Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

I haven’t read a Sharon Shinn novel recently so I picked up Troubled Waters when I was in the mood for some fantasy. I have fond memories of the author’s Samaria books, which is an excellent series about angels. I also remember enjoying the Twelve Houses series although I’m a bit fuzzy on the details since it’s been years since I read them. From what I’ve heard, Troubled Waters is the first in a series but was initially written as a standalone. I liked knowing that I could read Troubled Waters by itself and that I didn’t have to worry about committing to a whole series.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Troubled WatersZoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king’s fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river.

It’s there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood—and the secrets of the royal family — she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court.

At the start of the novel, Zoe is grieving and mourning the loss of her beloved father. He was a powerful man at court but was exiled by the king for reasons that aren’t really clear to Zoe. They lived simply in a remote village far from the city. Numb with grief, Zoe isn’t even surprised when the king’s right-hand man shows up at their village to whisk her away to the capital, saying that she’s meant to be the king’s fifth wife. At that point, Zoe doesn’t really care what happens with her future but eventually, the numbness wears off and she realizes that she has no intention of being forced to marry someone she doesn’t know. I found Troubled Waters an absorbing read mostly because I liked Zoe as a character. It was very easy to get into her story and read about her adventures – living with the squatters near the river, working as a shopgirl and slowly discovering her powers. I also knew right away that there would be a romance. It was subtly done but I noticed how carefully Zoe kept paying attention to this guy. It’s a really good slow burn romance that’s drawn out throughout the length of the whole book. I enjoyed the conversations (mostly arguments) between these two characters and looked forward to their moments together.

I liked the world presented by Troubled Waters, where everyone receives random blessings a few hours after they’re born. Supplicants can also enter temples and draw out blessings whenever they feel like they need guidance. These blessings are based on the elements (air, water, fire, wood and earth). Everyone’s personality and way of life is tied to these elements. Zoe is coru, a woman of blood and water, which she inherits from her mother’s side of the family. As a result, she adapts easily to changes and surprises in her life. But she also gets sweela, which is fire, from her father. I don’t think I’m explaining it well but I found these blessings and elemental characteristics charming. I found Troubled Waters to be a quiet kind of fantasy. Kind of like a smooth and steady ride instead of wild and bumpy. Reading this book was a pleasant experience, it’s the type of book that I enjoy curling up with on a lazy weekend or to help me unwind after a work day. I can sense that Troubled Waters isn’t the kind of book that everyone will enjoy but I have a feeling most epic fantasy readers will probable have fun reading it. Troubled Waters reminded me a bit of my reading experience of House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier, not because of any similarities in worldbuilding or characters but just in the sense that I found both of them satisfying reads but couldn’t quite pinpoint why they worked for me. All I can say is that Sharon Shinn is a good storyteller and I enjoy reading her books. A minor quibble that I have with Troubled Waters is that I think the ending should have been extended a bit, it would have been nice to have an epilogue in there. But that’s not a major issue and I enjoyed reading the book overall. I might be tempted to read another Sharon Shinn novel soon.

Reader and Raelynx by Sharon Shinn

Reader and Raelynx by Sharon Shinn is the fourth book in the Twelve Houses series. My friend Celina of The Bookkeeper was nice enough to let me borrow her copy of this book. As always, thanks! Reading order: Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, Dark Moon Defender, Reader and Raelynx, Fortune and Fate. Should the books be read in order? Yes. Also, don’t read any of the synopses of the latter books if you haven’t read the earlier ones. They contain spoilery bits. Seriously, what is up with the summaries for these books? They all have spoilers. Reader and Raelynx is about the mystic Cammon, the last of the six companions featured in the series. In this world, mystics are people who have magical abilities. Cammon’s skill lies in being able to read people – while he can’t exactly read minds, he can still get a sense of what people are feeling and what their intentions are. He can spot violence miles away because that emotion stands out. He can also sense the other companions in the series – Senneth, Tayse, Kirra, Donnal and Justin – wherever they end up in the country. Cammon’s talents are pretty useful when it comes to spotting danger. At the start of the novel, he’s assigned to protect the princess and help her in selecting the right husband. Princess Amalie needs to marry and preferably produce an heir to the throne so the succession would become less of a problem for the kingdom. So Cammon’s job is pretty important. I found it easy to like Cammon as a character because he’s nice, friendly and has good intentions. He doesn’t care about material wealth and is actually pretty clueless about social classes. He judges people based on how he feels about them and not on how influential they are to the realm.

