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Summers at Castle Auburn

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As a child, Coriel Halsing spent many glorious summers at Castle Auburn with her half-sister—and fell in love with a handsome prince who could never be hers. But now that she is a young woman, she begins to see the dark side of this magical place...

342 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published April 1, 2001

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About the author

Sharon Shinn

56 books2,137 followers
I’ve been writing stories and poems since I was eight years old. My first poem was about Halloween: "What is tonight? What is tonight?/Try to guess and you’ll guess right." Perhaps this inauspicious beginning explains why it took me till I was in my thirties to sell a novel. It occurred to me early on that it might take some time and a lot of tries before I was able to publish any of my creative writing, so I pursued a degree in journalism at Northwestern University so I’d be able to support myself while I figured out how to write fiction.

I’ve spent most of my journalism career at three trade and association magazines—The Professional Photographer (which, as you might guess, went to studio and industrial photographers), DECOR (which went to frame shop and art gallery owners), and BizEd (which is directed at deans and professors at business schools). My longest stint, seventeen years, was at DECOR. Many people don’t know this, but I’m a CPF (Certified Picture Framer), having passed a very long, technical test to prove I understood the tenets of conservation framing. Now I write about management education and interview some really cool, really smart people from all over the world.

I mostly write my fiction in the evenings and on weekends. It requires a pretty obsessive-compulsive personality to be as prolific as I’ve been in the past ten years and hold down a full-time job. But I do manage to tear myself away from the computer now and then to do something fun. I read as often as I can, across all genres, though I’m most often holding a book that’s fantasy or romance, with the occasional western thrown in. I’m a fan of Cardinals baseball and try to be at the ballpark on opening day. If I had the time, I’d see a movie every day of my life. I love certain TV shows so much that knowing a new episode is going to air that night will make me happy all day. (I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan, but in the past I’ve given my heart to shows all over the map in terms of quality: "Knight Rider," "Remington Steele," "Blake’s 7," "Moonlighting," "The Young Riders," "Cheers," "Hill Street Blues," "X-Files," "Lost," "Battlestar Galactica"...you can probably fill in the gaps. And let’s not forget my very first loves, "The Partridge Family," "Here Come the Brides" and "Alias Smith & Jones.")

I don’t have kids, I don’t want pets, and all my plants die, so I’m really only forced to provide ongoing care for my menagerie of stuffed animals. All my friends are animal lovers, though, and someone once theorized that I keep friends as pets. I’m still trying to decide if that’s true.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 922 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,878 reviews22.6k followers
June 3, 2020
$1.99 Kindle sale, June 3, 2020 I really loved this YA fantasy! Review posted on Fantasy Literature:

Summers at Castle Auburn was my first exposure to Sharon Shinn's fantasies, and it was pretty much insta-love for me (I like to think that Shinn returns my affections in a distant and anonymous fan-appreciation kind of way). It instantly set me off on a search for more of her books.

Corie is the teenaged illegitimate daughter of a nobleman who died before the story begins, but the royal family is still keeping close tabs on her. Most of the time she lives with her grandmother in a remote village, learning medicinal herbs and a bit of witchery from her. But her summers are spent with the royal family in Castle Auburn.

We follow Corie over the next several years as she hangs out with her half-sister Elisandra; Bryan, the stunningly good-looking ― and knows it ― prince and heir to the throne (and Elisandra’s intended husband, in that royal arranged marriage kind of way, which doesn’t stop Corie and a hundred other girls in the kingdom from getting wild crushes on him); and Kent, a serious young man who is the regent’s son. For a long time, Corie is totally oblivious to the fact that she, like Elisandra, is being groomed to make a strategic alliance (i.e., marriage) to benefit those in charge of the kingdom.

The plot is thickened by a subplot involving the Aliora, a lovely, faerie-like people who are hunted down and kidnapped by the humans in this kingdom, thereafter spending the rest of their lives as expensive slaves to the nobility. One of the most dedicated and effective hunters of the Aliora is Corie’s uncle Jaxon, a man she otherwise admires. They make very kind and attentive servants, and Corie loves them, but it takes her several years to realize how miserable they are in their slavery, and more to figure out whether there’s something she can do about it.

Summers at Castle Auburn is a lovely coming-of-age novel; it’s among my all-time favorites in the YA fantasy genre. Though it’s a young adult novel, it was interesting and complex enough for me to thoroughly enjoy. The romance in it is quiet and subtle, but appealing. There are some unexpected plot twists that nevertheless fit really well with the storyline. Kudos to Sharon Shinn for making and Corie’s beautiful half-sister Elisandra turn out to have some unexpected and startling depth.

I recommend it highly for readers who love books like Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl. My other favorite Sharon Shinn book, BTW: Troubled Waters.
Profile Image for Melindam.
607 reviews253 followers
August 27, 2021
3.33 stars

If I had read this book in my teens, I would have given it 5 starts, no doubt. But two decades later, I found the story a bit flat, mainly due to the fact that the only POV is that of the heroine, Coriel. This makes the scope of the story too narrow considering the number of storylines (Coriel’s, her sister Elisandra’s, her uncle Jaxon’s, the crown prince’s, the Aliora’s, etc). It does not help that Corrie is barely 14 at the beginning & 18 at the end: her world is pretty limited & occasionally annoyingly shallow. She was OK, but not too likeable & her sister Elisandra definitely stole the show from her at the end spectacularly (WOW, she is one cool customer & no mistake).

It would have been nice to learn a bit more about the Aliora race & their world; and the POVs of Elisandra & Jaxon would have given more depth & layers to the book.

Concerning the love interests: it was fairly clear from one third of the book who will end up with whom. It distrubed me a bit how blind the heroine kept herself to the very end & then WHAM she knew right away that she had been in love with the guy all along and married him almost on the spot & the book ends suddenly. It would have been more credible if she had been given some time to come to terms with her feelings & spend some time with the guy developing their until then non-existent relationship a bit before getting married & living happily ever after.

Despite the negative points raised above, I found this a lovely book, an intriguing & an easy read.
One of it strongest points is the political intrigue, as usual in most Sharon Shinn books – she is so very, very good at creating this kind of tension: who is siding with whom & who is plotting against whom.
January 24, 2021

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I was so happy when Charlotte agreed to buddy-read this book with me because SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN has been on my to-read list for a while and highly anticipated books are always better with friends. This is a young adult fantasy, kind of like a de-fanged version of Paula Volsky's ILLUSION. Our heroine, Corie, is an illegitimate noble who comes to Castle Auburn every summer to see her true-born sister, the crown prince, his brother, and the servants.



Corie's uncle, Jaxon, is a noble who makes a fortune capturing and selling the fae-like Aliora, who kind of remind me of the Alichino from the Japanese fantasy manga. Corie has always taken her fae-like servants for granted but as she gets older, she starts to realize that taking sentient beings and treating them like possessions isn't exactly... good. And when someone you love is causing so much pain to others, the cognitive dissonance that arises from that can be incredibly uncomfortable.



