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''Summers at Castle Auburn'' by Sharon Shinn tells the story of Coriel, more commonly called Corie, a [[HeroicBastard bastard daughter]] of the illustrious Halsing family. She lives a simple village life with her [[RaisedByGrandparents maternal grandmother]], the local [[WidowWitch wise woman and witch]], as her apprentice until she is six years old when the noble side of her heritage comes to call. Her father is dead, her uncle wishes to see Corie properly cared for. From that year, Corie spends her summers at Castle Auburn with her [[OneeSama blue-blooded half-sister]] Elisandra.

Life at the castle is a completely different world from village life. Elisandra is [[ArrangedMarriage engaged]] to the [[PrinceCharmless crown prince]], Bryan, and has been since they were infants. The marriage, and Bryan ascending the throne, will happen when he turns twenty, something that makes the nobles of the realm nervous as they've been doing well under the stern but steady guidance of the regent, Bryan's uncle Matthew. Corie's beloved uncle Jaxon is involved in the capture and sale of aliora, something that troubles Corie more and more as she grows older. And Corie herself is trained to be a young noble lady by Elisandra's mother, Greta, in hopes of using her to make a politically advantageous marriage.

To make matters worse, even Corie's life away from court is not without its complications as her grandmother takes on another student and Corie is falling behind in her magical studies when she leaves for three months every summer. Corie struggles to make sense of personal and political forces around her and not only stay adrift but to carve out a life she wants and protect her most-beloved sister.
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!!''Summers at Castle Auburn'' provides examples of:
* AllGirlsWantBadBoys: Every girl at court, Corie included, is a little in love with the wild, handscome Prince Bryan.
* AnnoyingYoungerSibling: Averted. Corie has many traits that her proper older sister could find very irritating--curious, a tomboy, cheeky, nosy--but Elisandra not only doesn't mind, she loves Corie specifically because of those things.
* TheApprentice: Originally, Corie to her grandmother, though later Milette enters the picture as well.
* ArrangedMarriage: Elisandra has been engaged to Bryan since they were infants.
* AssholeVictim: [[spoiler: Bryan.]]
* BastardBastard: What little we know about Corie's mother says that she was a terrible person.
* BeautyEqualsGoodness: Entirely true for the aliora. Averted with Bryan.
* BelligerentSexualTension: Between Rowena and Jaxon. They clearly have very complicated feelings for each other, and they express it in veiled threats.
* BeneathTheMask: We see so much of Elisandra's mask that when she shows what she's really feeling it's almost shocking even to Corie.
* BewareTheNiceOnes: All over the story.
** Jaxon Halsing is a good, loving uncle to his nieces, but he's also a hunter and trader of aliora.
** [[spoiler: Andrew like all aliora is a pacifist and does not cause harm. But when Bryan injures Rowena, he turns against his master to protect his queen.]]
** [[spoiler: Elisandra is placid and sweet, and she poisons Bryan to get out of being married to him.]]
* BigFancyCastle: Castle Auburn.
* BlackWidow: [[spoiler: Elisandra murders Bryan on their wedding night.]]
* BrokenBird: Elisandra has to maintain her perfect calm, because going along with the machinations around her is the only way to keep it together.
* ChekhovsGun: Corie mentions a number of herbs through the story, what they do, and how they can be used for good or for ill. They get used sooner or later.
* ChildByRape: Corie. Though in an interesting reversal, her mother raped her father.
* CinderellaCircumstances: Corie.
* ComingOfAgeStory: For Corie in particular, but also for her friends.
* CoolUncle: Jaxon in spades. He travels widely, lives an exciting life, showers his nieces with gifts, and is pretty determined to live and die single.
* CrystalDragonJesus: Very, very minor. There is a mention of a god, indicating a monotheist society, but the worship of that god goes without mention aside from some wedding ceremonies.
* CynicismCatalyst: Corie takes one of her own potions that opens someone's eyes to reality. She blames this for her horrible realizations the summer she is seventeen, but it is more likely she just grew up enough to understand things.
* DisappearedDad: Elisandra and Corie's father is dead before the story begins.