Out of all the books that I’ve read in the Twelve Houses series, Reader and Raelynx is the one that I like the most. I feel like the rest of the books are all about the build up and the climax occurs in this book. Right from the start of the series, war has been brewing in the land and the six companions are doing everything that they can to support the king and keep the peace. There’s not much that I can say without giving away details or spoilers about the plot so let me leave it at this: Big Events happen during Reader and Raelynx and a lot of secrets are revealed. I didn’t find any of the revelations surprising but I still enjoyed reading about them. As expected, all the other companions are present in this novel and that’s one thing that I like about this series – all of the books focus on one set of characters and the story arc ties them all together. I appreciate knowing more about the characters from the other books and I liked seeing them in this one. The last novel in the series is more a companion novel because it doesn’t focus on the initial six companions and is set a couple of years after this one so no need to hurry to read it. Like I said in my reviews of the other books, I recommend this series to fans of epic fantasy. Overall, I still like the Samaria series more than the Twelve Houses novels but at this point, Sharon Shinn is pretty much an auto-buy (or auto-read) author for me.

I couldn’t find a copy of the book cover with a higher resolution but I did see the artwork used for it on Tumblr:

Other reviews:
See Michelle Read

Dark Moon Defender by Sharon Shinn

Dark Moon Defender is the third book in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. Reading order: Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, Dark Moon Defender, Reader and Raelynx, Fortune and Fate. Should the books be read in order? Yes. Also, don’t read any of the synopses of the latter books if you haven’t read the earlier ones. They contain spoilery bits. Even the summary for this book has some spoilers. Dark Moon Defender is all about Justin, Tayse’s fellow Rider. He’s present in the two other novels and finally gets his own story (and romance!) in this one. Justin has been assigned on a spy mission. The king wants concrete proof that Coralinda Gisseltess, head of the convent of devotees of the Pale Mother, is committing violent acts against mystics. Mystics are individuals with magical abilities and Coralinda firmly believes that the Pale Mother, the moon goddess, hates magic. Justin settles down in the town of Neft as a stable-hand. He tries to keep a low profile so as not to attract attention. Without meaning to, he befriends Ellynor, a young novice at the convent. The companions from the earlier books – Cammon, Senneth, Tayse, Kirra and Donnal – drop by to visit Justin from time to time.

I feel like Justin’s novel is different from the rest of the companions’ because he’s a King’s Rider with no magical powers unlike the other mystics in the group. Justin and Tayse are two of the best Riders in the realm. Riders are skilled fighters, devoted to the king. For some reason, I wasn’t as convinced of their incredible fighting skills as I’d like. I realized that it’s mostly because the author tells the reader that they’re excellent fighters instead of showing their prowess through the Riders’ actions. It’s different with the mystics because there are several instances for them to demonstrate their power. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted. Also, it’s the first book in the series where the companions spend time apart. Justin is all by himself so the story jumps from his point of view to one of the other characters. The scenes that I liked the most were the ones where they’re all together. This storytelling format reminded me of Sharon Shinn’s Samaria series and Justin’s book, in particular, is similar to Angel-Seeker. Why? There’s forbidden romance in both books and the characters need to sneak around in order to be together.

I did enjoy reading the book as a whole because we get to learn more about other aspects of the world – Ellynor’s heritage and details about the convent when the story shifts to her point of view. It’s funny because even though I had problems with each book in the series so far, the author has managed to make me care enough about the characters to continue reading about them. As such, I feel like this is a series that I can recommend to anyone who’s looking to sink his or her teeth into a fantasy series that’s easy to follow. I’m going to stick with the series until the end. I’m already in the middle of the next book, Reader and Raelynx, and I think it’s more exciting than the other books because it’s marked with climactic events that the previous books have been leading up to.

