Carousel Sun – where the mundane world meets five other magical worlds

carousel sunCarousel Sun by Sharon Lee
Baen, February 4th, 2014 (Contemporary Fantasy)*

My rating: Vacation by the beach (Archer’s Beach, har har)

Carousel Sun, the sequel to Carousel Tides, dips back into Kate Archer’s life as Guardian of the land in Archer’s Beach, Maine. Only a little time has passed, and Kate is still growing into her power. So she’s taking magic lessons with her maternal grandfather, one of the great Ozali (mages) from the Land of the Flowers (an alternate universe, where magic is power and everyone is beautiful). Her grandmother, a dryad, is weary from her expedition to save her daughter, Kate’s mother. Borgan, Guardian of the Gulf of Maine near Archer’s Beach, is recovering from a grave wound he got in the last battle in Carousel Tides. A man named Joe Nemeier is the baddie – he’s the local drug lord causing disturbances in Archer’s Beach. Throughout, the land grows more lively, and the people of the carnival where Kate owns the carousel scheme to take advantage of an extended tourism season and the resulting prosperity.

Where this book excels is in its level of mundane, but interesting, detail. Where it drags is in the detail of mundane life. (See what I did there?) Seriously though, I have never enjoyed reading about everyday life as much as I did in this book. The carnival politics were almost as interesting as the magical happenings. On the other hand, every part of the book that covered carnival politics and daily doings of the main characters meant less coverage of the really interesting stuff, that is, the magic, the conflict, the romance.

Kate is a great character, strong-willed, determined, diplomatic, and at times vulnerable. Her bungled attempts at magic leave her with headaches and sometimes worse, along with chiding from Borgan and her grandfather, both experienced magic users. I enjoyed that she makes mistakes, learns from them, asks for help, moves on.

The romance between Borgan and Kate develops slowly, with Borgan giving Kate as much room as she needs, and sometimes more. When they have misunderstandings, they resolve them with maturity.

Magic in this world is unique, in that it can be inborn, absorbed from others who give it willingly (or not – as when two Ozali battle). The first provides the receiver with magic they can use once it settles, but the latter causes severe repercussions, as Kate discovers. Even more interesting is the world building. Kate’s and Borgan’s (and the humans’) world is connected by World Gates to five other universes, with various physical rules and levels and types of magic, as well as diverse political and social systems and different races (we meet an angel-like creature from one of the other worlds in this book).

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. The characters, fey and human alike, were interesting and realistic. The world building – well, let’s just say I hope to learn more about the other worlds. And the romance was sweet (one of my favorite parts). The slow pace and the mundanity of much of the plot ultimately lessened my reading experience.

*Review copy via NetGalley

Read-alikes

If you like reading about our reality, mixed with magic, you’ll probably enjoy this tale about a young woman who lives in the boundary between the mundane world (the Broken) and the fae world (the Weird). Rose is busy working a cleaning job and raising her younger brothers when one of the fae royalty walks through her wards and demands her help to stop his evil uncle, who has created a machine that turns out magic-devouring monster hounds.

On the Edge (The Edge #1)

Kate’s connection to the land is echoed in the Tir Alainn series by Anne Bishop. The Pillars of the World is about witches in Sylvalan, the world of humans, and about their connections to the spoiled Fae, who live in Tir Alainn. When a witch hunt arrives in Sylvalan, Fae, human, and witches alike must unite to prevent disaster.

The Pillars of the World (Tir Alainn #1)

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