The Charmed Sphere is one of the first offerings in the Luna imprint by Harlequin, trying to appeal to straight fantasy readers as well as their core romance readers. I'm less than impressed, having read this one, plus the collection of shorts (Charmed Destinies) that came out a couple of months ago. The Charmed Sphere tells the same story as the Asaro entry in Charmed Destinies, but with more of the time line on either side, and some more viewpoint characters.
Basically, the book felt clumsy. The first third or so I kept wondering why the writing seemed so choppy, with lots of short sentences and simple wording. I finally decided this might have been an attempt at writing a "fairy tale" style...maybe. Certainly it's not what I've seen in other books by Asaro. After a while, either that style went away or I got used to it, only to be bothered by a host of other niggles--usually a sign that I'm just not gripped by a story. Given a good story, I can ignore lots and lots. :) For example: the "songbird" that sang in the night while one couple made love (songbirds are almost always creatures of daylight...a later reference in the book to a night singing bird might have been an attempt to back-cover this). The improbable marching of the armies to battle, including the exhausted troops that arrive and win the day. Oh, and a vocabulary niggle: the use of "coronate" instead of "crown", multiple times. "If only Muller would let them coronate him..." Urk!
I've read some posts by Asaro on the RomSF list that gives her analysis of some of the stylistic differences in SF and romance--I wonder if The Charmed Sphere is her attempt to write "romance style". I'm not good at analyzing that sort of thing, so I'll just leave it that this book ended as a better read than it began, but I don't think it's one I'll ever re-read.
Also read this week: Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks by Kate Klise. Probably classed as "children's", maybe YA. My elder niece (4th grade) had checked it out of the library. Very cute tale of the two heinous criminals who have stolen the water source of a whole town, and how they are unmasked by a fifth-grade class with the assistance of a wacky designer of fountains. OK, the hydrology was rather suspect, but for this book I can ignore that. :) The niece's favorite part seemed to be all the people's names, as each one was a fish pun. Must procure a copy of a Xanth book and see if she's ready for it...
And from last week, The Making of a Marchioness, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Only my second adult novel by Burnett, who wrote The Secret Garden and (my favorite) A Little Princess. TMoaM was the reading for last month on my Burnett list, but I'm behind. Overall summary: too much the Victorian novel for me. The poor, down-trodden woman of gentle birth marries a marquis, and settles into the role. But we have to be told over and over how stupid she is (though kind, and gentle, and unable to see evil in anyone), and how far down he has reached to marry her. I'm concluding I really don't want my heroines (or heros) stupid...come to think of it, that was another irritation in the Asaro. Anyway, the book ends with a touching scene where the marquis realizes how much he has come to love her, and they will presumably live happily ever after in their mis-matched way. I think if I had read this book first at the age of 15 or so, I'd have loved it for the romance and dismissed the practicalities.