Whispering Wood by Sharon Shinn
Sharon Shinn is one of my favourite authors of fantasy books, one whose books I reread when I need a feel-good story to lift my spirits. In Whispering Wood, she returns to the Elemental Blessings series with a new heroine, Valentina Serlast, the sister of Darien, who is to be crowned the king of Welce. She is hunti, loving the forest and wood, and is much happier living on her country estate, but Darien persuades her to come to the city for the coronation, and then to stay on for an extended visit. She becomes involved with the unpredictable Princess Corene and her vivacious friend Melissande and works to unravel their secrets. When Sebastian Ardelay her friend from childhood, turns up again, she is thrilled but worried as he engages in another of his nefarious and dangerous plans.
Whispering Wood is a coming-of-age story. Valentina is not always the most likeable of characters and must work to overcome her teen-like attitude to Darien, who she believes abandoned her when their mother died and when she needed him most. Sebastian is charismatic and heedless of danger. Shinn shows their growth and understanding of the importance of family and country in a very engaging way. The dangers that both face move the plot along with a stunning climax in the whispering wood that will stay in my memory.
Whispering Wood could be read as a stand-alone, but readers would gain a deeper knowledge of the characters and their motivations if they read the other books in the series, starting with Troubled waters. Readers may also enjoy books by Robin Mckinley and Juliet Marillier.
Themes: Fantasy, Coming of age, Court intrigue.