Thursday, October 11, 2007

General Winston's Daughter by Sharon Shinn

Averie Winston is the sheltered daughter of a commanding general in the colonial empire of Aebria. For the first time she will be joining her father and Morgan, her soldier fiance, on one of the empire's newest conquests. They will be in the land of Chiarrin. A hot land of reddish mud and wood frame houses, aqueducts, and people with a strange way of dressing. On her long boat trip over Averie meets the very handsome Lieutenant Du'Kai, a man from another conquered nation who has joined the Aebrian army. He introduces her to new and rather discomforting ways of thinking, and ideas she has never even considered before. Does Aebria liberate backward countries and bring industry and trade as she has always been taught? Or are they actually invaders who conquer lands for their resources? And if so, what then are they really doing in Chiarrin?

Once in Chiarran, Averie discovers that she loves learning about the new culture and sets about to take in as much as she can. She adapts their way of dress, learns about their traditions, and befriends a local girl who quickly becomes a trusted member in their household. Add in a complicated romance, some political intrigue, a fantastically written betrayal, and a harrowing escape and you pretty much have the rest of the book.

More perceptive readers will figure out that the book, although set in a made-up world, is easily compared to our world's Western history, both historically and currently. Aebria could easily be Britain or the United States, and the conquered countries seem to be modeled after India and some part of the Muslim world. However, because it is not set in our world, it should allow readers to question their beliefs about other countries and the real reasons countries are "colonized" without making them uncomfortable or defensive.

The political dialog between characters is not always as subtle as one would wish. Particularly between Lieutenant Du'Kai's (who has a rather precarious station in life to be so loose lipped) and Averie (who is perhaps more open minded than is realistic). Nevertheless, readers will enjoy the love triangle that quickly emerges, as well as Averie's joyous exploration of a new and unfamiliar culture. This title will be popular among younger teen girls who like historical fiction and romance.

And let me tell you, the betrayal, although I was sort of expecting it - not to mention hoping for it - is nonetheless totally enjoyable. It was my favorite part of the entire book , which now that I think about it might not reflect all that well on me...but I choose to think of it more like I root for the underdog and for self-determination. Heh.

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