Style-wise, I think this will appeal to fans of Sherwood Smith. Corie is not a very compelling narrator and many of the other characters have more dimension than she does, the privileged, witchy MC who slowly starts to recognize the harmful nature of her own ignorance even as she comes into her own magic powers. More interesting is Elisandra, the beautiful, correct and prim sister who ends up proving somewhat surprising. Bryan, the villain, is a red-haired Joffrey you'll love to hate. And Jaxon, Corie's uncle, is proof that sometimes we seek to harm what we desire but can't possess.



I think I would have liked this more as a teen. As an adult, I thought it was a little heavy-handed, but it was still interesting and I'm really glad I could read it for the first time with a friend. If you're a fan of Sherwood Smith, Tamora Pierce, Paula Volsky, or Tanya Huff, I think you'll really enjoy this author.



3 stars
Profile Image for Steph Su.
943 reviews452 followers
April 20, 2013
There’s a special shelf in my mental/virtual bookcase. Until now, only Crown Duel resided there, a little proud in being the only one to make it onto that shelf but getting kind of lonely.

AND THEN! ANOTHER BOOK TEARS THROUGH THE LONELINESS AND SPREADS ITS SUNSHINE ON THE SHELF/MY LIFE! It’s SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN! It, too, contains that rare phenomenon where the characters and the romance make me squeak with glee while not skimping on the fantasy world-building!

HURRAH!

I did think about writing a more official review but I think I about covered all I have to say about this book. Squeeeeee.
Profile Image for Gillian.
458 reviews1,067 followers
January 28, 2020
*dreamy, contented sigh*

Clearly, back in the day, the magical elves who wrote blurb-y synopsis type things were a lot more spare and didn't know to include all the delicious bits that will and should entice you to read the sumptuous, magical Summers at Castle Auburn.

Things like: a bright, sparkling, incorrigible heroine who spreads life wherever she goes (oh, and is a healer/herb witch). Things like: a fantastic, steadfast, and sweet sisterly relationship. Things like: princes and plots and courtly intrigue. Things like: a slow burn ship of adorableness and dreams. Things like: an engaging and full fantasy novel that's really, actually all about growing up, learning the truth, and becoming your own person. Things like: this book made me happy on a soul-deep level.

If you can't tell, I LOVE. LOVE. LOVE THIS BOOK.

Seriously. I want to stand on rooftops (really short rooftops, because I'm petrified of heights) and bellow at all and sundry to pick up this delight of a novel. Why have I spent so much of my life notreading Sharon Shinn when I could have been reading Sharon Shinn? Bad Gillian. Very bad. A billion thanks to Jamie for her review, because without it, I never would have decided to pick up a paperback of this book in the first place.

SO. Here are the reasons you--yes, YOU--should read Summers at Castle Auburn:

1. A bright, sparkling, incorrigible heroine who spreads life wherever she goes (oh, and is a healer/herb witch)

Corie--full name Coriel Halsing--is the bastard daughter of a nobleman. She spends most of her year in a small village, apprenticing to her healer grandmother, but every summer, she goes to live with her uncle and half-sister at Castle Auburn. To young Corie, there is no place more magical. At Castle Auburn, she goes riding with princes (she has a ferocious crush on Prince Bryan, future king), she hangs out with her beloved, beautiful sister, Elisandra, and she EVEN gets to go hunting for aliora with her hero, her Uncle Jaxon.

I loved Corie from page one. She's very naive, and she's definitely blinded by her innocence and the degree of her love for Castle Auburn and all its inhabitants, but she's such a breath of fresh air--not just to the reader, but to everyone who encounters her on the page. She's a bit wild and charming and sassy and very stubborn, and I adored her endlessly. Her voice bounces right off the page.



MAGICAL TIMES IN THE MAGICAL FOREST

2. A fantastic, steadfast, and sweet sisterly relationship.

ELISANDRA AND CORIE ARE SO SWEET. Oh my god. It's not the most honest relationship--as I'll mention later, this book is all about unraveling truths and pulling back curtains--but Elisandra and Corie love each other more than anything. At first I was so afraid that, as the legitimate child, the Halsing heir, betrothed to Prince Bryan, Elisandra would hate Coriel, the illegitimate interloper, but I was glad that was not at all the case. Elisandra is so intensely devoted to Corie, and vice versa. *hugs Elisandra because that girl needs like thirty hour-long hugs*

3. Princes and plots and courtly intrigue

OOOO BOY. I don't want to say much, because discovering the truth of the world around her--both politically and emotionally--along with Corie was half the fun of this book, but the sparkling idyllic world that Corie THINKS is reality is not at all the case. The book does a really good job of establishing the ways Corie's country functions and feels without ever bogging you down in info dumps or excess political froofra. But of course, it has all the things I like in a book: princes, castles, weddings, dukes and duchesses, heirs and bastards--oh, and aliora, magical beings that...well, I'll let you discover!

4. A slow burn ship of adorableness and dreams

AHHHHHH!!! I can't say much, because I don't want to spoil it, but oh my god I was rooting for this ship from so early on! The first part of the book takes place when Corie is fourteen, still young and with stars in her eyes about everyone and everything in Castle Auburn, particularly Prince Bryan and her uncle Jaxon. The rest of the book takes place when she's seventeen and eighteen, and...well, let me just say this romance moves so slowly and so steadily but still it made me SQUEAL in places because they are JUST. SO. CUTE. I CAN'T. EEEEP. Man oh man, do I wish I could say more. Can you all please read it so we can talk about it THANKS



okay but this is LITERALLY a scene in the book



AND SO IS THIS!! (minus the singing and the giants)


5. An engaging and full fantasy novel that's really, actually all about growing up, learning the truth, and becoming your own person

Like I said before, this book is ALL about pulling back the curtain on what you thought was true--or what you believed as a child--and seeing the truth of things, of people, of the world, and of yourself. This book charts Corie's maturation and the way she comes to her own conclusions about things. It was so lovely to see happen in sort of real time, and so realistically, and while I was obviously DYING for Corie to figure things out, and I definitely figured quite a few things out before she did, it was so believable that she'd cling for so long to what she WISHED to be true. Especially because you can just see how much Elisandra and Jaxon and Kent want to preserve that innocence, that magical Corie innocence and spirit, so they never actively TELL her how fucked up the world actually is.

But then, when the wool is lifted from her eyes...damn, that girl is unstoppable! #TeamCorielForever


slay queen

6. This book made me happy on a soul-deep level

Here's the thing about Summers at Castle Auburn, the thing that Jamie mentioned in her amazing review: it feels cozy. It feels old-fashioned, and magical, and like a lost volume out of childhood, because it takes its time to tell the story and is not very high on ACTIONY ACTION and DARKNESS and BLOOD like most of today's fantasies (all of which are things I love, btw). But this book... it made me feel like I was rereading a childhood fave, even though I've never read the book before. Oh, and Sharon Shinn can write like a DREAM.

I read it in one evening, curled in my bed, giggling and swooning and gasping and cheering to myself. It just made me happy. I legit hugged the book when I finished. I'm sooooo glad I picked it up, because I am utterly charmed by Summers at Castle Auburn, and I hope you will be too. *contented sigh*


I know what I'm about
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,855 reviews1,496 followers
September 29, 2018
This was interesting, but not entirely satisfying. I really liked Corie, and her inner circle of friends were outstanding. The world around them is kind of a crap-pile, though, and that wore on me.