Other reviews:
Dear Author
Songs and Stories
The Melander Bookshelf
Rosario’s Reading Journal

Retro Friday: The Thirteenth House by Sharon Shinn

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

The Thirteenth House is the second book in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. Reading order: Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, Dark Moon Defender, Reader and Raelynx, Fortune and Fate. Should the books be read in order? Yes. Also, don’t read any of the synopses of the latter books if you haven’t read the earlier ones. Don’t even read the summary for this book because it contains spoilers. I made the mistake of doing that and I think I would have had a better reading experience if I had no idea of what was going to happen. Mystic and Rider focused on two of the six companions in the Twelve Houses series, Senneth and Tayse. The Thirteenth House is all about the serramarra Kirra and there’s a bit about Donnal too because he’s always beside Kirra.

The novel starts with an adventure for Kirra, Donnal, Justin and Cammon. They’ve been requested by the king to rescue an important figure in the realm. Kirra is her usual fun-loving self although she manages to pull off being serious in the face of danger. I really liked Kirra’s character and I was looking forward to reading more about her. She’s such a vibrant character, so full of life. I did enjoy the fact that the other characters were present in this one, makes me feel like the characters are old friends. We get to know more about them as the whole gang tags along with Senneth as she accompanies the princess to tour the realm. Like I said, I liked Kirra’s personality but I didn’t think she made wise decisions in matters of the heart. I couldn’t root for her romance and was actually wondering how Sharon Shinn would pull off the ending. I was satisfied with the book as a whole. I still haven’t fallen in love with the series at this point but I like it well enough to continue with the rest of the books. I would have liked to have more of Donnal in Kirra’s story since he doesn’t get to have his own book. I feel like we don’t get to know enough about him.

In the first book, readers saw the Twelve Houses world through the stealthy travels of the companions. In this book, readers are given a glimpse of the nobility, the fine houses that they live in and the political intrigue that’s tied with their way of life. The plot hinting at possible war continues with the added complication of members of the Thirteenth House, the lesser nobles of the Houses. This is the kind of series that makes you want to read the books one right after the other to grasp the overall story arc. Also, when you’ve invested in the characters, you just want to stick with them until you reach the end of their story. I’m actually in the middle of the third book, which is about Justin, but I’ve been put it on hold to read some other things. I hope to get back to it soon. Recommended for epic fantasy fans who enjoy reading series.

Other reviews:
Songs and Stories
Rosario’s Reading Journal
The Melander Bookshelf

Retro Friday: Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Mystic and Rider is the first book in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. I enjoyed reading the Samaria series by the same author and Archangel is one of my favorite books. I think I’ve read more contemporary titles than fantasy this year so I find myself wanting to read more of the latter. I decided it would be a good idea to give this series a try.

Here’s the summary from Sharon Shinn’s website:

The fire mystic Senneth crosses the country of Gillengaria on a mission for the king, trying to discover if noble marlords from the Twelve Houses are planning an uprising. She is accompanied by the soldiers Justin and Tayse, two King’s Riders who are unswervingly loyal to the crown. Also on the journey are the shape-changers Kirra and Donnal, and a young mystic named Cammon who can practically read minds. It’s soon clear that not only are marlords planning a rebellion, but that they are being aided by Daughters of the Pale Mother, a fanatical religious sect that hates mystics. While Senneth can clearly take care of herself, Tayse finds himself unable to stop watching her — determined both to protect her and to uncover her secrets.

And an interesting tidbit from the author: The thing that most people seemed to find disappointing about the Samaria books was that they didn’t follow the same people through successive storylines, so from the outset I planned the Twelve Houses books as a series about six main characters. I gave Senneth my own headaches just so I could share the pain.

I like the idea that the entire series features one group of characters. I’ve actually finished reading the first two books but I’ll review the second one after this. Just like the Samaria books, each of the Twelve Houses books features a romantic couple. I guess it’s pretty obvious from the title Mystic and Rider who those two are. Senneth is a mystic, a person with magical abilities, and she can control fire while Tayse is a King’s Rider, a member of the elite guard dedicated to serving the crown. It’s easy to like both Senneth and Tayse – the former for being a strong female protagonist who has a mysterious past and the latter for his loyalty and willingness to serve and follow his king’s commands. I actually guessed Senneth’s heritage way before it was revealed but I didn’t mind knowing it early.

