I was drawn to this because I'm a fan of Sharon Shinn, especially her novel Summers at Castle Auburn, admittedly one of the lesser-known ones in her portfolio. When I found out that my good friend from Celina's Books and Magazines was selling a hardcover edition of Quatrain, which contained a companion story to Summers at Castle Auburn, I instantly snapped it up.
Quatrain is a collection of four novellas set in Ms Shinn's different worlds. "Flight" is a prequel to her Samaria series. It revolves around Salome, a former angel-seeker who now spends her days far away from the angel holds, in a farm where she can raise her teenage niece Sheba. Little does she know that Archangel Raphael's arrival will send their world into turmoil. I like that Salome is in her forties, and her worldly wisdom is justified by her past. "Flight" is rife with family secrets and betrayals, especially when Salome is forced to confront her past and the lover who suffered because of her choices.
"Blood" is perhaps my favorite story in the collection, though I am least familiar with Ms Shinn's sci-fi novel Heart of Gold, in whose world this tale takes place. Here, three races -- the indigo, the gulden, and the albino -- live in relative harmony. Kerk joins his stepmother's family in a new city, with the hopes of finding his real mother there. To do this, he turns to an indigo heiress who takes him under her wing and introduces him to The Lost City. But his new environment and friendships slowly are making him question the man he has become. What I appreciated about this was how it utilized Kerk's search to explore issues of prejudice, responsibility, and family. There were plenty of moments that resonated with me. The story feels very contemporary, though I wouldn't have known that it took place in a sci-fi world had I not read up on it beforehand.
"Gold" is the reason why I bought this in the first place, a medieval-type romance that takes place years after the events of Summers at Castle Auburn. Princess Zara is hastily sent to the magical kingdom of Alora, to avoid being caught in a potential war in her own world. But there are many temptations that lurk underneath Alora's dazzling beauty, and Zara must face a different kind of battle from the one she has left behind. It is a lovely story, but maybe my rather high expectations prevented me from enjoying this more. (I had hoped to read more about Zara's parents, whom I adore!)
The final story is a prequel to Ms Shinn's Twelve Houses series. "Flame" is about her Mystic and Rider protagonist Senneth, a mystic who must face fear and prejudice in a small town that she has tried to help. Of all the stories, this had the most 'cinematic' climax though I thought it was the most open-ended of all. As far as prequels go, I felt that this one served its purpose by laying the groundwork and setting the tone for the subsequent series.
Here are Ms Shinn's words from her website: 'While these four stories take place in radically different worlds, a lot of little details tie them together. For instance, the titles roughly correspond to the four elements; all four open with an almost identical sentence. And a few other things like that. :) If I could have managed it, I’d have made each story the same number of words, but that proved to be impossible! I loved revisiting my old worlds, and the collection was a lot of fun to write.' Another central theme to these novellas is that of forgiveness, despite the many faces and forms of betrayal, ignorance, inconstancy, and mistrust. This made it much easier for me to move between worlds, assured that Ms Shinn's capable writing will turn disparate settings into one delicate and cohesive read.