Sharon Shinn's books often feel like a warm and cosy quilt wrapping me around. The characters are all basically good -- no one thinks of themselves as a villain, not even the bad guys. Also, most of them are smart and expect others to be smart as well. Not witty -- there isn't any sarcastic bantering, but more complex sentences and perfect vocabulary, even in dialogue.
I found the religion in Troubled Waters fascinating. Each person associates themselves with one of the five elements -- bone/wood, water/blood, air/breath, fire/spirit, earth/flesh. Temples have blessing coins you can pick from when you want guidance. More important, the characters treat all this with naturalness and dignity -- they know what they do from superstition but also how it seems to help their lives. The society seems richer and deeper because they all know things that they don't need to talk about, but which influence them in ways significant and trivial. The story itself wanders a bit (like the river the main character associates herself with), but I was happy to float along for a ride.
I'd recommend this to my 6th grader, but it's due at the library tomorrow and I think it's too cerebral for him -- he'd want all the characters to yell at each other a lot more. A-
And here's a pet peeve. I like to grab the image of the book from the author's webpage, but Shinn doesn't have a picture available. That's just silly. Yes, I know I can go to Amazon, but that's messier.