I liked that the point of view changes from Senneth to Tayse and back again because we get to see how both characters think. I also like that this series deals with the same set of characters. I felt like this first book was an introduction to the six companions – Senneth, Tayse, Justin, Kirra, Donnal and Cammon. I obviously liked the first book well enough to start the second one right away. While I felt that the romance in Mystic and Rider was more quiet and restrained than I’d like, I understood that it reflected the personalities of the two individuals involved. Like a friend on Goodreads mentioned, Senneth and Tayse become the mother and father figure of the group because they’re several years older than the other characters. They’re both older, wiser and more subdued than the rest of the group.

The same goes for the worldbuilding, I felt that this book introduces readers to the world of Gillengaria, where the nobles (and the ruling class) come from Twelve Houses. The companions travel all over the country to gather information for the king. The readers get to know more about the nobles and a possible uprising because of the growing distrust against mystics. Because the books were meant to be read in order, the plot will make you want to read one book right after the other to get more information not just about the characters but about the fate of the kingdom. While I wasn’t blown away by the first book, I think the Twelve Houses series looks promising and I recommend it for fans of epic fantasy looking for a solid series to read.

Other reviews:
Dear Author
Songs and Stories
Cookies, Books and Bikes

Favorite Literary Couples II

Image from We Heart It

Last year, I did a post about my favorite literary couples for Valentine’s Day and I thought it would be good to make this a yearly kind of thing. Without further ado, here are my favorite couples in fiction since February of last year:

Taylor Markham and Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – These two literally came from opposing camps in their local turf wars so you can say that theirs is a love-hate relationship. Both of them have also experienced heartbreaking moments in their young lives which makes their romance sweeter. The love story between these two isn’t even the main plot of Jellicoe Road but it still resonated with me, especially because I believe what they have is also based on friendship.

Kate Daniels and Curran from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews – The Kate Daniels series is my favorite urban fantasy series and I love how Kate and Curran’s relationship developed. I enjoyed the witty banter and the uncertainty of whether they’d ever end up together. You have to read the whole series to appreciate what goes on between these two.

Gabriel and Rachel from Archangel by Sharon Shinn – When the Archangel Gabriel came looking for the wife that the god Jovah picked for him, he didn’t expect to meet vehement resistance from the feisty Rachel. Another turbulent relationship that I really enjoyed watching unfold. What I liked about Gabriel and Rachel is that they both had to work hard for the relationship even if the god mandated that they should be together.

Liadan and Bran from Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier – I had to include a pair from the Sevenwaters series because all of the books in this series have love stories in their plots. I admire Liadan for fighting for the love that she believed she deserved, even if it goes against the wishes of other people.

Ellie and Lucas from Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra – I bought this on a whim because I wanted to give Filipino chick lit authors a try and I’m so glad I did. I could really relate to Ellie – her twenty-something, corporate lifestyle in the Philippines and her wish to get her own fairy tale romance. I wish I had my own Lucas.

If I decided to list ten couples instead of just five, I would’ve included these pairings:

Sorcha and Red from Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Meg and John After from Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Laura and Sorry from The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
Anna and Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Cameron and Jack from Something About You by Julie James

Do you agree with my choices? Who are some of your favorite literary couples? Happy Heart’s Day, everyone. 🙂

Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn is the last book to be published in the Samaria series. It occurs a few months after Archangel so you can read this right after that one. They are the only two books set in the same time period, all of the others are set centuries before or after. Archangel is one of my favorite reads in 2010 and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jovah’s Angela and The Alleluia Files so I had high hopes for this one.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Elizabeth was born to wealth, but circumstances forced her to live as a servant in her cousin’s household. Determined to change her life for the better, she makes the journey to the town of Cedar Hills, hoping that an angel will take notice of her, and take her as his own.

Rebekah is a daughter of the Jansai tribe, raised to hate the angels – and to marry whichever man her father chooses for her. But in her heart, she longs for a different life. And when she finds an injured angel near her village, she defies her upbringing to care for him.

In time, these two women, whose paths will cross, will both find what they desire, in surprising – and dangerous – ways.