The book is broken into three parts, each a summer that Corie spends at the eponymous castle. In the first section, she is 14 and naïve and that's where we get the basic setup. And it's where we see Bryan, the young, and very handsome, prince. And we get hints of things that are to come and the existing tensions that will no doubt flourish in the coming story.

The second section is where I ran into trouble. The sections are roughly equal in length, but this part is nearly unrelentingly bleak. Corie is 17 and finds that Bryan is a complete monster and Corie's sister, Elisandra, is looking at a marriage to someone casually cruel and unfeeling. And the only thing worse is knowing that he'll also be the king when he comes of age as well. So him reaching his majority is going to imperil the stability of the kingdom and make someone we know and love miserable beyond endurance. I'll be honest, I skimmed a page or two in this section.

Layered into the story at the same time is the plight of the Aliora—fae-like beings who are kind and compassionate, even with their captors (for they are held in slavery enforced by the metal bands they wear to suppress their magic). We see their suffering and their kindness despite it and it becomes clear that holding them as slaves is a deep cruelty that begs redress. In the second part, in addition to seeing the misery of the court in expectation of Bryans eventual ascension we have her awaking to the casual evil that is this enslavement. Which provides a dilemma as the uncle Corie loves, Jaxon, is the primary hunter of Aliora and the single biggest provider of these slaves. As the horror in her grows at their plight, Corie has to figure out what that means about her relationship with Jaxon and how can she continue to love him knowing the misery that lies squarely at his door?

The third section ramps the misery up as the expected marriage is planned. I expected to hate it even more but it helped knowing that it was the last section and seeing Corie begin to take action was a good antidote to that despair. And it isn't long before the pace kicks up and the story truly comes into its own. I won't bother with details, even in spoilers, but things work out very satisfactory and I was more than content with the end even though things slow for the last little bit. The ending is so good, in fact, that it tempted me to up this to five stars.

In the end, I'm keeping it at four because of the slog in the middle. And because I'm still not sure what to think about Corie's uncle, Jaxon, and at least some of that is that he was allowed to simply fall out of the narrative. Still, it's a solid four stars and it ends on a definite high.

A note about Chaste: There's no sex in the story, though infidelity and its consequences appear. We get some kissing, but that's all that's on screen.
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books427 followers
Read
February 7, 2022
BUDDY READ WITH NENIA.

"At the heart of it all is love.”

So What’s It About?

As a child, Coriel Halsing spent many glorious summers at Castle Auburn with her half-sister—and fell in love with a handsome prince who could never be hers. But now that she is a young woman, she begins to see the dark side of this magical place…

What I Thought

At its best, Summers at Castle Auburn evokes the same kind of cozy, classic wonder that is evoked by some of my favorite fantasy writers like Juliet Marillier, Patricia McKillip and Robin McKinley. I’d place Sharon Shinn in the same class as those three, all of them being writers who create these lyrical, lush and romantic fantasies with real heart and clever, genuine female protagonists and the feeling of a beloved fairy tale.

I don’t think I’d place this book in the same class as my absolute favorites by any of the authors I mentioned, however. Part of my problem is that Corie is a slightly uneven narrator, especially because of how silly she is in the beginning of the story. The point is, of course, that she grows less naive and more disillusioned over the course of the book, and I appreciate that. Because of this she also grows much more enjoyable to read about as she develops her sense of morality, her skills in witchcraft and her friendships with the people of the castle. She’s one of those Spirited Girls Who’s Not a Lady and, however overdone that trope is, I’m kind of a sucker for it every time.

Another significant weakness of this book compared to the others I love of this kind is that the romance isn’t especially compelling. The interactions between Kent and Corie felt relatively sparse to me, and they were much less interesting than her interactions with pretty much every other character in the book. She spends most of the story utterly oblivious to his feelings and then when he proposes she seems to suddenly decide that she actually loves him too. That isn’t my favorite romantic dynamic.

The other big sticking point for me is the enslavement of the aliora. I appreciate that Sharon Shinn wrote a story about a girl awakening to the unchallenged cruelties of the world around her and doing what’s right in the end, but I can’t help but feel that the author made some mis-steps in the process. For one thing, you never really figure out why Corie has her Moral Awakening That Fairy Slavery Is Bad – she just seems to develop a conscience as she gets older. Maybe it’s because she spends most of the year in an entirely different setting so the norms of the castle don’t become quite as engrained in her, but that seems kind of weak to me, and I think it would have been much more interesting to really dive into her process of coming to grips with morality and learning to question the world around her. It’s the premise of the book, after all, but it never feels like it goes quite deep enough.

It’s pretty challenging to read about our narrator constantly running to the slave quarters for comfort over trivial matters, and it’s bizarre that this keeps happening even after she has her moral awakening. And the impact of the aliora Andrew’s horrific death is deeply weakened by the fact that the next chapter features Corie going to a wedding and having the time of her life dancing. I ALSO have no idea why the aliora queen loves Jaxon, who is almost entirely responsible for her people’s enslavement. It’s…kind of a bad look.

I mentioned previously that Corie’s relationships with other characters feel more meaningful than her relationship with Kent, and that’s especially true of her relationships with her sister Elisandra and the guard Roderick. I love Elisandra for her strength, fierce love, composure and the way that the still waters of her beauty and compliance mask an iron will. Roderick has a unique presence as a steady, warm and wry voice of reason amongst the superficiality of Castle Auburn. I kind of have a giant crush on Roderick; I think they’re a great couple and I would have actually much rather read about them as the main romantic couple falling love and deciding to murder that little rat Bryan together. I think it would have been a much more compelling story with those two at its heart.

This review is like 99% me complaining but I still look back at reading this book as an entirely enjoyable experience. Like I said at the start there’s something that feels so comforting and nostalgic about this kind of book. Even though this wasn’t my favorite I know that I’ve enjoyed other Sharon Shinn books more and I’m definitely going to keep reading her work.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner).
378 reviews1,714 followers
March 14, 2016
First posted over at my blog where you can find more book talks and general book nerdery.

I could die of happiness talking about Summers at Castle Auburn — it was so charming and swoony. It was one of those books that felt like magic. It felt like cozy over-sized sweaters, a good cup of tea, hot cocoa with big ol’ marshmallows, blanket forts and sitting by the fireplace. I don’t know how else to describe it. I felt like it didn’t matter what happened around me as I was reading it in my blanket fort with my cuppa tea because I was so utterly absorbed in the story and the characters lives. I loved the setting of castle Auburn and watching her come of age each summer (while getting snippets of her life in the village) there was so delightful. She was irreverent and smart and oh I adored her and her various escapades.

I loved watching that shift of innocence and enchantment by life at the castle and then, as she got older, she lost some of that innocence to see things (and people) at the castle for what they were. She got a bit jaded as one does when you get older and everything isn’t how you always thought it to be — especially when she saw all the political maneuvering that has always been there. The ship in this book is one of my faaaaaavorite in a long time. If you are looking for sexy, this is not that. This is the slowest burn of all slow burns and I’m talking rubbing-two-sticks-to-make-fire slow burn. It was delightful and made me squeal and oh man did my heart swell like 10 sizes. If you are looking for those brutal and intense type fantasy books this isn’t quite it. It’s more a charming and happy one — though sad and hard things ARE in it. It’s just not as quite intense or brutal as a lot I’ve read if that makes sense.
Profile Image for Conor.
148 reviews312 followers
March 14, 2017
This story was a long way outside of my wheel house but surprisingly enough I wound up enjoying it. It started very slowly but once I got in to it I came to appreciate the way the plot was allowed to slowly unfold without attempts to cram in superfluous action (although there was still plenty of intrigue and suspense).

