I haven’t had it in me to delve into anything too deep lately, even as children’s books go. Thanks to the advice of a certain Sharon Shinn loving book blog, I finally picked up a couple of titles by this YA fantasy author and I enjoyed them very much. The first was Gateway and the second was General Winston’s Daughter. They’re both books I think the fantasy and romance loving teenage girls out there, whether they come from reading Twilight or Tamora Pierce, would probably enjoy. They’re both certainly romances, but rest assured, parents, they’re pretty tame.
I really liked Shinn’s writing style, which is descriptive and well done. I also liked her imagined landscapes. Gateway shows us an alternate universe just a step away from ours while General Winston’s Daughter depicts a world in a colonial struggle a bit like the scramble for Africa. Both books feature an interracial romance, which I thought was a positive element in the world of children’s books and fantasy. Both books deal with politics and oppression as the central character in each must learn to understand the world around them. The interracial romance serves to highlight and explore those issues.
My only complaint is that, like so many girl YA books, the heroines of each story were surprisingly passive. Events happen to them, rather than because of them. Each book has its reasons, of course. In Gateway, the main character has been thrown into an alternate universe. In General Winston’s Daughter, the main character has lived a sheltered life. This complaint was made about the books in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy. It has been made about the megahit Twilight books. Plotwise, there’s always a reason and sometimes, like with Katniss’s tragedy-struck life, it’s a plot element that’s there to explore deeper issues. However, it’s one that sits slightly uneasy with me. That’s not to detract from the other wonderful qualities of these books (well, we can detract from Twilight a little, can’t we?). And there are many books that don’t fall into this pitfall, showing strong women who do take charge of their lives. However, it’s one that’s beginning to wear on me as a reader.