SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN
by Sharon Shinn – Penguin Group (USA) 2001
ages 14 + / y.a.
Do you have a go-to comfort book? One that you read over and over again because just the right mix that you need at a certain time?
Summers at Castle Auburn is mine. It seems to be an all-round popular choice too, because I'm currently on my fourth copy, the previous three having vanished into the abyss of friends lending to friends. They always make their way back, but by then I’ve caved and bought another copy.
This is the book I read when I’m feeling stressed or overrun or just can’t decide what to read—perhaps because it’s one of the sweetest stories ever. It's full of innocence, growth, determination, friendship and just the right sprinkling of romance.
Summers at Castle Auburn follows the life of Coriel, the illegitimate daughter of one of the highest ranking nobles in the kingdom. Her life is not a simple one—for most of the year she lives in a small village with her grandmother learning witchcraft and healing as her apprentice.
But her summers are like a fairy tale, spent in the midst of Castle Auburn:
Eight summers ago, Jaxon Halsing had showed up at my grandmother’s cottage and changed my life completely. He was my father’s brother, he said, and my father was dead. He had come to honor a promise he had made at my father’s deathbed, that I would be found an brought to my father’s household, introduced to my scattered relatives and given some semblance of the birthright I was due.
These magical three months each year are spent living with her stepsister Elisandra who is her best friend, and her stepmother Greta, who tolerates her because she's desperately trying to turn her into a political bargaining chip.
At the start of the book we meet Coriel in the summer of her 14th year, when she is still young, innocently naïve and caught up in the excitement of court life. As the years pass and she grows from girl to woman, Coriel must learn to navigate her two worlds without compromising who she is and what she wants to become. But this grows ever harder as she matures.
Things she once would never have questioned become an unbearable injustice she must put right, even at the cost of the relationships she holds most dear.
Summers at Castle Auburn is a beautiful story about growing up and the slow loss of innocence/naivety that comes from seeing the world from a new perspective. It’s about learning who and how to love and seeing people as they really are, their strengths, their weaknesses and what they are capable of, good and bad.
But mostly it’s about finding your place in the world and holding to it, even in the face of opposition.