I love the world that Sharon Shinn created with her Samaria books. I know there are a lot of series about angels out there but this one is really my favorite. I’m glad that Obadiah got his own story because he’s a character that I really liked in Archangel. He is sent by the Archangel Gabriel to go to Breven and deal with the Jansai. The Jansai are merchants who have no love for angels, especially since Gabriel outlawed their main source of income – the slavery of the Edori. Obadiah is the perfect choice for this mission because of his charming personality. He has a way with words and people can’t help but like him. Obadiah knew that the task wouldn’t be easy but he never expected he’d be suddenly injured in the middle of the desert with resources. Thankfully, a young Jansai girl named Rebekah offers help even though it’s forbidden for women of their race to even talk to men outside of their family, let alone an angel. Interwoven with their story is Elizabeth’s tale as she wishes to obtain a pampered life by being an angel-seeker, a woman willing to have relations with an angel for a chance to become a mother to a precious angel baby.

I couldn’t figure out how Elizabeth’s story intersects with Obadiah and Rebekah’s and was even afraid that there was a love triangle in this book. Have no fear, that doesn’t happen in this book (sorry if that piece of information is spoiler-ish). The narrative changes from Obadiah, Rebekah and Elizabeth’s points of view so we understand better what the characters are going through. Both Rebekah and Elizabeth encounter big changes in their lives throughout the books. They both show how strong and resilient they are in the face of danger and unfamiliar situations. I enjoyed reading both of their stories and I don’t prefer one over the other. Sweet Jovah singing, you can’t help but root for both of these girls! I thought the romance between Obadiah and Rebekah was very sweet, which is a good thing because they both deserve to be happy. Elizabeth also achieves inner peace as she makes better choices in life. I was thrilled by the glimpses of Gabriel, Rachel and even Nathan and Magdalena in this one because they’re characters that I loved in Archangel. All in all, a very satisfying installment in what has become one of my favorite series. I highly recommend this book and the whole series to fans of romantic fantasy or fans of books about angels. I hope I get to read Angelica soon, the only remaining Samaria book that I haven’t read because I want to start on Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series. Also, I think I’d love to read a book set during the time when the settlers first came to Samaria. I think Angel-Seeker is a fitting Retro Friday choice this weekend because it is a love story at its core and we all know that Valentine’s Day is coming up.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Book Harbinger
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

The Alleluia Files by Sharon Shinn

Yay, it’s Friday! I love Fridays. I think I’ve said it several times in this blog. Anyway, I finished reading The Alleluia Files last night and I thought I’d post a review while the story is still fresh in my mind. I’ve enjoyed reading the first books in the series: Archangel and Jovah’s Angel and I was really curious about this one. It is set in the same world but a hundred years later than Jovah’s Angel and around two hundred and fifty years later than Archangel.

Here’s the summary from the back of the book with some sentences thrown in from Sharon Shinn’s website:

It has been one hundred years since the Archangel Alleluia and the mortal Caleb discovered the truth about the god of Samaria. Legend says they left a record of that truth, though no document has ever been found. In time, an underground cult arose, seeking to find again what Alleluia found. But the reigning Archangel Bael seeks to destroy the small dissident sect of Jacobites that spreads this heretic philosophy.

Yet some survived. Among them is Tamar, child of cultists, raised in captivity among the angels. Tamar believes that the Alleluia Files exist. She is determined to find them, and to free the people of Samaria from their fear of Jovah. In her search, she encounters the angel Jared, one of the members of his kind who have come to question the wisdom of Bael. Together, these two uneasy allies will journey the length and breadth of Samaria, risking their lives and the lives of their comrades, seeking a truth that will alter the face of Samaria forever…

At the same time, the angel Lucinda learns that her mother was a Jacobite — and Lucinda herself might have the key to uncovering the truth about Jovah.

Pretty hefty summary, huh? I tweaked the summary from two sources because I wanted to give a better, spoiler-free picture of what occurs in the book. As with the other Samaria books, this one revolves around certain characters, namely Tamar, Jared and Lucinda, and their interactions with each other. Tamar is a feisty and fiercely determined woman, brought up by Jacobites. She has been on the run her entire life and has a hard time trusting people. On the other hand, Jared is a happy-go-lucky type of angel. Even though he’s technically the leader at Monteverde, he’s never been passionate about anything. Tamar and Jared are total opposites, even in their beliefs, and it was such fun to watch them get on each other’s nerves because it’s so obvious that they admire each other underneath all the arguments. I have to admit, Jovah comes up with the most unlikely pairs but they end up suiting each other nicely.

