Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

Fantasy, 342 pages, published in 2001

Synopsis: Coriel spends her summers at Castle Auburn with her stepsister experiencing intrigue, royal politics, magic, and romance.

NON-SPOILER REVIEW:

This book has been on my Goodreads to be read shelf for such a long time, so I finally just bought it. I was kind of put off by the cover to be really honest, but I am so glad I gave this book a shot!

This book had an old school vibe that I absolutely loved! It is a bit older (published in 2001), so it reminded me of the fantasy I read growing up, specifically Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books. It was honestly really refreshing to read and I flew through this book.

Throughout this book, the reader gets to see our main character Coriel grow up from a young teenager to a young woman. It was very interesting to see how her views of the world were shaped by her upbringing and background, and how those views changed as she grew up. I really enjoyed her as a character. She never let people push her to be someone she wasn’t and she was never embarrassed of herself or where she came from.

The only fantastical element of this book was the Aliora, a race of faeries that are hunted and captured to become the slaves of rich nobles. This was an interesting theme throughout the book. The book starts with a journey to capture some Aliora and ends quite differently. As far as fantasy creatures, they felt pretty standard, but I was fine with that.

I don’t really know how to explain the plot of this book because it feels like there wasn’t one overarching plot. It follows each summer that Coriel is at Castle Auburn and addresses the problems that arise, but it mostly skips over the rest of the year. I definitely didn’t have an issue with this because I was just so interested to see what would happen next. Also, nothing much exciting happened when Coriel wasn’t at Castle Auburn, so it was fine to just get a small overview of what happened during those winter months.

My biggest complaint is the ending. I was ready to name this book my favorite read of the year so far, but the ending was just very disappointing. It didn’t wrap things up the way I wanted. More specifically, there were things mentioned earlier in the book that definitely could have been brought up at the end to make everything full circle. The romance was also…non-existent? As a reader, I could definitely tell who had feelings for her, but Coriel was honestly pretty oblivious, so the romance came out of nowhere for her. I was just hoping it would be integrated into the story more than it was.

Despite the ending, I really enjoyed the rest of the book! It was relaxed, but also interesting, and it just felt very…homey? I don’t know, it just made me feel a lot of things and I loved it!

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