-Keeper’s Secret: Interesting idea, weak plot

The Safe-Keeper’s Secret by Sharon Shinn

Safe-Keepers can be trusted to never reveal a secret. So it's no surprise that when a royal bastard needs to be hidden, a Safe-Keeper would be the logical place to hide the child. When the royal messenger who left the infant in the dark of night with the Safe-Keeper is found dead by his own hand a few miles away, the secret identity of the baby boy who was left behind becomes more of an open secret in the village. The Safe-Keeper decides to raise the child with her own daughter who was also born that night. But what happens when the King can't have any more children, and starts looking for the child who may be his son?

In The Safe-Keeper’s Secret, Sharon Shinn develops an interesting idea. There are people in this society who are responsible for keeping secrets until they need to be told, people who have a mythical ability to know and ... Read More

The Truth-Teller’s Tale: Shinn is a beautiful writer

The Truth-Teller’s Tale  by Sharon Shinn

Adele is a Safe-Keeper, physiologically incapable of sharing a secret. Her twin sister Eleda is a Truth-Teller, incapable of telling a lie. From the young age of 12, these sisters assume positions of responsibility in their town, but what happens when they get dragged into royal intrigue and the indiscretions of the most powerful family in town?

The Truth-Teller’s Tale, the second book in the SAFE-KEEPERS series by Sharon Shinn, is an improvement over the first book in the series. As an adult reader of a young adult novel, you always have to keep in mind that the intended audience is younger and assumed to be less sophisticated and well-read than you. That said, a good young adult novel should be capable of being enjoyed by an adult as well, and shouldn't talk down to its audience. While publishers recommend this for ... Read More

Mystic and Rider: A mystified, riderless horse…

Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn

Like a mystified and riderless horse, Sharon Shinn's fantasy novel Mystic & Rider gallops to the point of fatigue and frustration. This conclusion is especially unfortunate in light of the excellent opening chapter. But buyer beware: the tension and excitement rarely increase from that point, and the last of the 440 pages brings us little closer to some kind of resolution or revelation than the first. Rather, the entire novel is simply a prologue for the rest of the series.

The novel's plot is perfectly plain. A band of adventurers is dispatched by the king to investigate troubling rumors in the southern provinces. Shinn's writing is usually transparent and, in some places, strikingly good. Her characters are likeable if on the bland side, and the magic system is passable. (Some people are born as "mystics" with useful, though usually minor,... Read More

Quatrain: Sensitive, beautiful writing with a touch of romance

Quatrain by Sharon Shinn

Quatrain is a collection of four novellas, each one set in a different one of Sharon Shinn’s worlds. Ranging from fantasy to science fiction, the stories take place in radically different societies, but each novella is a different look at a person trying to find their own place in a world that is not to their liking. Each main character ends up examining their own priorities and their desire to find love and happiness in less than ideal situations. The varied responses to those dilemmas are as different as the characters and the worlds they are set in.

In Quatrain, Sharon Shinn deals sensitively with topics of religion, abuse, intolerance and ethnicity while never letting the issues overwhelm the stories. Shinn is a master wordsmith, evoking lush full-blown characters and fantastical landscapes with a spare prose that is breathtaking in... Read More

Troubled Waters: A book that just feels good

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

Zoe Ardelay has spent the last 12 years living in exile and poverty with her father. She’s known that her father, a member of the Five Families that help rule Welce under the king’s guidance, used to be King Vernon’s top advisor, but then fell out of favor and was forced to leave the capital city and seek refuge in a distant village. Now, stricken with grief at her father’s passing, she is shocked to see an expensive coach pull into the village, and an unknown stranger step down, announcing that she has been chosen to be King Vernon’s fifth wife. Swept away before she can make a decision, she escapes from Darien once the coach makes its way back to Chialto and seeks refuge amongst the city’s homeless. After a series of events makes it clear that Zoe is actually the heir to one of the Five Families, she claims her heritage and is forced into a world of political intrigue that may be the death of her, an... Read More

Royal Airs: Not as good as Troubled Waters

Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn

Royal Airs is the second book in Sharon Shinn’s ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS series. I loved the first book, Troubled Waters, which was a light romantic fantasy that told the story of Zoe Ardelay, a young woman who was brought to the royal court of Welce to be the fifth wife of its king. She discovered that she had power over the element of water and, using the personality traits that her water spirit gave her, she successfully navigated the dangers of the court and found true love. I’ll be reading that book again someday.