* DoubleStandardRapeFemaleOnMale: Averted. Corie's grandmother basically comes out and says that her daughter seduced Corie's father with magic and raped him, and this wasn't the first time. She basically disowned her daughter after she disappeared.
* {{Elopement}}: [[spoiler: Elisandra runs away from court with Roderick and marries him.]]
* TheFairFolk[=/=]OurElvesAreBetter: The aliora, who are sometimes captured and sold into slavery in noble households. All metal, not just iron, hurts them.
* FeminineWomenCanCook: Invoked when Roderick basically says this. Corie points out to him that most noblewomen can't cook.
* FieryRedhead: Bryan is every negative stereotype associated with red hair.
* {{Foil}}: Kent and Bryan. They are cousins, members of the royal family, and polar opposites.
* FriendToAllLivingThings: The aliora as a race care for everything living. This is true of males and females.
* GildedCage: Castle Auburn.
* TheGloriousWarOfSisterlyRivalry: Completely and totally averted with Elisandra and Corie. While the girls each envy much about the other's circumstances, they are best friends.
* GoingNative: Humans who find themselves in Alora always do this. [[spoiler: Unless they're Jaxon Halsing, but even he gives in eventually.]]
* GrayEyes: The Ouvrelet family. Matthew follows the traits of type 2 the most strongly, being cold, strong-willed, unapproachable, and serious. His son Kent is a warmer personality, but shows many of the same traits. And then there's Bryan, who is the opposite of all of this.
* HairTriggerTemper: Anything slightly displeasing can set Bryan off, and he'll rant and rage until he gets his way or someone showers him with flattery.
* [[HappyMarriageCharade Happy Engagement Charade]]: Bryan and Elisandra know how to put on the performance of future king and queen and look good together (Corie notes that they are fantastic dance partners for example), but they don't love each other, or even like each other. They don't even have anything to say about each other. But politics demand they marry anyway.
* HeroicBastard: Corie.
* [[HeroesWantRedheads Heroines Want Redheads]]: Corie has a huge crush on redhead Prince Bryan.
* TheHighQueen: Rowena, queen of Alora.
* HugeGuyTinyGirl: Corie and Elisandra's parent figures (mother in Elisandra's case), Jaxon and Greta. Jaxon is a huge, wild-looking man, while Greta is so small that if she could ever be quiet, people would overlook her. Fortunately for Greta and unfortunately for those around her, she is never quiet.
** [[spoiler: This happens again when Jaxon marries the small, delicate Queen Rowena.]]
* IWantMyBelovedToBeHappy: Kent proposes to Elisandra so she won't have to marry Bryan [[spoiler: because Corie asked him to do it.]].
* KickTheDog: Bryan deliberately grabs an aliora without taking off his jewelry, knowing full well he's going to hurt her. [[KickTheSonOfABitch He gets cracked over the head with a wine bottle for it]].
* LikeBrotherAndSister: Corie and Elisandra have this kind of relationship with Kent, though Corie thinks Kent has deeper feelings for Elisandra. [[spoiler: It's actually Corie he's in love with.]]
* LovePotion: Corie makes some for a lovesick castle guard. The ethics of this are actually explored in the piece as she says her potion will only make the girl notice him, not love him. Corie could make standard love potions, but she doesn't want to practice "that kind of magic."
** A more standard love potion was involved in Corie's conception.
* MarryForLove: [[spoiler: Ultimately both Corie and Elisandra get to marry the men they love. Jaxon gets to marry the woman he loves, too.]]
* MissingMom: Corie's mother hasn't been seen or heard from since Corie was a toddler. Corie doesn't particularly mind.
* MyBelovedSmother: Greta is very much a smother to Elisandra, and in her desire to see her daughter become queen, she doesn't seem to know anything about Elisandra as a person. This isn't out of malice, Greta simply doesn't look deeper than Elisandra's fašade of calm.
* ObliviousToLove: Corie, painfully so. She doesn't see when someone is in love with her, and she's very bad at figuring out who is in love with who.