In ways this book reminded me of Jacquline Carey, especially Kushiel's Scion (I think that was the first book in her second trilogy) in how it focused on the growth of a kid into an adult amidst a background of court intrigue albeit with less *ahem* mature content (i.e. boobs).

While it always seemed that the characters, their relationships with each other and their development was the true main plot the court intrigue provided a colorful and often suspenseful backdrop. Especially the lush, extended wedding scene that reminded me a bit of a similar scene in the Deer Hunter (unless I missed it however this book didn't have any Russian Roulette).

The characters in this one were well drawn and were really the heart of the story, especially the main character as this book was ultimately less about castle intrigue and magical creatures then it was about the coming of age of a young woman and how she comes to realize that her idealized childhood beliefs (the handsome prince, her kind uncle) are not what they seemed to be.
Profile Image for Tina.
1,742 reviews280 followers
June 28, 2008
Corie is the illegitimate daughter of a now deceased noble lord. Through an arrangement made while she was young, Corie spends her summers at Castle Auburn, home of her father. She has a great relationship with her legitimate half-sister Elisandra and a not-so-great one with her father's widow. The rest of the time she spends with her maternal grandmother, a wise woman of peasant stock who knows herbal lore and healing.

Although she is used to spending time with nobles, including the young Prince Bryan (a vain young man on whom Corie has a violent crush), the regent's son Kent and even her own sister who is to marry Bryan and become a queen, Corie understands that she is not really of that world. She enjoys her summers but her eventual plans are to become a wise woman in her village, like her grandmother.

But events overtake young Cory. As she grows older she begins to understand a bit more of the world around her. The Regent has plans for her. Although she is illegitimate, she is still of noble lineage and is therefore a valuable commodity on the marriage market. Cory's teenage hero-worship of Bryan also undergoes a change a she is finally made aware of his true nature. Her sister is also aware of Bryan's true nature but is determined to do her family duty and marry him anyway. And then there are the Aliora. Faerie like creatures who are hunted and captured to serve as slaves for the nobility. As a youngster Corie simply understood they were a part of her life but as an adult her eyes are opened to their unhappiness in captivity.

This book almost reads like two books in one. There is the first half of the book that feels like a YA novel. Corie is young girl, off with her uncle to hunt Aliora. She is guiless and has the inner dialogue of a giddy teenager girl who has no sense of higher things around her. I was a bit disturbed. I don't normally read YA books and didn't really want to listen to Corie swoon for chapters on end for a young man who was clearly an ass-hat.

Thankfully, Shinn keeps the story moving along briskly and in no time, Corie has grown up and has also mentally matured. The second half of the book is much, much stronger. It becomes a story of court intrigue, betrayal, and murder. And the Aliora subplot takes a dramatic turn.

There is a strong romance element in this book as I have found with many of Shinn's books. It is obvious that Corie will end up with a love interest, however it isn't obvious who that will be until much later in the book. However, the most intriguing part of the book is the interplay between her uncle Jaxom and the Aliora queen. The relatively smallish passages that deal with Jaxom and his very interesting relationship with Queen Rowena tend to hijack the book a bit for me. In a good way. Honestly, I wish more time was spent on Jaxom and Rowena.

Not the best Shinn work, IMO, but still compulsively readable.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,095 reviews1,132 followers
July 26, 2016
I am not the biggest fan of young adult books, but had hoped this one would appeal to adult fantasy readers as well. After plodding through the first 80 or so pages, I did find it entertaining, but with a variety of problems and inconsistencies that make it hard to recommend.

Summers at Castle Auburn is the first-person narrative of Corie, the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman. She spends her summers at court with her older half-sister, and the rest of the year with her grandmother, a village herbalist. At the beginning Corie is 14, and her biggest problem is reconciling her crush on the crown prince with her adoration of her sister, who’s betrothed to him. By Parts 2 and 3 she’s a few years older, and finally noticing the problems in her world: the prince’s erratic and dangerous behavior, and the kidnapping and enslavement of the aliora (elves or fairies of some sort).

It’s a predictable plot, but I enjoyed predicting it. And the aliora subplot is handled well; Corie begins the book accepting what she’s been taught, and with a vested interest in the system, because she loves having aliora servants. But once she sees the suffering this situation causes, she begins to rethink her assumptions.

The romance doesn’t work so well: both Corie’s and her sister Elisandra’s romances are treated as mysteries, with all four players either hiding their feelings or not realizing them until near the end. To the extent we can predict the eventual pairings, it’s through knowledge of fictional conventions and the process of elimination rather than actual chemistry; the relationships are left undeveloped.

And the end is unconvincing:

As for the characters, Corie is a typical YA female protagonist: headstrong, rebellious, naïve, and trained in herblore. (More than one problem is solved with herbs so convenient it’s as if they were invented for this plot. Oh right, they were!) Shinn does a good job with Corie’s voice, however, and the writing flows smoothly. Elisandra and Uncle Jaxon are interesting characters, but most of the supporting cast is flat. I was especially put off by the treatment of Angela, Corie’s best friend after her sister. Angela is one of those stock female characters whose only personality trait is a love of gossip. Because Corie wants to know what’s going on, she cultivates a friendship with Angela despite thinking of her as “the shallowest woman I’d ever met.” Which speaks poorly of Corie as a friend, but is also hypocritical, as the two girls’ desire to keep up with goings-on at court is essentially the same.

As for the worldbuilding, this is one of the cushiest, most egalitarian quasi-medieval settings I’ve encountered: everyone bathes regularly; the village wise woman is not only literate but has bookshelves full of novels; the nobility are on friendly terms with their guards and servants, who can all be seen sitting around a campfire together having a chat; Corie takes a gap year to do some waitressing and save money. To lovers of YA fairytale fantasy, I imagine this is a feature rather than a bug, but the setting isn’t charming or dreamy enough for me to cheerfully overlook anachronism. And the naming conventions are all over the place: the only rhyme or reason I see is that the characters Shinn likes get fancy invented names (Elisandra, Coriel), while the ones she doesn’t have commonplace and undistinguished ones (Bryan, Megan). It’s hard to imagine “Bryan” as a crown prince, while Corie gets a princess’s name despite her low birth.

In the end, if you want to turn off your brain for awhile, this isn’t the worst book you could pick, but you could do better. The writing seems intended to appeal to adults as well as teens, but it's not a book I’d recommend to adult readers.
Profile Image for Brigid.
Author 31 books14k followers
October 28, 2018
This book. THIS BOOK. Wowza. The heroine is so enchanting, and in the beginning I didn't really feel like anything was happening, but it was just such an enjoyable read that I kept going. And then -- AND THEN -- I was in the middle of the book and I discovered just how masterfully the author wove together all these threads of deceit and palace intrigue and love. I'm blown away. Wow. Read it.
Profile Image for Angie.
645 reviews993 followers
July 20, 2012
Originally reviewed here.

