book reviews by Althea

Unquiet Land – Sharon Shinn (Elemental Blessings #4) ****

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Unquiet Land
Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the fourth in the ‘Elemental Blessings’ series; a fact I didn’t realize when I picked up the book. I’ve read more than a dozen of Shinn’s other books – but not the three that come before this one. I highly, highly recommend NOT starting here. Nevertheless, I’m giving this 4 stars based on how much I think I would’ve enjoyed it if I had read the prequels – and I did really enjoy it.

I believe this series would appeal greatly to fans of Robin Hobb. The writing has the same quality- it manages to be gripping and deeply interesting, even when the matters at hand are perhaps not the most momentous. I’d describe it as ‘domestic fantasy.’

Our main character is Leah, a young woman who has just returned to her hometown after years abroad, working as a spy. But she’s not done working for the Regent – he has a new job for her at home: setting her up as a shopkeeper selling imported goods which hopefully will appeal to foreign dignitaries and other visitors to the city; giving Leah the change to, of course, keep spying on them. But Leah’s first priority is not spycraft – it’s the chance to re-connect with the daughter she gave up for fostering as an infant, feeling herself unready to become a mother. Will the girl be willing to get to know her?
Complicating matters is the sudden presence of the father of her daughter – and her not-wholly-explored feelings toward the colleague she left behind in another country.

There is a political plot here, complete with villainous deeds and nefarious characters – but it takes a back seat to the quotidian details of trying to get to know a child, of the inventory of a retail boutique, to the details of how to care for a rather strange pet fish. It’s not a rushing-through-it to find out what happens books; it’s a book that invites you to immerse yourself in its world. And – I loved doing so. Even if Leah was a bit too goody-goody for words, and if I couldn’t really buy the portrayal of every single person from an entire country as morally corrupt. Even if I really have no interest in the difficulties involved in balancing complicated family relationships; and I think that being constantly surrounded by a noisy crowd of people in a busy house is simply dreadful. (Leah has to learn that she doesn’t really like living alone, even if she thought she did.)

Still loved it; would be happy to revisit this world any time.

Many thanks to Ace and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinion is solely my own.

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