Thursday, September 9

Angel-Seeker - Sharon Shinn

Elizabeth has grown used, but never reconciled, to her life as an unpaid servant in her cousin's farm house. It's a long way from the luxurious life she knew as a child, but it's still a roof over her head. When the opportunity to travel to Cedar Hills appears, Elizabeth is a little conflicted, but decides to try her chances as an angel-seeker, one of the women who live near angel conclaves and try to conceive an angel baby. Though the majority of angel/mortal unions produce non-angelic offspring, angels are desperately wanted, particularly now, and their mothers are adored and feted, which is all Elizabeth really wants.
Eldest daughter of a Jansai merchant, Rebekah has always known what her life holds - veiled and chaste, with more time spent in the company of women than men, and never alone with a man who isn't family. But when she finds Obadiah, a fallen angel, wounded and near death alongside an oasis she can't leave him - and thus begins a journey that will see Rebekah's life change in ways she could never have imagined.

This fifth in the Samaria series is set shortly after Archangel and before Jovah's Angel by chronology, but I've been reading the novels in publication order. There aren't enough angels, thanks to the faithless behaviour of former archangel Raphael and his followers, so the demand for my angel babies is stronger than ever. There's reference here to the flaws of a society that values one kind of child so highly while leaving the human offspring of an angel/human union unsupported and (at least in some cases) wholly abandoned; since I discovered the amazing Shinn earlier this year this has been an aspect of Samaria I've hoped she'd address, but that novel is not this one.
The elements I've come to expect and appreciate are here, though - richly layered narratives that weave seemingly disparate plot lines into a beautiful and cohesive whole; internally coherent, three-dimensional characters; genuinely distinguishable, unique cultures within a society that is heterogenous and flawed but integrated; realistic, intelligent, amusing dialogue; motivations that are genuine and that drive the novel in ways both surprising and natural; and unexpected but convincing romance. Like its predecessors, the only flaw of Angel-Seeker was that it ended, leaving me so satisfied and replete that I closed the book with only a little sadness that it was done, and that I was one book closer to running out of more. - Alex

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