I discovered Sharon Shinn through the fabulous Archangel--the first book in her Samaria series. I was instantly smitten and plowed my way through that series quick like a bunny. I'm pretty sure I picked up SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN while waiting for the fifth Samaria book to come out. I knew it was YA and much more traditional fantasy (also no sci fi), but honestly I was just sort of making time, if you will. I wasn't expecting that much. You know how you find a new author via a series that just steals your heart, and after devouring it in its entirety you're simultaneously dying for more but so afraid the author's other books won't hold the same shine that those first ones do? Sometimes your fears bear out. But sometimes you end up eating humble pie, quite happily and deservedly so. That was the case here. That is to say nothing, of course, of the prejudice I am occasionally guilty of when it comes to one of my favorite adult authors crossing over and writing YA. So often I feel like they come off as just lite versions of themselves, and I'm left longing for the depth and emotional intensity of their adult titles. Thankfully, SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN is a gem of an exception--a beautifully told coming of age tale set in a deceptively idyllic fantasy realm.

Corie inhabits a fairly unorthodox space in her world. The illegitimate daughter of a deceased lord, she spends the majority of the year learning how to be a village healer with her grandmother. But she spends summers at Castle Auburn. Her father's brother, Lord Jaxon, convinced her grandmother to let him foster Corie at Auburn just for the summers, so that she can get to know her half sister Elisandra and learn to be a lady in the hopes that she might make a good marriage one day and rise from the obscurity her father's dying left her in. Jaxon is hearty and hale and full of life and fourteen-year-old Corie loves her summers at his home. She also loves her beautiful half sister Elisandra who is betrothed to the debonair Prince Bryan. Corie harbors something of a crush on Prince Bryan, secretly hoping he will notice her one of these summers, even though she knows he will eventually wed Elisandra. As Corie grows up, however, she begins to understand the darker machinations at work behind these lovely facades. Bryan is more than he appears to be. Elisandra is not as calm and quiescent as she seems. And the fabled Aliora, the fey creatures who are hunted and forced into slavery to the nobility, are far more complex than Corie has been led to believe. She must decide who she will be and what she will do with her new-found knowledge.

Corie is very much an impressionable young girl at the novel's start. Her goals and crushes and ambitions are small ones, shaped by her limited experience and perception of the world and the people that surround her. Initially, I wondered how far Ms. Shinn would take her as such. But this is one of those wonderful stories where the characters evolve and reveal their depth--all of them--and the reader is privileged to witness their various and sundry transformations. The fascinating bit is that the world undergoes the same unveiling process. At first glance, it's prettily medieval, full of charming hunts, dashing young men, and mystical faery beings. But the gloves come off, so to speak, as the scales fall from Corie's eyes. Even Uncle Jaxon has things he'd rather keep hidden. Themes of despair, doubt, and disillusionment run like ribbons throughout the story. But they are balanced by a cautiously and skillfully written love story, which even I didn't see coming and which isn't fully revealed until Corie has accepted herself and made her decisions about her world and her place in it. I love how her voice changes as she matures. I love how several characters managed to surprise me. And I love where things end. Always retaining that fairy tale feel, SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN reminds me of the novels of the wonderful Patricia McKillip, especially The Book of Atrix Wolfe. When you find yourself in need of something new, I suggest tracking down a copy of SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN. It's sweet and comfortable, with a surprisingly dark and gooey center. In other words, one of the ones I can (and do) hand anyone.
Profile Image for Namera [The Literary Invertebrate].
1,156 reviews2,716 followers
July 17, 2022
I picked this one up because it seemed to be a romance with an oblivious heroine and pining hero, which is one of my favourite types. Alas, the romance turned out to be a bit of a wash, and the ending was underwhelming, but it was decently written.

The story opens with 14-year-old Coriel Halsing, illegitimate daughter of a late lord, going on an expedition with her uncle Jaxon and a few other noble boys. They're off to hunt the aliora, fae creatures of immense magical power who make good servants. Yes, we get thrown into the deep end with slavery stuff.

Along with Corie and Jaxon come Roderick, a young guardsman; 16-year-old Prince Bryan, the heir to the throne, whom Corie is infatuated with; his cousin, sober 19-year-old Kent; and Damien, Bryan's poison-taster, whom the paranoid prince takes everywhere. Bryan also happens to be betrothed to 17-year-old Elisandra, Corie's legitimate and beloved elder sister.

They don't catch any aliora on this trip, but we get a nice glimpse into Corie's developing friendship with everyone. She only visits Castle Auburn (home to Elisandra and the others) for three months every summer, and the next ~60% of the book details every summer as she ages from 14 to 18. So yes, there are tons of time jumps, which I'm not a big fan of. Then she's finally 18, and it's time for Bryan and Elisandra to get married - but by this time, Corie's infatuation has worn off and she's realised that he's a horrifically evil person. Whatever can be done?

Honestly, the relationship between Elisandra and Corie is the real star of the show. It could have turned hostile, but instead they deeply love each other - which made it all the weirder that Elisandra isn't in the epilogue when Corie gets married. I must say that rubbed me the wrong way.

In fact, Elisandra would actually have made a far better heroine than Corie, who spends most of the book in a state of painful naivety. I would LOVE to read her romance with a certain guard. Corie's own romance with Kent is almost non-existent: he's five years older, so anyway nothing happens until the very end of the book, and even then it's extremely muted. I don't understand when they stopped seeing each other as friendly cousin-type figures, and I never got any real sense of attachment from either of them.

So yes, I can't revel in the best part of an oblivious heroine trope, which is seeing a hero be obviously in love with her while she doesn't realise it. Kent gave nothing away for Corie to be oblivious TO in the first place.

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Profile Image for Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen.
1,681 reviews595 followers
October 15, 2015
3.5 Stars

All in all this was a good book but I did find myself at times rolling my eyes at how everything came together so perfectly without any trouble. Especially at the end.

