Only as he lies dying does the exiled Navarr Ardelay tell his daughter Zoe to remember that she is part of her mother's family too. Only under duress does Zoe return to the capital city, when royal adviser Darien Serlast collects her from her remote village, telling her she has been chosen to be the king's fifth wife. Once she reaches the city, she walks away from her escort for no reason she can name, still numb with grief, and settles in with the homeless community by the riverbank. There, she gradually comes to discover what it was that neither her father nor Darien Serlast would tell her: that she is the missing heir to her grandmother's power, and the rightful head of one of the five greatest families in the kingdom.
When she's on top of her game, there's no one like Sharon Shinn for creating fantastic societies that feel real. I particularly liked the elemental system in this one: everyone is ruled by one of the five elements, earth, air, water, fire or wood. Each element is associated with certain blessings, and temples offer a sort of do-it-yourself divination where people can draw a random blessing. The politics of palace and riverside both made sense, because both places were inhabited by people who felt real.
I don't know if this is meant to be a stand-alone novel or the start of a series, but I know I'd be interested in more stories in this setting.