Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn


Title: Royal Airs (Elemental Blessings, #2) 

Author: Sharon Shinn 

Rating: 3 Stars

Note: This reviews contains NO SPOILERS for Troubled Waters, the first book in this series, though you can read my review for that HERE if you'd like.

Fa la la la la, la disappointment!

Frankly speaking, I didn't expect Royal Airs to be particularly memorable after Troubled Waters. I mean, how could I? It wouldn't have been fair of me to hold this sequel to the same standards I held its predecessor, not after absolutely loving the first novel in this series intensely.

But this?

It isn't that Shinn's Royal Airs is necessarily a bad book, but it just isn't a good one either. It picks up five years after Troubled Waters from the perspective of Josetta, Zoe's half-sister, who runs a shelter for the homeless in the slums of Welce. Once a princess, now merely an idol for the crown, Josetta has discovered her purpose outside of the palace. Corene, Zoe's step-daughter, however, hasn't been as lucky. Especially not with the influence of her scheming mother and former queen, Alys, hanging above her head. In an effort to escape Alys's latest husband, Corene runs to find Josetta in the slums of Welce, only to run into a gambler: Rafe. Not surprisingly, after becoming involved with Princess Corene and then Princess Josetta, Rafe unknowingly ties himself to the royal family. Before long, Rafe and Josetta have struck a tender friendship, the future of the crown is put to the test, and foreign dignitaries are arriving in Welce: again.

From the beginning itself, Rafe is singled out as unique; an individual who possesses no blessings. In Welce, the custom of having blessings chosen for you is regarded as an important ritual, but only ghost blessings are ever chosen for Rafe. Royal Airs is told in alternating perspectives from both Rafe and Josetta, but despite this intrusion into Rafe's mind, I found that his character quickly lost his original charm. When we first meet Rafe, he is an enigma. After all, who doesn't receive blessings? Instead of this seguing into an intriguing study of Rafe's unique personality, this tid-bit is merely used as a leveraging point to emphasize just how special Rafe is - a quality which winds up becoming conveniently important as the novel wears on. Without these interesting tags to pin upon him, though, Rafe is nothing special, as far as love interests go.

Josetta, too, doesn't fare much better. I enjoyed her narration, certainly, not to mention the close bonds she shares with Corene, Zoe, and Darien, but aspects of her voice fell flat. For one, I find it difficult to fully fathom that a Crown Princess could live and run a shelter in the slums with such ease. Even beyond the credibility of her back story, however, Josetta lacks the uncertainty and confusion that characterized Zoe during the beginning of Troubled Waters. With Royal Airs neither Josetta nor Rafe undergo any monumental amount of change or growth, which I found to be disappointing. If anything, their interactions are blessedly tame; complacent and dull. Where Zoe and Darien lit the page with their strong personalities, Josetta and Rafe undergo an extremely normal courtship. Admittedly, I enjoyed their slowly developing friendship, but it lacked the spark - the sizzling chemistry, if you will - that was distinct between Zoe and Darien. Royal Airs is, significantly, more romantic than Troubled Waters was and though I did not mind this in the least, I longed for the feeling of a deeper, simmering love than those of a quick, sweet infatuation. Shinn is, as always, a master at writing love stories - which remains true even in this installment - but I found myself distanced from this romance, unimpressed with the balance of character personalities, and ultimately disappointed that Josetta and Rafe lacked both the individual and coupled strength that Zoe and Darien were known for.

Royal Airs is slow to start, as I mentioned, but once it hits its stride, its quite the entertaining journey. While I found that the plot revolved a little too conveniently around Rafe and the unexpected plot twists he brought to the page, I absolutely loved the role that Corene and Darien played in this novel. More than Josetta, it is Corene who stands out in this sequel. Caught at a difficult time period in her life, feeling unwanted and confused, Corene is a mass of complex emotion - one I wanted to be involved in. I am certainly looking forward to getting to know her in the sequel, quite desperately, only because Corene is the strong, vivacious, and intricate heroine I look for in a novel. Josetta, in comparison, who is quietly fierce, is a character I love but one who makes for a poor protagonist due to the fact that much of her life is already figured out, orderly and neat. Nevertheless, main characters aside, the character who - yet again - stole the limelight (and my heart!) was Darien. In Royal Airs, Darien continues to play a large political role in the conduct and ruling of Welce, but he continues to surpass my wildest expectations. From the outside, Darien isn't an easy person to like, so seeing Rafe slowly gain respect for him over the course of the novel was an interesting relationship to watch unfold. Moreover, Darien's cleverness and loyalty are showcased so clearly in this installment, right alongside his flaws just as they were in Troubled Waters. Needless to say, it was more than just a little bit satisfactory to read about one of my favorite characters in all his complex glory. While I wished we could have had even just one teensy romantic gesture shared with Zoe, I have no complaints whatsoever when it comes to my favorite couple (or their adorably cute daughter)!