I don't understand how all that time, our heroine wasn't able to figure matters of heart out.
Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books70 followers
December 23, 2015
I first read this book many years ago, when I didn’t write reviews and neither GR nor BL existed. In fact, it was so long ago, I didn’t remember anything about the book except that it was sitting on my shelf, reminding me of pleasures gone by. This reading felt as fresh as if it was a new book. After almost fifteen years since its publication, I guess it was, in a sense.
Like many novels of this writer, this one is gentle and seemingly slow. It is a classic growing-up story. It starts when the heroine, Corie, is fourteen, ends when she is eighteen, and is told from her POV.
An orphan and an illegitimate daughter of the late bastard brother of an important lord, she lives with her grandma, a village witch, when her uncle, Lord Jaxon, rides in, looking for her. He makes a deal with her grandma that Corie will spend every summer at the royal castle, learning the ways of the court. Learning her own strengths and weaknesses. Learning to love and hate, to understand and forgive.
With her shining, courageous spirit and her kindness, Corie makes friends easily and indiscriminately. Many among nobility, servants, and guards are attracted to her. She is not perfect but she is alive: opinionated, compassionate, and smart. Sometimes she makes mistakes and misjudges people and situations, but she is brave enough to admit her faults and generous enough to give of her heart.
The more summers she spends at Castle Auburn, the less she feels as if she belongs to her village heritage. Unfortunately, the older she gets, the more she abhors the backstabbing and the political maneuvering of the royal court. Straddling two worlds, she doesn’t fully associate with either. It takes her some time to find her place in the universe.
Through the changing seasons, we see her mature, with the court life swirling in the background, supporting a complex and multidimensional cast. Each character is as alive as the protagonist, each with his or her own unique thread; all of them contributing to the colorful tapestry of the book.
There is Corie’s beloved half-sister Elisandra, composed and determined. There is guard Roderic, Corie’s stalwart friend. There is Prince Bryan, a petty arrogant boy in the beginning of the tale transforming into a cruel and haughty man by the end of it. There is Kent, the prince’s cousin, a young man who changes the least throughout the story but captures everyone’s heart as much as Corie’s. And then there are mysterious aliora, enslaved by humans – Shinn’s exclusive and totally original take on the fairies.
Despite its slow pace, quiet as a whisper, this book found its way into my heart. I loved its low-key lyrical story. I loved its sensible heroine. I loved the dash of intrigue and the whiff of romance. I loved Corie’s infallible sense of justice and her inner freedom. I loved the aliora. I loved the lightness of this novel, especially with so many darker stories dominating the fantasy genre these days.
I simply loved it.
Profile Image for Emily.
849 reviews140 followers
March 2, 2011
As the base-born daughter of a nobleman, Corie, who is fourteen at this book's opening, spends her winters in her grandmother's village learning herb-lore, and her summers at Castle Auburn, where she enjoys a close relationship with her noble half-sister who has been betrothed to the crown prince since birth. Corie has a severe crush on the prince who oh so unfortunately happens to be a selfish cad. As the story unfolds, her eyes are opened not only to his real nature, but to the plans being made at court for her own fate, as well as to other signs that all is not well in her world, such as the cruel imprisonment of a fairy-like race of creatures who are enslaved by those of the nobility that can afford them. Shinn writes engagingly enough that I didn't mind that I saw most of the plot twists coming from miles away, and that most of the things that are confusing and unclear to Corie are blindingly obvious to the reader. My inner-adolescent enjoyed the story very much. My inner-cynical grown-up couldn't avoid noticing that this is the sort of pseudo-medieval fantasy in which the characters live in a world which hasn't developed a technology higher than paper, but seem to enjoy lots of modern conveniences, such as regular baths, closets in their bedrooms, and dependable mail service. Also male and female friends exchange hugs with the unselfconscious ease of present-day college students. However, none of the foregoing prevented me from scarfing the book down like candy and it made perfect forget-you-are-on-the-subway reading.

Profile Image for Dyanna.
795 reviews70 followers
February 11, 2019
Trailer Book

Actually rating: 4.5 stars
This is a historical setting book knitted with fantasy and fairy tale tropes that I totally loved. The story is about Corie, a bastard daughter of a noble, who in every summer she visits her noble family at Castle Auburn. There are 3 parts to the story and with every part we see Corie mature from this very naive girl to an independent woman that knows diplomacy and the games of court. I loved the bond between the two sisters. Even if Elisandra is the soon to be queen of Auburn by being betrothed to the prince , she still loves Corie and vice-versa being her true friend and loving her like a true sister will do.



I loved also the romance well more exactly the man Corie ends up in the end. Even if I kinda of knew who will end of with in the end, I still felt that there were many good men that could take her heart. However I felt their romance was a little too rushed . I also had a hunch about who Elisandra will end up in the end and I wished I had read her POV also. What was a surprise to me was the poisoning of the prince and how it was maneuvered in a clever way.

Unfortunately by accident I kinda spoiled myself in regard of Bryan's dead and I felt that it would have surprised me a great way if I did not know it !!! 😫

P.S: In a weird way this book reminded me of Hello Lady Lynn

Profile Image for Beth.
366 reviews14 followers
November 14, 2009
I just loved, loved, loved this book; not in a heart pounding, gripping, page turning kind of way, but in more of a lovely, lose yourself, relaxing kind of read. A lovely mix of coming of age story, romance and fairy tale all mixed in one.
Corrie is the illegitimate child of a Lord who spend most of her time with her grandmother in a small village learning herb lore. But she lives for the summers she spends at Castle Auburn with her adventerous uncle, her half-sister who she loves and her father's widow who dislikes her. The summer of her seventeenth year she suddenly finds herself seeing things in a new light and is disturbed by what she sees.
I loved this girl, Corrie, she's spirited and likeable and refuses to conform to the rules of court life. Still, she can not see what is right in front of her.
This one charmed the pants off me, i can see myself reading it again and again. Must read more Sharon Shinn.
Recommended to anyone who likes Robin McKinley or Juliet Marillier.
Profile Image for Jude: The Epic Reader.
525 reviews74 followers
July 7, 2022
This is weird but in a good way. It was a perfect read for the beginning of fall and I recommend it to anyone looking for fall witchy books that haven't been recommended a thousand times. I really like our male and female lead, I do wish for a bit more romantic interaction between them but what they had was fine. Some parts dragged a bit and that's why its not 5 stars. I might buy a physical copy of this and reread it one day.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
329 reviews24 followers
January 24, 2023
Update a year later: I keep coming back to this book, especially the ending, and it never disappoints. So lovely.

Summers at Castle Auburn was a delightful surprise. I say this often, but it's true: I had no idea what to expect going into this book. I don't even know how I learned about it! But it was definitely worth reading and I'm so glad I did. In the first place, this book reminded me of another fantasy favorite, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. Throughout this review, I'll be comparing/contrasting this book with The Blue Sword for fun. The author, Sharon Shinn (new to me, by the way), is excellent. Now for all of the separate components: plot, character, theme, writing, and worldbuilding.

"Sometimes we become what we see," he said. "Sometimes we take what we see and make it the model for what we refuse to become. Sometimes we do a little of both."

Coriel Halsing, who goes by Corie, is the illegitimate (yet recognized) daughter of the dead Lord Halsing. She spends every summer at Castle Auburn with her adored half-sister Elisandra, who is betrothed to Prince Bryan. The rest of the year, Corie acts as her grandmother's apprentice in herb lore and healing. Corie is a delightful character - lovable yet flawed, wise yet sometimes so blind. Her personality is sassy and joyful and incorrigible and loving and wild, all in one! Like Harry in The Blue Sword, she is an active character, though in different ways. While Harry learns swordplay and riding, Corie makes herbs, medicines, and some potions for the castle's inhabitants.

Elisandra, the daughter of Lord Halsing and his wife Greta, is Corie's dearest friend. At first, she appears to be one of those perfect, wise older sisters who are always calm and gentle. But there's so much more going on! I won't say more because of spoilers, but she is a lovely character and a perfect foil for Coriel. Another of Corie's friends is Angela, who sends her long, gossipy letters when Corie's not at Castle Auburn.

As for male leads, there are several. There's Prince Bryan, Roderick (a guard), and of course Kent, Bryan's cousin and second heir to the throne. Not to mention Shorro (another guard), and Damien, Bryan's food taster. All of whom are compelling and interesting, though some are more developed than others.

