Shinn, Sharon 1957–
Shinn, Sharon 1957–
PERSONAL: Born April 28, 1957, in Wichita, KS; daughter of Raymond James, Jr. (a college professor) and Carol (a secretary; maiden name, Maile). Education: Northwestern University, B.S., 1979.
ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 6774, Brentwood, MO 63144. Agent—Ethan Ellenberg, 548 Broadway, No. 5-E, New York, NY 11012.
CAREER: Author and editor. Professional Photographer (magazine), Chicago, IL, assistant editor, 1979–83; Decor (magazine), St. Louis, MO, managing editor, 1983–2001; Biz Ed (magazine), co-editor, 2001–.
AWARDS, HONORS: William Crawford Award for best first novel, International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, 1996, for The Shape-Changer 's Wife; Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice award, 2004, for Angel-Seeker; twice nominated for Campbell Award for best new writer.
FANTASY AND SCIENCE-FICTION NOVELS
The Shape-Changer 's Wife, Ace (New York, NY), 1995.
Wrapt in Crystal, Ace (New York, NY), 1999.
Heart of Gold, Ace (New York, NY), 2000.
Summers at Castle Auburn, Ace (New York, NY), 2000.
Jenna Starborn, Ace (New York, NY), 2002.
The Safe-Keeper's Secret, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
Mystic and Rider, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2005.
The Truth-Teller's Tale (sequel to The Safe-Keeper's Secret), Viking (New York, NY) 2005.
The Thirteenth House, Ace (New York, NY), 2006.
Dark Moon Daughter, Ace (New York, NY), 2006.
Archangel, Ace (New York, NY), 1996.
Jovah's Angel, Ace (New York, NY), 1997.
The Alleluia Files, Ace (New York, NY), 1998.
Angelica, Ace (New York, NY), 2003.
Angel-Seeker, Ace (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to anthologies, including To Weave a Web of Magic, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2004; Powers of Detection, edited by Dana Stabenow, Ace (New York, NY), 2004; and The Queen in Winter, Firebirds Rising, and Elemented, 2006.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Dream-Maker's Magic, for Viking.
SIDELIGHTS: Sharon Shinn writes fantasy novels that critics have described as innovative and compelling in their blend of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Her award-winning first novel, The Shape-Changer's Wife, centers on Aubrey, whose training to become a wizard entails an apprenticeship with Glyrenden, a master wizard who teaches him about shape-changing. As Aubrey learns the art of shape-changing he encounters Lilith, Glyrenden's remote wife; Arachne, the wizard's housekeeper; and two others: a large man named Orion and a shy young woman named Eve. After Aubrey comes to suspect Glyrenden of shape-changing these people—Arachne is really a spider, Orion a bear, Lilith a willow, and Eve a fawn—he kills him in order to end the magical entrapment. "Fantasy fans will love this book," averred Gail E. Roberts in Kliatt, calling The Shape-Changer's Wife "a very good … first novel."
In Archangel Shinn creates a world centered on Samaria, which may be an alternate ancient Israel or that country's distant future. The angel Gabriel, due to inherit the role of archangel from Raphael, seeks a wife to help him lead the next festival of song to the glory of Jovah, the god of Samaria. The oracle Josiah directs Gabriel to Rachel, a slave girl living in a remote village, but no sooner are the two married than the relationship becomes strained as Rachel attempts to use her newfound position to aid her fellow slaves in Samaria. A critic for Kirkus Reviews described Archangel as "taut, inventive, often mesmerizing, with a splendid pair of disaffected, predestined lovers," while Booklist reviewer Carl Hays praised Shinn's "sure command of characterization and vividly imagined settings," noting that references to the technology that allows Samarians to contact their gods infuses the ethereal realm of angels with a science-fiction air "that should please fans of both genres."
Angels are also central to Jovah's Angel, a sequel to Archangel. Here, the god Jovah must be appeased by the singing of the angels in order for the planet Samaria to avoid the violent storms that otherwise make life there untenable. When the archangel Delilah is wounded in one of these storms, the oracles gather to petition Jovah to send them a replacement. Jovah chooses shy Alleya, whose prayerful singing is the only voice Jovah has lately heeded. In partnership with the mechanic Caleb, Alleya questions the god's recent neglect and discovers that both she and Caleb are actually descended from earlier colonists from another planet. These colonists created the genetically engineered race of angels in order to continue to control the planet's weather with their technology in perpetuity. The resulting crisis in belief is "thoughtfully discussed and resolved," according to Liz LaValley in Kliatt, the critic calling Jovah's Angel "a lovely, lyrical read with sympathetic characters." LaValley noted the many topics addressed in the book, including the nature of religious faith and the benefits and costs of technology. "Fans of Archangel will be gratified" by the appearance of Jovah's Angel, concluded a contributor to Kirkus Reviews.
The "Samaria" series continues with The Alleluia Files, in which the archangel Bael continues his persecution of a heretic sect of Jacobites and a rebellious angel hooks up with a runaway mortal to search for the Alleluia Files. Here, Shinn showcases her signature blend of high-tech sci-fi, mystery, romance, and fantasy, creating "a fresh and innovative tale full of surprising turns of plot," according to Jackie Cassada in the Library Journal.