Unfortunately, however, Royal Airs remains a sore disappointment. Troubled Waters works perfectly as a stand-alone - and an absolutely brilliant novel - but I certainly wished for a slightly more enticing welcome back to Welce. Shinn's sequel is slow, riddled with characters who lack true conflicts and complex personalities, not to mention they are quick to be saddled with the role of the "Chosen One" archetype. While the overarching plot to this series remains intriguing and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be reading the sequel, perhaps with considerably less enthusiasm. (Unless, of course, Darien Serlast is in it... *sigh*)

16 comments:

  1. How disappointing :/ Perhaps I should just read the one then

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry that this follow up story was so disappointing for you Keertana, it can really frustrating when you really enjoyed the first book, more so however when you expected it to be a standalone. I remember this happening to me with Rose Clarke's The Assassin's Curse books, I loved the first, but the second book was completely unnecessary and kind of left a sour taste for the series afterwards. But at least Darien left a great impression with you ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Too bad on this one Keertana! There's always an extra layer of disappointment when the sequel of an amazing book just doesn't quite meet the bar set by its predecessor. Definitely more disappointing than if this one had just been a stand-alone that inspired a lackluster reaction from you. I'm glad despite this bump in the road you'll still be continuing the series, hopefully book 3 is everything you hope it will be!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry you didn't like this one! Some books just need to be left as stand-alones. I'm happy to see that there WERE aspects that you enjoyed at least.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I haven't read a decent fantasy novel in ages! In fact, I haven't read fantasy at all in so long. Perhaps I should read Troubled Waters and just stop there? That sounds like a decent idea. I certainly won't bother with this.
    Sorry you wasted your time.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sorry this one was a flop. You have, however, really upped my want for Troubled Waters... especially since it works as a standalone. Will have to def. read that one!

    ReplyDelete
  7. oh noooo so sorry this was such a huge disappointment to you! i'm glad that the first one can work as a standalone though so you can pretend this one didn't happen. glad that certain characters stand out more in this book!

    ReplyDelete
  8. oh I'm sorry it wasn't that good. It's sad when it's not what we expect. I didn't know this one or I don't think so, but the name rings a bell, so I think I have tried a book by the author, I just don't know which one.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well Troubled Waters is one of those books I really want to read because you wrote an amazing review for it. I had no idea it has a sequel though and I'm really sorry that it was a disappointment. Too bad as Troubled Waters sounds like a really amazing book. Great review, Keertana :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. It is always sad when the second book cannot hold a candle to the first. The whole not blessed, but really is plot twist sounds interesting, but the pacing and characters haven't convinced me. I am however curious about book one.

    ReplyDelete
  11. i'm sorry that you didn't enjoy this one as much as you had hoped, Keertana! but it's good that things did pick up after a slow start, but I totally get it :)

    Lovely review, hun! <33

    ReplyDelete
  12. Well I'm glad, at least, that Troubled Waters works well as a stand-alone, as it sounds like that book is worth checking out, even if this one doesn't quite live up to it. Also, I get the sense that Darien is a character that I'd want to meet. ;) I'm sorry this didn't impress you overall, Keertana, but I hope you enjoy the next book more! Lovely review as always. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it as much as first novel. I hope your next read will be much better.

    ReplyDelete
  14. That's always hard I guess, it sounds like the first book should have been a stand-alone. I seen duologies that have done this because of good reactions and the second one would fail.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Is it bad that this cover immediately turned me off? Also Rafe is the most popular boy name right now. I'm sorry this book disappointed you and the dual narration didn't work. It's always sad to be turned off by a later series book. I will have to look up your review of Troubled Waters though, and think of it as a standalone.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sometimes there are simply books out there that are better left untouched once it's out. Like, there is just no need for sequels at all. Looks like this instance was one of them. I have no idea who Darien Serlast is, but I hope he'll be there in the next book so it can cheer you up! :D

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    ReplyDelete

I love hearing from my readers and I read, reply, and appreciate every one of the comments I receive!(: If you're a fellow blogger, please leave a link to your blog - I'd love to drop by!

Unfortunately, this is now an award-free blog. I simply do not have the time to respond and forward on the award, but I truly appreciate the nomination regardless.