* OneeSama: Elisandra is practically perfect in every way, and she adores and dotes on her rough little sister. Corie would give anything to be just like her.
* ParentalSubstitute: Jaxon is the closest to a father that Corie and Elisandra have, and he tells them all the time how proud their father would be.
* PerfectPacifistPeople: The aliora. They as a race are almost incapable of doing harm.
* PrinceCharmless: Bryan is spoiled, hot-headed, cruel, and stupid. The only reason he isn't TheEvilPrince is because he totally lacks political ambition.
* ProperLady: Elisandra Halsing is the very image of what a young noblewoman should be.
* RaisedByGrandparents: Corie is being brought up by her maternal grandmother.
* RavenHairIvorySkin: Dark hair and pale skin in a trait that runs in the Halsing family. Elisandra, combining this coloring with her mother's delicate features, is a celebrated court beauty. Corie, though rougher around the edges, also [[SheCleansUpNicely cleans up well]] and has many suitors when she is old enough for the marriage market because of it.
** The aliora queen Rowena is so pale as to be almost white of skin with black hair. Other aliora regard her as being the epitome of their race in beauty.
* ReallyGetsAround: Bryan is implied to be this.
* RescueRomance: Played with. [[spoiler: Elisandra falls for Roderick not because he saved her, but because he saved her sister after Corie fell from a horse.]]
* RightfulKingReturns: This is the image of Bryan taking power that everyone pretends is the truth, because the reality is too depressing.
* RoyalBrat: Bryan, who is more into using his power to get his way than to actually do anything useful.
* RoyalsWhoActuallyDoSomething: Lord Matthew works very hard; he's one of the first people up in the morning and last people to sleep at night. His son Kent follows suit. As opposed to Bryan, who appears to be IdleRich.
* SilkHidingSteel: Elisandra isn't nearly as passive and helpless as she appears to be.
* SlaveLiberation: [[spoiler: Corie takes it upon herself to free all the aliora when they're all in Castle Auburn for the royal wedding.]]
* SlaveRace: The aliora in captivity.
* SpiritedYoungLady: Corie in spades, though she tries to show her spirit in ways that are socially acceptable, such as quietly ruining every attempt to marry her off.
* SpoiledSweet: The Halsing girls. Elisandra is the future queen, and is still kind, gracious, and humble. Corie only lives the high life three months of the year, but she still never lets it go to her head.
* StepfordSmiler: Elisandra.
* SuddenlySuitableSuitor: [[spoiler: When Kent proposes to Corie at the end, Jaxon has declared himself legally dead and his nieces as his heirs. Thus Corie, the only eligible Halsing daughter, is suddenly a suitable queen.]]
* SugarAndIcePersonality: Elisandra shows a mild form of this. She is unfailingly kind, patient, and gracious with everyone, but she is also almost too calm. With someone she really loves like Corie, she is more open and affectionate.
* SuperHumanTrafficking: Aliora are taken as slaves for their intelligence, beauty, gentleness, and the subtle magic of their soothing presence.
* TamperingWithFoodAndDrink: Bryan has a taster specifically because he fears being poisoned, and even stops drinking water from the famous castle well because he claims it can't be trusted. [[spoiler: Of course, he eventually dies by poisoning, and to make it even more ironic, the antidote was in the water.]]
* TomboyAndGirlyGirl: Corie and Elisandra.
* TheUnpronounceable: Aliora names are too hard for humans to say, so humans call them by approximations or even rename them--Rowena, Cressida, Andrew.
* {{Utopia}}: Alora, which for all intents and purposes is Faerie.
* WickedStepmother: Corie treats Greta as such, but she acknowledges that their relationship is a complicated one and doesn't blame Greta for disliking her.
* WideEyedIdealist: Corie starts out this way, but as she gets older she realizes the world isn't as simple and beautiful as it seems.
* WidowedAtTheWedding: Bryan is poisoned at his wedding feast [[spoiler:by his bride.]]
* TheWrongfulHeirToTheThrone: Bryan Ouvrelet will make a terrible king and everyone knows it and there's nothing anyone can legally do to stop it.