For the first time I was understanding how Elisandra had been able, for all these years, to appear so serene. There was nothing to fret about, nothing that could be altered by worrying or trying. Calm was easy to achieve when despair was so complete.

As in The Blue Sword, the theme is fairly obvious. Its theme is honor, and what honor truly looks like. In Summers at Castle Auburn, the theme is misjudging or misperceptions of people. Corie is often blind to others' failings or only sees what she "wants to", or believes to be true. She does not fully understand her own heart until her true love proposes to her, and even then it takes her a moment to realize she loves him. This theme is deep and rich, and hard to put into words - yet I know exactly what this is about. Truth, or misperceptions of it, is prominent.

There are other themes as well - for example, what true love looks like, and the reasons for marriage, but as far as I can tell, misperceptions/misjudging is the main overarching idea.

"You are too young to understand that the promises of the future cannot undo the harm of the past."

I don't have much to say about the plot, which is very character-driven and not heavy on action, though it doesn't lack tension. Some might complain of it being slow. At the same time, though, since Shinn completely skips over a few years, it tries to cover too much ground. (The story begins when Corie is 14 and ends when she's 18.)

Summers at Castle Auburn is, simply put, the story of a girl's coming of age. But it's also the story of the castle gaining a good king, the aliora gaining a kingdom, and a girl learning how to see the world and find truth.

If an aliora touches you with the least little tip of her finger, you will be enchanted. You will rise to her call, you will answer to the sound of her voice, you will follow her across the river though you drown, though you will never return to your family and your loved ones... She will put a fever in your blood that nothing can cure.

The world of Summers at Castle Auburn is beautiful. It's a medieval-feeling kingdom, without much advanced technology. The most unique feature of the world are the aliora, who live in their kingdom Alora, deep in the forest across the Faelyn River. Aliora are intelligent, fae-like beings who give feelings of calm and love when humans touch them. Allergic to gold, they are enslaved in Castle Auburn and some nobles throughout the lands own a few as well. The aliora are somewhat unsettling, and probably my least favorite element of the story, though I liked them as individuals. Personally, the aliora weirdness didn't detract from the story, but I didn't love it.

Aside from aliora, the world was really fun. Corie herself learns and practices herb lore (I wouldn't describe it as magic, but maybe others would? kind of depends...) and uses it to help people. She makes medicines and a few potions and combines herbs to help give people certain things/feelings, like bravery, wisdom, and hope. I honestly couldn't say if there was magic or not! The aliora are described as having magic and so is their land; occasionally the herb lore is described as magic.

Fall came late that year as though summer, idle intransigent girl that she was, could not summon the golden strength to rise from her bed along our hills and meadows and go sauntering off to some more southern site. When it did come, autumn was glorious, a fiery riot of colors spilling down over every hillside with a wanton display of fervor.

Shinn's writing reminded me of Robin McKinley's style, perhaps slightly more simplistic, but no less beautiful. Lovely and prose-y, she is a great writer and it made Summers at Castle Auburn so fun to read. Cozy and warm, full of description, this was perfect for long winter days. Like McKinley's style, though, the writing in this book is not for everyone. It wasn't too modern - perfect for the setting, perfect for the genre. I wish more books were like this, beautiful and challenging for my vocabulary. Vacuous? Ubiquitous? Anyways, I wish more authors would write like that.

"I would want you beside me because I love you and my life would be so much harder without you in it."

Now, for other things. Only a few elements detracted from my enjoyment of Summers at Castle Auburn. For one, I wanted more of the ending! As I've already mentioned, this book was perhaps a bit ambitious in its scope. And the last thing that annoyed me: no Christian worldview. While I completely understand that many, many authors aren't Christians, the one thing that would have elevated Summers at Castle Auburn to the next level would have been a Christian perspective.

"For the rest of it is glitter and noise," he said. "At the heart of it all is love. You make that choice and you go forward from there."

In conclusion (TL;DR), I loved this book and would highly recommend it (13+). Especially to fans of The Blue Sword (obviously), Crown Duel, The Perilous Gard, and The Goose Girl.
Summers at Castle Auburn is totally a YA fantasy classic and made it onto my best books ever shelf. The characters were wonderful, the theme true, and the plot excellent. Five stars!

“You seem sad, Coriel.”

I nodded. “The world makes me sad these days. Things I would not have noticed a year ago seem dreadful to me now. Is that a function of growing older? And will everything seem more dreadful every year, from now until I die?”


Content:
Illegitimate children (called bastards, which is of course what the word means). Some kissing. Drunkenness. Not much language. Minimal violence and some descriptions of past violence.
Profile Image for Beth.
1,133 reviews109 followers
March 17, 2020
I liked this! I’d go so far as to say I liked it a lot. And yet there’s something very uneven about it: it’s almost a patchwork collection of elements, and it never comes together for me.

I’m not certain about the protagonist herself, for starters. She starts off as a young, naive girl, and that’s fairly well expressed, but then a few years are skipped in the narrative, and I never had a real handle on her after that. I never believed her life was impacted, anywhere, by her illegitimacy. She made decisions I found unconvincing and she didn’t notice enough of what was going on (despite having two interchangeable gossipy friends).

Her sister is the barest sketch of a character - the people surrounding them are almost no better - and the characters with the only consistent distinct personalities are, I think, Kent and his father. Even Bryan is every young spoiled drunk-on-power prince in a fantasy.

And the aliora themselves - I’m left wondering what role they actually play in the story!

The plot is fairly uneven, too:

I’m talking myself into liking this less, and yet while I was reading it, I really did enjoy it! But it doesn’t feel like Sharon Shinn to me. It’s too piecemeal and almost ephemeral, in a way. It doesn’t feel unified and impactful in the way Shinn’s worlds can.
Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews3,951 followers
July 8, 2008
A book of political opinions encased in a fairly simplistic fantasy tale. Corie is the illigitimate daughter of a noble house of women who frequently marry into the royal family. The book details her split childhood, raised by her grandmother the healer in a dirt cottage and her "Summers at Castle Auburn," every year, to be taught and cultivated by her noble relatives.

I don't remember this book as being particularly complicated, but it is honest. Forthright in its views and with a very definite value system to get across, Sharon Shinn and her heroine Corie spread modern values of freedom, free-thinking, broken class barriers, independence, and women's rights as she grows to maturity in her politically tense world. It is a fairy tale (with the fairies to prove it), but with a less than conventionally fitting ending. Very good YA/beach reading.
Profile Image for Lindsey (Bring My Books).
593 reviews130 followers
July 17, 2016
I told this to a friend when I was halfway through this book, and I can't think of a better way to explain it: "It feels classic and sophisticated and beautiful and sort of like coming home."

This book, to me, is what perfect fantasies are made of. It's not about the magic or the creatures or the world-building, it's about using fantastical things to explore human lives and the motivations and morals and ethics within.

