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While not as original as Shinn's popular Archangel trilogy, this first of four in the Twelve Houses series, set in the land of Gillengaria, is tailor-made for the growing audience of fantasy fans who like a good juicy romance. Elderly King Baryn sits on a shaky throne, wed to a strange childless queen, and hides his only heir, a daughter. To investigate rumors that Gillengaria's southern noble houses are plotting revolt and fostering a pogrom against mystics born with supernatural powers, Baryn sends out five diverse individuals: Senneth, a female mystic who commands fire; Kirra, an aristocratic healer and shape-changer; Kirra's shape-shifting servant, Donnal; and Tayse and Justin, two elite King's Riders deeply distrustful of mystics. After rescuing the boy Cammon (an orphan empath) and a raelynx (a savage cat), the party undergoes increasingly perilous adventures while a disturbing attraction between Senneth and Tayse builds into profound and forbidden love. Shinn's spellbinding characterizations, especially that of the hard-bitten Tayse, who loses his heart to the powerful yet vulnerable Senneth, animate this familiar parade of shifting political alliances and disparate adventurers who gradually bond. Shinn's complicated pantheon of gods fallen mostly into disregard, a plethora of unsolved puzzles and ample promise of her characters' lives "changed by love" in future installments make for a rich beginning.
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*Starred Review* Gillengaria abounds in magic, yet its mystics, the carriers of magic, aren't well regarded. Tolerated in the North by royal order, in the South they're feared, even hated. Lately it appears that organized riders are attacking and murdering mystics. To verify and assess the situation, King Baryn dispatches fire mystic Senneth to the South. With her are foremost King's Rider Tayse; Baryn's shape-changing mystic daughter, Kirra; Kirra's mystic servant, Donnal; scrappy street-urchin-turned-Rider Justin, whose only lost fight was with Tayse; and orphaned Cammon, found serving ale in a tavern, who Senneth suspects is a mystic. They make a tension-filled group, especially because Justin is hostile to mystics and Tayse is uneasy around Senneth. Much of the book concerns their learning to trust and accept one another, and to work together. Pressing deeper into dangerous territory, they hear that the southern king's new, mystic wife has bewitched him, and a moon-goddess cult bent on eradicating mystics is suddenly popular. It's all too clear that, when the 12 ruling houses begin choosing sides, civil war could be the upshot. Clean, elegant prose is, as usual, one of the joys of a Shinn novel, and here it conjures entirely likable major characters and an interesting group-development narrative. Never tripping over the plot twists and complications, Shinn gives us an easy, absorbing, high-quality read sans gratuitous bloodshed and violence. Paula Luedtke
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
My favorite book in the series! Originally read this whn Iwas in hugh school an I still go back to it all the timePublished 6 days ago by CC72335
Honestly, it seems silly to be writing this review now. This book, and the others of the Twelve Houses series claim a special spot on my bookshelf. Read morePublished 2 months ago by ADropofInkReviews
It has been a while, since I first picked up a Meljean Brook's, Thea Harrison, or a Patrick Briggs, that I have been so enthralled by an author! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kindle Customer
I found this book to start off incredibly slow and found myself unable to decide if I liked the book or not through most of it. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Sophie
Wonderful world building with a series of great characters all of whom are layered and well worth spending hours of time with. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jennifer
I've read this several times; despite the reviews claiming everything is predictable, this is a wonderful book. The magic is in the people, not in the plot. Read morePublished 5 months ago by James Kenney
I liked the issues of isolation, friendship, loneliness, duty and how these themes were explored in the context of a fantasy world. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kindle Customer