Other "Samaria" novels include Angelica, the story of a woman who is called to be the wife of an angel, and Angel-Seeker. In Angelica Susannah is heartbroken and homesick among the angels, and her new husband, Gaaron, is uncommunicative and distant until the couple join to face an alien threat. A Publishers Weekly critic noted that Angelica "will win new readers and delight existing fans," while Roberta Johnson wrote in Booklist that "Shinn blends romance and sf gracefully enough to satisfy fantasy fans." In Angel-Seeker Rebekah hails from a tribe that hates angels. When the angel Obadiah is attacked and wounded, Rebekah finds herself nursing him back to health, in the process questioning her assumptions about the world. "Shinn smoothly blends the romantic sensibility of yesteryear with the feminism of today," complimented a critic for Publishers Weekly. Booklist reviewer Regina Schroeder considered Angel-Seeker "a solid read," and Jackie Cassada noted in the Library Journal that the novel "fills a gap in the history" of Samaria.
Shinn introduced a series specifically written for young-adult readers with The Safe-Keeper's Secret. Damiana is a "safe-keeper," one who listens to the secrets of others but pledges not to repeat them. Her daughter, Fiona, and her ward, the boy Reed, whose parents are a mystery, are planning to apprentice in their chosen professions; Fiona wants to become a Safe-Keeper like her mother, but is trained in the study of herbs, while Reed goes from one apprenticeship to the next, good at all but happy with none. When Damiana reaches the end of her life, Fiona takes on her mother's secrets, only to realize that perhaps this is not the path she is best suited for, because the secret of Reed's true parents is a difficult one to keep. "Teens will connect with Shinn's vividly drawn world," commented Gillian Engberg in a Booklist review, while Michele Winship noted in Kliatt that in The Safe-Keeper's Secret, "Shinn skillfully weaves a tale of fantasy to rival the classics." A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the novel's ending, which, "with its revelations of true identity and hints of romance, is quite satisfying."
In The Truth-Teller's Tale Eleda is a truth-teller, and her mirror-twin, Adele, is a safe-keeper. Both are friends with Roelynn, whose father is grooming her to marry the prince despite her own ideas about romance. When Roelynn falls in love with a dancing-master's apprentice and the twins are mistaken for each other, a comedy of "romantic mayhem" ensues, according to a Kirkus Reviews critic, who concluded, "Romance reigns for all in this engaging page-turner of mistaken identity." In Kliatt Winship predicted that fans of The Safe-Keeper's Secret "will have twice the pleasure" in its sequel. Cheri Dobbs, writing in the School Library Journal, commented that "teen readers will be captivated by this medieval tale," adding: "Shinn has a beautiful turn of phrase and a knack for writing a sentence that will stop readers in their tracks."
Mystic and Rider is the first of four books planned in Shinn's "Twelve Houses" series. The novel is set on the fantasy world of Gillengaria, where those who have magic abilities, called Mystics, are treated with suspicion. The king recognizes the usefulness of the mystics, however, and when trouble stirs the team he sends to investigate includes Senneth, a fire mystic; Kirra and her servant Donnal, both of whom can change shape; and Tayse and Justin, Riders, or elite soldiers of the crown. The Riders have an instant distrust for the Mystics, but they overcome their differences for the sake of the kingdom. The "promise of her characters' lives 'changed by love' in future" books in the ongoing series "make for a rich beginning," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Harriet Klausner wrote in MBR Bookwatch that "the world of Gillengaria is so realistically portrayed, readers will be convinced that this world actually exists." Paula Luedtke, writing for Booklist, noted that, "clean, elegant prose is, as usual, one of the joys of a Shinn novel," and commented that the other features of Mystic and Rider include "entirely likeable major characters and an interesting group-development narrative."
In addition to the "Samaria" and "Twelve Houses" series, Shinn has penned several stand-alone novels, including Wrapt in Crystal, Heart of Gold, and Summers at Castle Auburn. Wrapt in Crystal is a story of political and religious intrigue set on the small world of Semay. In the novel, Lt. Cowen Drake of the Intergalactic Alliance of Federated Planets, an entity that has long been courting Semay in hopes that it will join the federation, is assigned to investigate a series of murders. All the victims are priestesses associated with one of the two Semaian competing religions. "Shinn's flair for intriguing settings and sympathetic characters remains strong," complimented a critic for Publishers Weekly, while Library Journal reviewer Jackie Cassada described the story as "rich in detail and profound in spiritual underpinnings." Roberta Johnson, writing for Booklist, noted that "Shinn skillfully combines suspense, sf, and romance while posting thoughtful questions on worship, faith, and sacrifice."
Summers at Castle Auburn shifts away from intrigue and toward romance. Corie, the illegitimate daughter of a lord, is raised by her grandmother and trained in the healing arts. As a girl Corie has a crush on the prince, but as she grows older she realizes that he is self-centered and cruel. The prince hunts the Aliora, a magical race that Corie's people enslave, and Corie comes to realize that she has to make an effort to save these hunted folk. "While the story moves quickly in Shinn's seasoned hands,… fans may be left hungry for more substantive fare," a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented, noting the lack of substantive issues embedded within the plot. However, Paula Luedtke, writing in Booklist, found the novel to be "a charmer for the romantically inclined."