Royal Airs takes place after the events of Troubled Waters, but it can stand alone. Many of the characters overlap, but this is a separate story, not a direct sequel. In Royal Airs we become acquainted with more of the princesses of the five fami... Read More

Jeweled Fire: Court intrigue and a murder mystery mark a return to form for this series

Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn

Jeweled Fire is the third book in Sharon Shinn’s ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS fantasy series, each one of which focuses on a different young woman. Corene, a secondary character in the previous books, is a strong-willed and fiery young woman (purely sweela, or fire, for those readers who recall the elemental influences that are presumed to govern personalities in Welce), one of four princesses of Welce who were in contention for the throne. Due to events that occurred in the second book, Royal Airs, Corene is no longer a candidate to become queen of Welce. Feeling disoriented and useless, she impulsively ran away, surreptitiously accepting an invitation from Filomara, the visiting empress of Malinqua, to v... Read More

Unquiet Land: A redemptive story of parental love

Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn

In Unquiet Land, Sharon Shinn’s fourth book in her ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS fantasy series, the story returns to the country of Welce, the setting for the first two books in this series. Leah, who was introduced to readers in the third book, Jeweled Fire, lived in the country of Malinqua for five years, helping Darien Serlast, the ruler of Welce, by acting as a spy and, for the last few months of her stay, keeping an protective eye on the princess Corene, who was on an extended visit with the ruling family of Malinqua. More to the point, at the time Leah was running away from personal issues in her life: a lover who deserted her when she told him she was pregnant, and her now five year old daughter Mally, whom Leah h... Read More

The Shape of Desire: Big disappointment

The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn

Maria is madly in love with Dante. It doesn't matter that he is a shapeshifter, spending longer and longer periods away from her in animal form. Maria's motto is "you can't choose who you love," and she loves Dante, regardless of the increasingly brief moments of time they can spend together as humans. But when mysterious animal attacks start claiming lives close to home, does her love for Dante put her own life at risk?

Oh my holy hand grenades barf.

I love Sharon Shinn. Her Samaria books are some of my favorites, and I thought Troubled Waters was fantastic. She always has a heavy element of romance in her books, but her world-building is so intricate and her characters so well-realized that it has never been a problem. So I went ahead and bought this book without really looking at the story because I love her writing. U... Read More

Shattered Warrior: Tale’s too familiar but artwork shines

Shattered Warrior written by Sharon Shinn &  illustrated by Molly Knox Ostertag

Shattered Warrior (2017) is a new graphic novel written by Sharon Shinn and illustrated by Molly Knox Ostertag. The artwork is excellent, but as far as plot, it’s an overly familiar one and, as usual for me with graphic novels (fair warning), neither story nor characters are rich enough for my deep engagement.

The story is set on a human world conquered years ago by an alien race (the Derichet) and mostly wholly subjugated, though there a rebel group known as the Valenchi sabotages the occasional convoy or bridge. The planet’s main mineral is used to fuel the Derichet spacecraft. The main character, Colleen, was once the daughter of one of the Great Families (rich aristocrats in a highly stratified society), but the invasion, besides destr... Read More

More speculative fiction by Sharon Shinn

Sharon Shinn Wrapt in CrystalWrapt in Crystal — (1999) Publisher: Interfed Agent Cowen Drake journeys to a distant, unfamiliar world ruled by a stark spirituality to catch a serial killer preying on the priestesses of the planet’s two religions only, to find himself caught between two remarkable women and torn between duty and desire.fantasy and science fiction book reviews

Heart of Gold — (2001) Publisher: From the award-winning author of the Samaria Trilogy comes a classic Romeo and Juliet romance set on a world far from our own… A scientist by nature, Nolan used his rational powers of observation to question the privileges he was born to enjoy — and the people he was raised to despise. A rebel at heart, Katrini followed her fiercest passions in the struggle to overthrow a legacy of hate — one that had poisoned her family for generations… On a planet divide between rich and poor, strong and weak, intellect and feeling, only one thing could bring these two opposites together. A strictly forbidden desire. For justice. For equality. And for each other.fantasy and science fiction book reviews

Jenna Starborn — (2002) Publisher: Jenna Starborn was created out of frozen embryonic tissue, a child unloved and unwanted. Yet she has grown up with a singularly sharp mind — and a heart that warms to those she sees as less fortunate than herself. This novel takes us into Jenna Starborn’s life, to a planet called Fieldstar, and to a property called Thorrastone — whose enigmatic lord will test the strength of that tender and compassionate heart.

Sharon Shinn General Winston's DaughterGeneral Winston’s Daughter — (2007) Young adult. Publisher: When seventeen-year-old heiress Averie Winston travels with her guardian to faraway Chiarrin, she looks forward to a reunion with her father, who is a commanding general, seeing her handsome fiancé Morgan once more, and exploring the strange new country. What she finds is entirely different. Although the Chiarizzi appear to tolerate the invading army, rebels have already tried to destroy them; Morgan is not the man she thought he was; and she finds herself falling in love with Lieutenant Ket Du’kai, who himself comes from a conquered society. Can the irrepressible Averie remake herself in this new world? Sharon Shinn’s newest romance has an epic sweep, piquant humor, social commentary, and love to spare — just the thing when you want to lose yourself in another world.

Sharon Shinn GatewayGateway — (2009) Young adult. Publisher: As a Chinese adoptee in St. Louis, teenage Daiyu often feels out of place. When an elderly Asian jewelry seller at a street fair shows her a black jade ring — and tells her that “black jade” translates to “Daiyu” — she buys it as a talisman of her heritage. But it’s more than that; it’s magic. It takes Daiyu through a gateway into a version of St. Louis much like 19th century China. Almost immediately she is recruited as a spy, which means hours of training in manners and niceties and sleight of hand. It also means stealing time to be with handsome Kalen, who is in on the plan. There’s only one problem. Once her task is done, she must go back to St. Louis and leave him behind forever…