General Winston's Daughter by Sharon Shinn
Rating: PG; 3 1/2 stars
Summary: Averie Winston is a rebellious, reluctant heiress in the manner of all rebellious ladies of privilege in the literary world (only one that comes to mind at the moment is Gemma Doyle and co.). She may live in an invented world, but her character and customs calls to mind the past when girls had to have a waist as big around as their age in years and (God forbid!) if they showed the world an ankle whilst crossing the street, they were ruined.
Averie's country is an imperial giant, and the beginning of the book sees her travelling overseas to the colony where her father and fiance are stationed. When she arrives in the new land, Averie is eager to see it from the citizen's perspective, if only her father and chaperone would let her! Not to worry though, for they soon relent. On Averie's travels through the city, she meets a merchant girl named Jalessa. When a rebel bomb goes off and Jalessa's wares are ruined, Averie generously offers for the woman to be her maid.
Opinions: I thought the idea behind this book was wonderful. It shows imperialism in a non-blaming point of view (after all, the countries present are fictitious). Through the different characters, the readers get ideas from both sides of imperialism (those that benefit, those that are overcome). I thought that idea, as well as Averie's gradual realization that imperialism isn't a one-sided, all-benefit situation was really well presented to the reader. I enjoy studying history, and I appreciate how a book like this can maybe make those who aren't history buffs aware of a critical issue from world history.
On another note, the book was marketed as a romance (at least in the jacket flap), but I really didn't see that as much. I didn't even mention it in my summary. I enjoyed the romance, but I thought it was much more of a subplot that the jacket blurb made it out to be. To me it was far more of a social commentary than a romance. That being said, the romance aspect was well-written and not at all forced, even if it did take a back seat to the action.
Now, as to why I gave this book 3 1/2 stars, the ending was a bit disappointing to me, particularly where a certain character was concerned (you'll have to read it to see what I mean). It was a very enjoyable book, but I have read better. I have a habit of over-rating things, so when I read a book that's really a 5 and I see how much better it is than those I rated 4 1/2, I'm kind of stuck. So, I figured 3 1/2 was a safe rating. It probably would have been a 4 if it had ended the way I wanted (where certain characters are concerned), but then again it may have been disappointing for that very reason. Like I said before, this is a very enjoyable book. If you enjoy fantasy that is heavier on culture than magic or historical fiction, I think you would enjoy this book, as it is essentially (IMO) a delightful fusion of the two genres.