Simply put, I have been absolutely ensorceled by this beautiful book.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,211 reviews1,649 followers
December 20, 2018
4.5 stars

This backlist title has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity in the book blog community over the last year or so. Several people have told me that I simply must read this book, but a friend was the one who finally nudged me into it by sending me a copy for my birthday. I didn’t have much of an idea what to expect, other than that I know that anything this friend recommends will almost definitely have a great ship, and the book’s description certainly would not have helped a whole lot. It’s not wrong, but it’s…misleading. It makes everything sound way melodramatic, which is like the total opposite of Summers at Castle-Auburn, which is an understated, voice-driven, charming coming of age fantasy with a lovely cast and, yes, fantastic ship.



As I said, I didn’t know what to expect particularly, but I still managed to be completely surprised by the opening of Summers at Castle Auburn. We meet Coriel at age fourteen, excited to be going on an aliora-hunting excursion with her Uncle Jaxon and a veritable harem of boys, including her crush Prince Bryan. Corie’s voice immediately charms. She’s young, naive, sweet, and impossible not to love. It’s massively hard to pull off a character like Corie and have her come off as genuine and young, rather than stupid.



Corie’s just this remarkably sweet, friendly, trusting person, so she doesn’t question what she’s been taught until she gets older. The whole book is Corie’s journey from blind faith in those around her to realizing the darkness underlying her idyllic world. As a child, her only complaint is that the people at court expect her to behave in particular (read: boring) ways, but, as she grows, she has to confront the problematic racism (the aliora are fae creatures with intelligence and their own community), the fact that Prince Bryan is actually kind of a shitty human, and that, generally, no one is as simple and perfect as she had thought.

Summers at Castle Auburn takes place primarily over three summers: Corie’s fourteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth summers. At fourteen, Corie’s adorable and precocious. Her naivete could be trying, but she’s been sheltered from the world’s harsh realities, both by her situation and the fact that others try to protect her; no one wants to be the one to crush such a sweet, happy nature. In her seventeenth summer, Corie’s eyes are opened (perhaps by a potion in an adorable set up or just by growing up), and she’s working on understanding the world in this new way. In her eighteenth, Corie returns a bit less perky and a lot more determined.



I love Corie in every incarnation, and I love watching her change and grow up through the years. I love how boy crazy she is, and I love that this does not remotely translate to wanting to get married; she dreams of a life as an herbwitch, not as a wife of some lord. She’s got this puppy love crush on Prince Bryan, because he’s so cute; if Bryan had a fan club like Prince Char does, Corie would have been the president.



Enough gushing about Corie, though I could go on. Her relationship with her sister is absolutely precious. It’s so freaking adorable that Corie has trouble understanding that Bryan doesn’t love Elisandra because Corie simply cannot conceive of anyone not loving Elisandra. To her, Elisandra is a paragon of womanhood, but there’s so much more going on under the surface. Elisandra’s way more complex than that, but she does love her sister with a fierceness.

The romances are super fucking adorable. I totally shipped all of them from the first scenes the couples had together, because this is my realm and clearly Shinn is a fan of shiptrash just like I am. Based on the shirtless scene and the dancing and the carriage scene, Shinn is such a shipper, and just bless her really. Kent is such an adorable goober who is trying so damn hard but being waaaaaay too subtle about it. Darling, precious Kentley.



Plotwise, Summers at Castle Auburn reads very much like a fairy tale; there’s a dreamy, magical quality to everything. Some plot elements, particularly the aliora, while being a big part of the book, don’t necessarily get the handling you might expect. Villains don’t always get punished, and some plot developments only appear as a casual aside in one letter or bit of narration. Summers at Castle Auburn is subtle, and you definitely need to pay attention to catch everything (including Corie’s secret snark).



What an incredibly lovely novel! I’m already making plans to work through Sharon Shinn’s novels, because any author who brings the ship like that is an author I need to read obsessively.
Profile Image for Michele.
52 reviews2 followers
August 29, 2021
A solid 4. Delightful, frothy, pulpy, though I read it on the kindle it had all the nonsense joy of a mass market paperback. It wasn’t trying to be any more than it was, and I dug that sincerely. Now if only the author knew the protagonist’s sister was a lesbian then it would have been a 5.
Profile Image for Henrietta.
207 reviews24 followers
December 20, 2013
Reading Summers at Castle Auburn is like having a leisurely stroll in a park.

I like the pacing – it’s of a slower pace but offers just the right amount of time and space for the characters to grow on me.

There is hardly anything redundant in the plot.

What I really love about the story is that many of the characters feel very real and believable – people are not black and white – human nature is never straightly good or evil and I like that there are all kinds of shadiness here. Selfish characters are really hard to be liked but strangely, I not only empathize them but also feel relieved when I learn of their selfishness in this story.

On the author website, Shinn mentioned that her favorite scene was where Corie freed the aliora. (In the story, the aliora are creatures that have been trapped and subdued as slaves for humans.) I like the scene too but my most favorite part is about the revelation of the fate of the hunter. It really makes me wonder who is inevitably being haunted and hunted in the web of life.

I know I’m being vague here but this is a story that needs to be read in my opinion. I haven’t read other titles by Shinn but after reading this, I am going to add all her other books to my read list.

Have you read any books by Sharon Shinn?

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Originally posted on LeisureReads.com
Profile Image for Clara Thompson.
Author 2 books34 followers
June 27, 2016
How could I possibly begin to describe the depth of love I have for this book?

I suppose I could start with the characters. Only once have I encountered a book with this amount of depth, this amount of beautiful characters who are so excellently written, there's not a doubt in my mind how they would behave in every situation--and that lone book is Robin McKinley's CHALICE. From the opening few sentences, I knew who these characters were, and I loved each of them for their brilliant wordplay and humor, regardless whether they were hero or villain.

Sharon Shinn writes in a way that most people can only dream of-- with simple words that aren't too flowery, and yet...she paints the most poignant scenery with these few words. Another thing I admired was the amount of conversing that transpired between characters. Shinn didn't stop to tell you how a character felt; she let them tell each other. Which made a good story brilliant. Not to mention it was just long enough to never once make you feel cheated out of some plot point that you had been fervently waiting for...she stopped and let you live through her characters so that never once did the pace of the story feel rushed or clipped.

I cannot possibly begin to say the amount of depth within this book. But it was beautiful, and I fell in love with Auburn and the characters that lived within it...and I sincerely believe you will, too.
Profile Image for H.S.J. Williams.
Author 6 books223 followers
June 29, 2016
Well......it was good quality writing.....but it just didn't make magic for me.

I couldn't settle into the slow pace, I didn't really care for the characters or the relationships, and I picked the wrong future love-interest, which annoyed me considerably, hahaha (my intuition never has failed, gasp!)

While there was nothing descriptive or detailed about the sensuality in this book, some of the situations or behaviors are nevertheless disgruntling. Also, while our heroine is acutely aware she is an illegitimate child, there is never much attention payed to the one-sentence reality of the why she was born (basically, father drugged and raped. Oh, does that kind of bring a flinch? What made *me* flinch was the flippant, "everyday-bad luck" sort of way it was spoken about, and that our heroine never once questioned continuing her mother's arts with drugs, medicines, and love potions).

HOWEVER. There are lots of people, whose opinions I respect, who love this book. So if you like languid, character-centered fantasy novels with a bit of attention to the evils of slavery, you probably would like this one.
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