Readers will be delighted with this return to Shinn’s elemental universe, first introduced in the excellent Troubled Waters. The line of succession for the kingdom of Welce continues to be extraordinarily complicated, which makes for varied, shifting alliances. When it comes to vividly layered characters and detailed worldbuilding, Shinn is a master at her craft.
Princess Josetta, once heir to the throne, now works to help the needy in the poorest section of the capital city. Corene, her younger sister, lands in a scary situation when she hides out in a bar. Rafe Adova is a gambler with his own sense of honor, so he steps in to protect the teenager, not knowing she is a princess. That act of kindness starts a chain of events that will change Rafe’s life forever — destiny calls when Rafe and Josetta meet. When Rafe is targeted by foreign mercenaries, Josetta nurses him back to health. Although she is trying to chart her own path outside of the royal court, Josetta and Rafe soon find they can’t escape court machinations as a mystery in Rafe’s past is about to collide with royal affairs. (ACE, Nov., 400 pp., $25.95)