Book Review: Troubled Waters

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Synopsis: Zoe 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.

Review: This author was brought to my attention after reading Sarah J. Maas’s most recent newsletter where she named Shinn as one of her favorite authors. I’ll admit, this was compelling, as everything Sarah J. Maas writes is literary gold. Shinn has multiple series, and I most aligned with the premise for this one.

The verdict? Mixed.

I like the storyline, the world building is unique and the premise is interesting. It’s a world filled with magical powers related to the elements, which isn’t anything new. But, it’s also a world that believes random blessings such as grace, resilience, intelligence, wealth, etc. guide your destiny and I found this intriguing. Each of the elements (air, water, wood, earth, and fire) has a ‘prime’- the person of that particular element who wields its power. The prime is able to name their heir and when they die their powers are passed on to them. Unbeknownst to Zoe, she was chosen as prime by her grandmother because she was given the random blessing of ‘power’ when she was born. It was an apt blessing and there are several impressive feats in which Zoe uses her element, water.

Despite being labeled ‘romantic fantasy’ the main focus of this was not the romantic relationship. A lot of time was spent on friendships and devoted to familial relationships. Zoe’s father had recently died and although Zoe had adored him, when she goes to court she slowly learns he was flawed in many ways. Several parts of the book are devoted to her reconciling this and I appreciate the message that you can still love people who have done bad things.

However, the pace is slow. This can be both good and bad. As for the good, I got a sense of who Zoe was as a person. Yet, for all the pages of this book- it lacked in romantic relationship development. There were a few scenes featuring Zoe and her love interest, but I felt their dynamic was off. Their conversations were lacking and I didn’t have any ‘feels’ or anticipation. When they finally kissed, it was anti-climatic.

In addition, while the writing of this book is good, I didn’t find any of the conversations witty- despite the narrator telling me that a particular retort or comment was clever. The rapport was underwhelming and much like the relationship development- lacking.

Overall, this book builds a unique and fascinating world, has good character development as far as Zoe; but the relationship development lacks depth. I found the relationships between both the main and secondary characters to be one-dimensional and at times unrealistic.

Combined with the slow pace and lack of action- I’m hesitant to pursue the sequels or even another series by this author.

Reviewed by: Pamela J.

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