Sharon Shinn has a reputation for writing light SF and fantasy-romance, and Summers at Castle Auburn is a perfect example of her style. Don’t go into this book expecting a complex political situation and devious plotting. This is a character story.
Coriel is a bastard daughter of house Halsing, and also the daughter of a witch. Her sister Elisandra is betrothed to the wild and wicked Prince Bryan of Auburn, daring hero of all the courtly ladies’ dreams. Coriel, too, is being groomed for an advantageous marriage, but is more headstrong and less pliant than her beloved sister. She is bound to spend 3 months a year – summer – at Castle Auburn with her sister, and the rest of her year with her witchy grandmother, in the village where she was born.
The story follows Coriel’s last 3 years at Castle Auburn, and her gradual awakening to the truth of her and her sister’s lives. Her beloved uncle, the beautiful prince, her friends and even her sister all change in her eyes as she grows and becomes aware of the darkness lying beneath their perfect existence.
Coriel herself is very likeable, and anyone who has grown up with a bit of a tomboy bent will smile at some of her decisions and actions. Her growth and development are what moves the novel along so well. While there is no great drama in the novel, Coriel’s story is engaging and well told. There’s a light romantic thread throughout the book which is delightfully resolved.
The setting is medieval, but leans towards the fantasy side, rather than historical. While the world isn’t particularly deep, it fits the story and gives a nice frame for the events.
If you love a gentle read with interesting and well-developed characters and a satisfying ending, this is a book you might enjoy.