Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn

Rapidly following upon the events of the previous Elemental Blessings novel, Princess Corene decides to run away from home, and boards the ship of the Empress of Malinqua with her bodyguard, Forey, and her friend, Steff, who happens to be the long lost grandson of the dowager Empress. There are three princes already in line for the throne some day, and the Empress appears to be auditioning wives for them. Corene thinks it might be a good idea to join the crowd, albeit a small one, vying for their affections.

Shinn, as always, does a masterful job of telling the story and broadening our view of her world with a series of deft data dumps, first as the ship is entering the harbor in a new land, another as the carriage bearing the party travels through a vast city on the way to the palace, and again later on when all of the princesses in waiting take a shopping trip into the city.

Each of the princes, it turns out, have certain flaws. The youngest and most handsome of them is not very bright, and has a tendency to conduct serial affairs with the ladies of the court. The oldest and wisest one of the three was crippled in a horseback accident, and it is rumored that he may be incapable of siring an heir. Speaking being unlikely to sire an heir, the third prince, though quite charming,good looking, and intelligent, prefers the company of men to women, which is considered quite scandalous in Malinqua.

Conspiracies abound in the politically charged palace, and it becomes apparent that someone with skin in the game is eliminating both contenders for the throne and contenders for the privilege of being the Emperor's wife. Corene and Foley must keep their wits about them to survive this mess.

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