Reader and Raelynx by Sharon Shinn

Reader and Raelynx by Sharon Shinn is the fourth book in the Twelve Houses series. My friend Celina of The Bookkeeper was nice enough to let me borrow her copy of this book. As always, thanks! Reading order: Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, Dark Moon Defender, Reader and Raelynx, Fortune and Fate. Should the books be read in order? Yes. Also, don’t read any of the synopses of the latter books if you haven’t read the earlier ones. They contain spoilery bits. Seriously, what is up with the summaries for these books? They all have spoilers. Reader and Raelynx is about the mystic Cammon, the last of the six companions featured in the series. In this world, mystics are people who have magical abilities. Cammon’s skill lies in being able to read people – while he can’t exactly read minds, he can still get a sense of what people are feeling and what their intentions are. He can spot violence miles away because that emotion stands out. He can also sense the other companions in the series – Senneth, Tayse, Kirra, Donnal and Justin – wherever they end up in the country. Cammon’s talents are pretty useful when it comes to spotting danger. At the start of the novel, he’s assigned to protect the princess and help her in selecting the right husband. Princess Amalie needs to marry and preferably produce an heir to the throne so the succession would become less of a problem for the kingdom. So Cammon’s job is pretty important. I found it easy to like Cammon as a character because he’s nice, friendly and has good intentions. He doesn’t care about material wealth and is actually pretty clueless about social classes. He judges people based on how he feels about them and not on how influential they are to the realm.

Out of all the books that I’ve read in the Twelve Houses series, Reader and Raelynx is the one that I like the most. I feel like the rest of the books are all about the build up and the climax occurs in this book. Right from the start of the series, war has been brewing in the land and the six companions are doing everything that they can to support the king and keep the peace. There’s not much that I can say without giving away details or spoilers about the plot so let me leave it at this: Big Events happen during Reader and Raelynx and a lot of secrets are revealed. I didn’t find any of the revelations surprising but I still enjoyed reading about them. As expected, all the other companions are present in this novel and that’s one thing that I like about this series – all of the books focus on one set of characters and the story arc ties them all together. I appreciate knowing more about the characters from the other books and I liked seeing them in this one. The last novel in the series is more a companion novel because it doesn’t focus on the initial six companions and is set a couple of years after this one so no need to hurry to read it. Like I said in my reviews of the other books, I recommend this series to fans of epic fantasy. Overall, I still like the Samaria series more than the Twelve Houses novels but at this point, Sharon Shinn is pretty much an auto-buy (or auto-read) author for me.

I couldn’t find a copy of the book cover with a higher resolution but I did see the artwork used for it on Tumblr:

Other reviews:
Angieville
See Michelle Read

Dark Moon Defender by Sharon Shinn

Dark Moon Defender is the third book in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. Reading order: Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, Dark Moon Defender, Reader and Raelynx, Fortune and Fate. Should the books be read in order? Yes. Also, don’t read any of the synopses of the latter books if you haven’t read the earlier ones. They contain spoilery bits. Even the summary for this book has some spoilers. Dark Moon Defender is all about Justin, Tayse’s fellow Rider. He’s present in the two other novels and finally gets his own story (and romance!) in this one. Justin has been assigned on a spy mission. The king wants concrete proof that Coralinda Gisseltess, head of the convent of devotees of the Pale Mother, is committing violent acts against mystics. Mystics are individuals with magical abilities and Coralinda firmly believes that the Pale Mother, the moon goddess, hates magic. Justin settles down in the town of Neft as a stable-hand. He tries to keep a low profile so as not to attract attention. Without meaning to, he befriends Ellynor, a young novice at the convent. The companions from the earlier books – Cammon, Senneth, Tayse, Kirra and Donnal – drop by to visit Justin from time to time.

I feel like Justin’s novel is different from the rest of the companions’ because he’s a King’s Rider with no magical powers unlike the other mystics in the group. Justin and Tayse are two of the best Riders in the realm. Riders are skilled fighters, devoted to the king. For some reason, I wasn’t as convinced of their incredible fighting skills as I’d like. I realized that it’s mostly because the author tells the reader that they’re excellent fighters instead of showing their prowess through the Riders’ actions. It’s different with the mystics because there are several instances for them to demonstrate their power. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted. Also, it’s the first book in the series where the companions spend time apart. Justin is all by himself so the story jumps from his point of view to one of the other characters. The scenes that I liked the most were the ones where they’re all together. This storytelling format reminded me of Sharon Shinn’s Samaria series and Justin’s book, in particular, is similar to Angel-Seeker. Why? There’s forbidden romance in both books and the characters need to sneak around in order to be together.

I did enjoy reading the book as a whole because we get to learn more about other aspects of the world – Ellynor’s heritage and details about the convent when the story shifts to her point of view. It’s funny because even though I had problems with each book in the series so far, the author has managed to make me care enough about the characters to continue reading about them. As such, I feel like this is a series that I can recommend to anyone who’s looking to sink his or her teeth into a fantasy series that’s easy to follow. I’m going to stick with the series until the end. I’m already in the middle of the next book, Reader and Raelynx, and I think it’s more exciting than the other books because it’s marked with climactic events that the previous books have been leading up to.

Other reviews:
Dear Author
Songs and Stories
The Melander Bookshelf
Rosario’s Reading Journal

Retro Friday: The Thirteenth House 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.

The Thirteenth House is the second book in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. Reading order: Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, Dark Moon Defender, Reader and Raelynx, Fortune and Fate. Should the books be read in order? Yes. Also, don’t read any of the synopses of the latter books if you haven’t read the earlier ones. Don’t even read the summary for this book because it contains spoilers. I made the mistake of doing that and I think I would have had a better reading experience if I had no idea of what was going to happen. Mystic and Rider focused on two of the six companions in the Twelve Houses series, Senneth and Tayse. The Thirteenth House is all about the serramarra Kirra and there’s a bit about Donnal too because he’s always beside Kirra.

The novel starts with an adventure for Kirra, Donnal, Justin and Cammon. They’ve been requested by the king to rescue an important figure in the realm. Kirra is her usual fun-loving self although she manages to pull off being serious in the face of danger. I really liked Kirra’s character and I was looking forward to reading more about her. She’s such a vibrant character, so full of life. I did enjoy the fact that the other characters were present in this one, makes me feel like the characters are old friends. We get to know more about them as the whole gang tags along with Senneth as she accompanies the princess to tour the realm. Like I said, I liked Kirra’s personality but I didn’t think she made wise decisions in matters of the heart. I couldn’t root for her romance and was actually wondering how Sharon Shinn would pull off the ending. I was satisfied with the book as a whole. I still haven’t fallen in love with the series at this point but I like it well enough to continue with the rest of the books. I would have liked to have more of Donnal in Kirra’s story since he doesn’t get to have his own book. I feel like we don’t get to know enough about him.

In the first book, readers saw the Twelve Houses world through the stealthy travels of the companions. In this book, readers are given a glimpse of the nobility, the fine houses that they live in and the political intrigue that’s tied with their way of life. The plot hinting at possible war continues with the added complication of members of the Thirteenth House, the lesser nobles of the Houses. This is the kind of series that makes you want to read the books one right after the other to grasp the overall story arc. Also, when you’ve invested in the characters, you just want to stick with them until you reach the end of their story. I’m actually in the middle of the third book, which is about Justin, but I’ve been put it on hold to read some other things. I hope to get back to it soon. Recommended for epic fantasy fans who enjoy reading series.

Other reviews:
Songs and Stories
Rosario’s Reading Journal
The Melander Bookshelf

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
ArtSeblis
Songs and Stories
Cookies, Books and Bikes