Retro Friday: Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Mystic and Rider is the first book in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. I enjoyed reading the Samaria series by the same author and Archangel is one of my favorite books. I think I’ve read more contemporary titles than fantasy this year so I find myself wanting to read more of the latter. I decided it would be a good idea to give this series a try.

Here’s the summary from Sharon Shinn’s website:

The fire mystic Senneth crosses the country of Gillengaria on a mission for the king, trying to discover if noble marlords from the Twelve Houses are planning an uprising. She is accompanied by the soldiers Justin and Tayse, two King’s Riders who are unswervingly loyal to the crown. Also on the journey are the shape-changers Kirra and Donnal, and a young mystic named Cammon who can practically read minds. It’s soon clear that not only are marlords planning a rebellion, but that they are being aided by Daughters of the Pale Mother, a fanatical religious sect that hates mystics. While Senneth can clearly take care of herself, Tayse finds himself unable to stop watching her — determined both to protect her and to uncover her secrets.

And an interesting tidbit from the author: The thing that most people seemed to find disappointing about the Samaria books was that they didn’t follow the same people through successive storylines, so from the outset I planned the Twelve Houses books as a series about six main characters. I gave Senneth my own headaches just so I could share the pain.

I like the idea that the entire series features one group of characters. I’ve actually finished reading the first two books but I’ll review the second one after this. Just like the Samaria books, each of the Twelve Houses books features a romantic couple. I guess it’s pretty obvious from the title Mystic and Rider who those two are. Senneth is a mystic, a person with magical abilities, and she can control fire while Tayse is a King’s Rider, a member of the elite guard dedicated to serving the crown. It’s easy to like both Senneth and Tayse – the former for being a strong female protagonist who has a mysterious past and the latter for his loyalty and willingness to serve and follow his king’s commands. I actually guessed Senneth’s heritage way before it was revealed but I didn’t mind knowing it early.

I liked that the point of view changes from Senneth to Tayse and back again because we get to see how both characters think. I also like that this series deals with the same set of characters. I felt like this first book was an introduction to the six companions – Senneth, Tayse, Justin, Kirra, Donnal and Cammon. I obviously liked the first book well enough to start the second one right away. While I felt that the romance in Mystic and Rider was more quiet and restrained than I’d like, I understood that it reflected the personalities of the two individuals involved. Like a friend on Goodreads mentioned, Senneth and Tayse become the mother and father figure of the group because they’re several years older than the other characters. They’re both older, wiser and more subdued than the rest of the group.

The same goes for the worldbuilding, I felt that this book introduces readers to the world of Gillengaria, where the nobles (and the ruling class) come from Twelve Houses. The companions travel all over the country to gather information for the king. The readers get to know more about the nobles and a possible uprising because of the growing distrust against mystics. Because the books were meant to be read in order, the plot will make you want to read one book right after the other to get more information not just about the characters but about the fate of the kingdom. While I wasn’t blown away by the first book, I think the Twelve Houses series looks promising and I recommend it for fans of epic fantasy looking for a solid series to read.

Other reviews:
Dear Author
Songs and Stories
Cookies, Books and Bikes

7 thoughts on “Retro Friday: Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn

  1. I definitely have been reading more contemporary as well and want to read more fantasy. It’s good to see that this is a nice intro to the world. You’ve left me dying to hear how the next book fared – romance, characters, etc! I hope you can review it soon.

    • I think we’ve influenced each other (and were influenced by other blogging buddies as well) to read more contemporaries this year. LOL sorry about that, was trying to decide if I should review the series as a whole but then realized that I wanted to talk about the books individually. I’ll try to review the next book soon. Maybe right after BBAW. 🙂

  2. Chachic! You make me smile with your RF choices. I love this book and this series. You’re right, this one is an introduction for sure. And if you’ve read the next one, you know all sorts of unexpected drama goes on. I liked how she switched POV characters, but never lost sight of the importance of the six of them throughout the duration of the series. That often happens and results in a lessening of sorts for me. I’m glad Shinn avoids it here. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the others and who your favorite characters are.

    • I’m just happy whenever I read a book that I can review for Retro Friday. 🙂 I love highlighting under-the-radar titles. I saw on Goodreads that you and Michelle have read the whole series and I got excited about discussing the books with both of you. I liked how different this is from the Samaria series but just as fun to read. And yes, I like how she never forgets all of the six characters throughout the series. I’m actually looking forward to reading more about Senneth and Tayse in the other books.

  3. Pingback: Retro Friday: The Thirteenth House by Sharon Shinn « Chachic's Book Nook

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