While all of that is happening, the angel Lucinda is having her own adventures. Lucinda was brought up by her Aunt Gretchen in an isolated island called Angel Rock. Lucinda is an interesting person because you’d expect her to be shy and reserved, having grown up in an island with a population of twenty, but she’s not. She’s open-minded, eager to learn new things and does not back down when she’s being intimidated. At first, I kept thinking about what was Lucinda’s connection to the other characters and I only realized it around the middle of the book. I was so excited to finish reading to see how it will all unfold. I’m sorry to be so vague but I don’t want to mention spoilers.

The Alleluia Files is another excellent installment in the Samaria series. This series has become my favorite when it comes to books featuring angels. Although to be fair, there aren’t a lot of angel books out there. I highly recommend this series to fantasy fans. Here is Sharon Shinn’s suggestion on what order the Samaria books should be read:

The book of mine that is the clear favorite among readers is Archangel, so it’s not a bad idea to start with the Samaria series. I always think they should be read in the order in which they were published: Archangel, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files, Angelica, and Angel-Seeker. I know some people have read them chronologically, which would change the order to: Angelica, Archangel, Angel-Seeker, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files.

Jovah’s Angel by Sharon Shinn

Jovah’s Angel is the second book to the Samaria series and the sequel to Archangel, which I read and loved last April. This book is set one hundred and fifty years after the Archangel Gabriel’s time. Thanks to Celina for picking up this book for me when she went to a sale in Fully Booked. I know of a couple of book bloggers (namely Charlotte, Angie and Michelle) who love this series based on their comments in my review of Archangel.

Here’s the summary from Sharon Shinn’s website:

More than a hundred years after the time of Rachel and Gabriel, Samaria is in deep turmoil. Charismatic Archangel Delilah has been injured and forced to give up her position, and she has been replaced by shy, uncertain Alleluia. What’s worse, ungovernable storms are sweeping across the country, and the god never seems to hear the angels’ pleas to abate the bad weather. Unless those prayers are offered by the new Archangel…

And she also posted an interesting tidbit as well:

What I find intriguing about this book is that there’s no villain. There’s no power struggle between ambitious individuals. It’s all about man vs. the environment, with a healthy dose of man vs. faith.

Yay, I noticed this tidbit while reading the novel too! I kept thinking to myself that it was very interesting that there was no villain to this story. The novel revolves around complex characters, their beliefs, how their lives are all intertwined and how they deal with a world that is rapidly changing. I liked the contrast between the deposed Archangel Delilah: dark, vibrant, and outgoing and her replacement Alleluia (nicknamed Alleya): blonde, reserved and not much of a people person. Delilah has a striking and lovely voice and she has the kind of personality that naturally draws people to her. Alleya, on the other hand, is shy and quiet. The whole land was surprised when the god chose her to replace Delilah and she struggles to give her best in her role as Archangel even though she never wanted to be one. Alleya would much rather have her nose buried inside a book than have political dealings with the influential people of Samaria.

Also included in the fascinating mix of characters are best friends and scientists Caleb and Noah. Although it is set in the same world as Archangel, Samaria is now on the brink of an industrial revolution. Both Caleb and Noah are inventors with their own specializations. It was interesting to note that in a land full of believers, Caleb is a self-proclaimed atheist. He thinks that science has more power over faith and there isn’t enough proof in the world for religion. Like Archangel, there’s a lot of theology thrown in this book but it never becomes overwhelming. I liked Caleb and his insatiable thirst for knowledge and how he can focus on one problem until he arrives at a solution. I know it’s not obvious based on my blog but I was an electronics engineering major back in college (I never practiced and now know next to nothing about the field) so I can somewhat relate to Caleb’s interest in science. I really enjoyed reading about this world and this set of characters and I can just imagine that the rest of the books in the series will be just as wonderful. I wasn’t expecting what happened in the ending but I loved how it all worked out. I think it was just perfect.

Just for fun, I like picking out quotes from books that I read and I note down the ones that resonate with me. This is one taken from one of Alleya and Caleb’s conversation somewhere in the middle of the book:

“If love makes you sad, you acquire a little depth, a little compassion. If it makes you happy, you learn how to be joyous. Every relationship should color your soul to a certain degree, don’t you think? Every friendship, every love affair – each one should build up the chambers of your heart the way a sea creature builds the chamber of his shell.”