With Jenna Starborn Shinn combines Regency romance with science fiction. Setting the plot of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre in a futuristic world where children are sometimes raised in "gen-tanks," Shinn "is faithful to the original story but not slavishly so," Donna L. Scanlon noted in her Kliatt review. Half-citizen Jenna Starborn, created in one of these gentanks, is rejected by the woman who requested her creation. Sent off to a technical school, Jenna is eventually hired to perform nuclear reactor maintenance at Thorrastone Park, the estate of Everett Ravenbeck. She and Ravenbeck fall in love and intend to marry until Jenna discovers he has another wife. "Shinn fans will enjoy the way the author perfectly captures the tone and color of Brontë while maintaining Jenna's unique voice," praised a critic for Publishers Weekly, while Booklist reviewer Roberta Johnson proclaimed: "Shinn's sf take on a great romantic tale succeeds."
Shinn once commented: "Like many authors I know, I started writing when I was a kid, and I haven't stopped since. I loved reading when I was young, and books like A Little Princess, The Gammage Cup, and Diamond in the Window are still as vivid to me as they were when I first read them. That's not something I can say about too many of the books I've read as an adult.
"I write science fiction/fantasy because I love the stories I can tell within these genres—stories of magic, glamour, and heroism that also include the smaller, intimate details of ordinary life. Also, I love the rather poetic language these genres allow me to use.
"A few of my books have been published in countries such as England, Germany, Poland, and Italy. I find it amazing and thrilling to open a book I have written and not be able to read a word."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 1996, Carl Hays, review of Archangel, p. 1492; May 15, 1999, review of Wrapt in Crystal, p. 1684; April 15, 2001, Paula Luedtke, review of Summers at Castle Auburn, p. 1544; March 15, 2002, review of Summers at Castle Auburn, p. 1228; April 1, 2002, Roberta Johnson, review of Jenna Starborn, p. 1313; March 1, 2003, Roberta Johnson, review of Angelica, p. 1153; March 1, 2004, Roberta Johnson, review of Angel-Seeker, p. 1147; April 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of The Safe-Keeper 's Secret, p. 1452; March 1, 2005, Paula Luedtke, review of Mystic and Rider, p. 1150.
Bookwatch, May, 2004, review of Angel-Seeker, p. 5.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2004, Timnah Card, review of The Safe-Keeper's Secret, p. 437.
Chronicle, April, 2005, Mike Jones, review of The Truth-Teller's Tale, p. 19.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1996, review of Archangel, p. 412; April 1, 1997, review of Jovah's Angel, p. 510; May 1, 2004, review of The Safe-Keeper's Secret, p. 448; July 1, 2005, review of The Truth-Teller's Tale, p. 743.
Kliatt, January, 1996, Gail E. Roberts, review of The Shape-Changer's Wife, p. 18; September, 1997, Liz LaValley, review of Jovah's Angel, p. 23; July, 2002, Donna L. Scanlon, review of Jenna Starborn, p. 32; May, 2004, Michele Winship, review of The Safe-Keeper's Secret, p. 13; July, 2005, Michele Winship, review of The Truth-Teller's Tale, p. 16.
Library Journal, May 15, 1997, p. 106; April 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of The Alleluia Files, p. 119; May 15, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of Wrapt in Crystal, p. 130; April 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of Heart of Gold, p. 126; April 15, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of Jenna Starborn, p. 127; January, 2003, review of Jenna Starborn, p. 51; March 15, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of Angel-Seeker, p. 110; March 15, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of Mystic and Rider, p. 75.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October, 2000, Michelle West, review of Heart of Gold, p. 44.
MBR Bookwatch, March, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Mystic and Rider.
Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1999, review of Wrapt in Crystal, p. 59; March 20, 2000, review of Heart of Gold, p. 75, April 2, 2001, review of Summers at Castle Auburn, p. 44; March 4, 2002, review of Jenna Starborn, p. 62; February 17, 2003, review of Angelica, p. 61; January 26, 2004, review of Angel-Seeker, p. 236; February 7, 2005, review of Mystic and Rider, p. 46.
School Library Journal, June, 2004, Jane G. Connor, review of The Safe Keeper's Secret, p. 150; July, 2005, Cheri Dobbs, review of The Truth-Teller's Tale, p. 108.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2000, review of Wrapt in Crystal, p. 13; August, 2001, review of Summers at Castle Auburn, p. 216; April, 2002, review of Summers at Castle Auburn, p. 16; August, 2002, review of Jenna Starborn, p. 205; April, 2003, review of Jenna Starborn, p. 14; August, 2003, review of Angelica, p. 242; June, 2004, Kim Carter and Lillian Filliman, review of The Safe-Keeper's Secret, p. 147; August, 2004, review of Angel-Seeker, p. 234; April, 2005, review of The Safe-Keeper's Secret, p. 13.
Writerspace.com, http://www.writerspace.com/ (December 20, 2005), Barbara Sheridan, interview with Shinn.