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 out of 5 stars