And this one is part of one of the final scenes and I’m not going to say any more than that to avoid spoilers:

“Yet the world is the same as it always was. It is merely that you see it with new eyes.”

This can be a standalone novel but I would recommend that the entire series be read because why miss the awesomeness? I, myself, am looking forward to what’s in store in the rest of the series. Here is Sharon Shinn’s suggestion on what order the Samaria books should be read:

The book of mine that is the clear favorite among readers is Archangel, so it’s not a bad idea to start with the Samaria series. I always think they should be read in the order in which they were published: Archangel, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files, Angelica, and Angel-Seeker. I know some people have read them chronologically, which would change the order to: Angelica, Archangel, Angel-Seeker, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files.

Archangel by Sharon Shinn

They say that the next trend after vampires will be angels but I don’t think there are a lot of good books about angels out there. Archangel seems to be the exception and it has been recommended a couple of times, I don’t even remember where’s the first time that I saw it. I saw a copy when I picked up A Conspiracy of Kings and decided to get it as well. I know that Angie mentioned that this is one of her favorite angel books so I knew I was in for a treat.

Here’s the summary from Sharon Shinn’s website:

Angels and men exist in harmony on the world of Samaria. Every twenty years, a new Archangel is chosen to govern the land and lead all the people of Samaria in a great musical chorale to honor the god Jovah. But Gabriel, the Archangel-elect, finds himself constantly feuding with Rachel, the bride who has been chosen for him by Jovah—and he is slowly coming to realize that the aging Archangel Raphael has no intention of giving up his power, even if it means all of Samaria could be destroyed.

Oooh and Ms. Shinn also posted her favorite scene from the book. I think that’s my favorite too! I don’t think it’s spoilery so I’ll post it here as well:

My favorite scene: The one where Rachel wakes up under Gabriel’s wing. That’s actually the scene I had in my head most clearly before I started writing the book, so it’s the scene that I worked backward and forward from as I came up with t e rest of the story.

Before I write anything else, I just want to ask what’s up with the cover? I’m going to go ahead and assume that that’s Rachel but what is she holding in her hands, a feather and a glowing ball of some sort? It’s not part of the story at all. I’m glad I’ve heard so many good things about this book because otherwise, I wouldn’t have picked it up based on the strength of its cover alone. I’ve only read one other Sharon Shinn novel and that’s Summers at Castle Auburn. I enjoyed reading that book but it’s YA and Archangel isn’t so I knew that the writing would be somewhat different.

I loved the worldbuilding in this book. The setting is a fictional country called Samaria, where angels co-exist with humans and they pray to the god, Jovah for all kinds of intervention – weather, health and general well-being. All angels are born gifted with incredible musical ability and they pray by singing. Every twenty years, an Archangel is chosen to govern the whole country and every year, the Archangel leads the people in singing a mass, the Gloria, in praise of the god. His angelica (or her angelico if the Archangel is female), the god’s chosen wife (or husband) must sing by the Archangel’s side. If they don’t, the god will strike down lightning from the heavens and destroy the world. Isn’t that interesting? There’s a lot of theology thrown in this book but it’s not preachy and it isn’t too much that you’ll be overloaded with information. I think it’s just enough to show the religion in that world and the strength of the characters’ beliefs.

I also loved the characters in this book. Both Rachel and Gabriel are solid characters. Rachel is strong-willed and very stubborn and even though she knows it’s a great honor, she’s reluctant to become the angelica. Gabriel is arrogant and self-assured but he loves the land and the people and only want what’s the best for them. The story is told from alternating third-person points of view of these two so we get to see how things develop from both sides. I love that even though they’re meant for each other by the god’s mandate, they still have to work for it. It’s definitely not love at first sight and they keep rubbing each other the wrong way. Love-hate relationships for the win! ♥

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I look forward to reading the other books in the Samaria series. I have a feeling they’re going to be great! I also have copies of the first two Twelve Houses and I hope those books are just as good. If you’ve read Ms. Shinn’s work, please leave a comment to tell me what you think of them. Also, what are other angel books that you’ll recommend?