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“Shinn carries readers away into a vivid new fantasy world where the five elements control everyone’s lives.”—Publisher’s Weekly
Zoe Ardelay is living in an obscure village, mourning her father’s death, when a powerful man named Darien Serlast arrives and informs her she must travel to the royal city and become the king’s fifth bride. Numb with grief, she accompanies him to the city of Chialto, but she is able to slip away from him and hide among the city’s vagrants. She doesn’t want to marry the king, but she doesn’t know what her destiny holds.
Like everyone else in Chialto, Zoe frequently seeks guidance at the temples, pulling “random blessings” from great barrels of stamped coins; each blessing is related to one of the five elemental influences of air, water, fire, wood, and earth. Zoe is coru, a woman of water, and so was her mother and all her mother’s family; her father was sweela, a man of fire. Her brilliant father was exiled by the king at the urging of Zoe’scoru grandmother, and now Zoe wants to know why. But if she uncovers the momentous secrets of her family’s past, will her whole life change? Do her father’s secrets put the king at risk? And could Darien Serlast help her put the puzzle pieces together—if he would?
Published in hardback in October 2010. Paperback published in 2011. Nominated for the 2011 Mythopeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, given out by the Mythopoeic Society.
If I ever decide to get a tattoo (still in doubt), I’m going to pick one of the random blessings for the artwork. Not sure yet which one. If anyone is wondering, I consider myself a grounded torz woman, with occasional flashes of sweela fire.
My favorite scene
The one where Zoe helps a man draw blessings for his newborn twin girls. It doesn’t do anything to advance the plot, but it’s just so sweet, and it really illustrates the power of the blessings.