Review: “Wrapt in Crystal” by Sharon Shinn

Thumbs up for Wrapt in Crystal by Sharon Shinn. Science fiction.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read Sharon Shinn: indeed, on revisiting her work, I realize I was overdue. This was not quite as good as her Samaria series, or my (perhaps idiosyncratically) personal favorite, Heart of Gold, but that’s a relative sort of thing. Wrapt In Crystal is a murder mystery, a romance, and a speculative fiction novel. As a mystery, I appreciate its realisism: Drake does a lot of door-to-door canvassing and searching through records and running up against dead ends. The case unravels with a great twist I probably should have seen, but didn’t, so I loved it. As a romance – well, Shinn is one of the only writers who can write romances I want to read. While love stories are all essentially the same, she does a good job at minimizing cliché – her characters fall in love naturally, awkwardly, over time, like real people. I did not love the way that plotline resolved (avoiding spoilers here), but on the other hand I don’t think it could have been different. Finally, I always enjoy Shinn’s speculative fiction aspects. I specifically do not call them science fiction because (while there are spaceships) her stories are low-science and even low-technology. In this, as in her other writings, she uses human cultures set on other worlds to explore themes of religion, ethics, and social class. And that is where she excells, because far too few writers seem willing to even touch on those things, which are, always have been, and will almost certainly keep on being part of the human experience. I recommend this book, but read the Samaria books first; they are her magnum opus. (Final note: Thank you, Ms. Shinn, for recognizing that people speak different languages. You would not believe how much I adore you for that. But seriously…you could have warped the Spanish a bit more.)

Jovieve shrugged. “Semay is a planet that was colonized by men who traveled thousands of light-years from their homes. If that is not a miracle, what is? But we have been taught that it is science, and science will also explain the mountains erupting and the storms that sweep down from the hills, and the apparitions, now and then, that trouble the devout. No, the Triumphantes are not much disposed to believe in miracles.”

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