Sharon Shinn: Heart of Gold

Heart of Gold
by Sharon Shinn
(science fantasy)

Nolan is a high-caste blueskin man who, though he loves his fiancée, is starting to wonder if returning to the country to settle down and start a family is the right choice for him. He enjoys his work in the city, where his job in disease research does some real good in the world. And yet, he’s been raised in a matriarchal society, and his duty to his family is very clear—and not served by staying in the city, especially since his research focus is on diseases exclusive to the gold-skinned gulden.

Kit is also a high-caste blueskin, but she has spent most of her life living on Gold Mountain amid the gulden. She’s unhappy in the city, but she too stays in the hope of doing some good—as well as because her gulden lover has been thrown in the local jail due to his terrorist activities. The two seem an unlikely pair, but only together can they stop a genocide…

I found Heart of Gold to be an interesting book, mainly because it creates two similar yet very different subraces: the gulden and the indigo, or blueskins. The races are each well defined; indeed, it seems that more of the beginning of the book is spent on defining the cultures and giving out little plot hints without moving the story forward much. The end of the book is well-paced, with action and character development intermixed. However, there is a lot of set-up to get there.

Another way that this book interested me was in its lack of a traditional villain. There were people with differing opinions, and people who made bad choices, but the Master Plan that drove the plot seemed almost a product of the entire culture rather than of any one antagonist. While this is probably more realistic than having a Chief Bad Guy, I don’t read my fantasy for that kind of realism. I found the way it was done interesting, though not to my taste.

I did enjoy reading this book, and the main characters managed to hold my interest even through the parts that seemed more like a character study than a novel. Anyone of an age to understand the language and situations can read it; while there were violent and implied sexual situations, they were all very vague and tasteful. If I were to put a restriction on this book, it would be for the ideas… not everyone can accept books that make them think.

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