“You realize, don’t you, that you’ve picked something in the middle of a series?” Sharon Shinn asked me when I brought her this book to sign.
“That’s okay. I have faith you’ll bring me up to speed.” I was joking, but I also believed it.
Sharon and I were on some panels together at COSine, the CO Springs Science Fiction convention that usually occurs near the end of January. Before this time, I’d never heard of Sharon Shinn (nor she of me, but that’s not surprising). We confided that we hadn’t read each other’s books—and I had a blast being on the panels with her. She has a bubbly and friendly personality.
Buying a book by its cover?
“I really bought this book because of the cover on the jacket,” I told her. “The artist makes the character luminous, and I love the balance.”
She agreed. “Donato did that cover, even sent me a signed print.”
That cinched it for me. “I love Donato’s work!” Yes, I squealed like a fangirl. I’d met Donato at MileHiCon—he’s such a nice, quiet, unassuming man, with a talent and love for art that gave him the confidence to leave an engineering education and teach himself the techniques he uses today. He learned by studying classical painters, which shows in his work. Check his web site for more examples of his work.
Just an aside: Sisters in Crime had Bowker do an in-depth survey of buyers of mystery and crime fiction (if you read this report, you’ll find that these readers also buy other genres). What do you suppose were the biggest influences upon whether they purchased a book? After familiarity (loyalty) to an author/series/character and price, it was the cover. There are other eye-opening facts in that survey that somehow miss the summaries and headlines, for instance: blogging and social media aren’t as influential as the author’s web site, and young readers aren’t as interested in buying e-readers/e-books as I expected (you have to read the survey yourself to see this, because this goes against the “standard meme” and current authorial/urban myths).
Back to Reader and Raelynx
You don’t need the previous books. As I expected, I got just enough backstory when I needed it. Sharon’s characters obviously have a lot of history, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with them, not so quickly. The world is complicated enough to hold my interest, and background about mystics and their powers were deftly provided. There’s a strong romantic subplot, which can turn me off if it overwhelms the fantasy plot and problems. But, again, Sharon skillfully kept it as a peripheral complication until she wrapped things up. I’ll probably read more in the series.
A great story, recounted by an accomplished storyteller, and I gobbled it up. 😉