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VINE VOICEon June 9, 2005
In "Mystic and Rider," Sharon Shinn introduces her readers to a new fantasy series. This book covers the journey of a rather strained party of travelers, four magically-gifted "mystics" and two King's riders who are assigned to protect them, as they move through the kingdom, trying to discern if rebellion or other issues are surfacing.

The book is definitely predictable. I had figured out several key plot devices well before the major characters did. It is also derivative: other authors have covered the "hate and fear magicians" topic before. However, I am still giving it five stars, because the plot is enjoyable, the characters are believable and interesting, and the world-building is great. I especially enjoyed that both Tayse and Sennath are very strong, but also very vulnerable at the same time. The villains are dangerous, irritating, and fanatical, but very believable. I also enjoyed watching the gradual evolution of the characters and their relationships with each another. I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment.
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on March 8, 2005
I'm opting to give this book four stars, simply because the ending was satisfying and I did enjoy reading it. There were some flaws though that irritated me throughout the way, and I was very disappointed in Shinn's writing style (her Archangel series seems to be very popular, and although I haven't read it, from the way I've seen her work described I expected better).

First off, it was very predictable. Not in the just-like-every-other-fantasy sense, although it wasn't anything terribly new, but I often found myself rolling my eyes since it would be obvious what happened next. I got the sense of just being strung along on a series of mediocre adventures with all obvious outcomes.

It took me about halfway through the book to actually bond with some of the characters, and it was not even close to the bonds I've felt with characters from other books (maybe its a problem, but I can really grow attached to a character if they're written right). I'm sure your meant to, since there are situations meant for just a thing, but it just doesn't work. For example, Tayse (the hero) stops talking to Senneth (the heroine) for ridiculous reasons. I understood why, in a sense, but I felt like I was missing a whole lot to make me actually relate to him. I get the feeling that Shinn was grasping at straws to create conflict between her main characters.

Despite all that, I was relatively happy closing this book. The loose ends were tied up fairly well considering this is the first book in the series, and I'll be able to wait patiently for the next book to come out. But maybe that isn't such a good thing, since some of the best books I've read keep me aching for the next chapter. I recommend this book as a light read, and if you go into it with few expectations I'm sure you'll enjoy it. It is definetly not a bad book, but it simply lacks what I want out of epic romantic fantasy. But who knows? This is just the beginning.
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on October 11, 2006
A party of very disparate people are roaming the kingdom on a mission for the King. Two of them are King's Riders, legendary warriors totally loyal to the King, and three are Mystics, magic users who are tolerated in the capital, but are looked at with suspicion by many, particularly in the southern kingdom, where the party is finding rumors of discontent and possible civil war and treachery. The leader of the party is Senneth, a woman with a mysterious past who is a powerful Mystic who can control fire and work some other kinds of magic, and who has the ear of the King, much to the consternation of the two distrustful Riders. With her is Kirra, a beautiful young noblewoman, who is also a Mystic, but protected by her powerful father who leads one of the Twelve Houses of the Kingdom. She is a shapeshifter, and so is the fifth person, a male servant/guard/companion, who is also a shape-changer. Despite their clashing personalities, they have a similar goal--to serve the king--and they work surprisingly well together, at the start, picking up a sixth member--a boy who is a Mystic. Senneth seems to have a heart for gathering strays, so he joins their group, saved from a life of servitude and danger as a lone Mystic. As their adventures continue, they gradually bond--very gradually! But that's part of the fun. They face a powerful noblewoman who has founded a fanatical religious order that is intent on wiping out Mystics, and her brother, a treacherous nobleman who blatantly schemes to take the crown. Along the way the party gets to know each other... even Senneth gradually has to give up her deepest secrets. I enjoyed seeing this odd party clash and bond. Their adventures weren't earth-shatteringly unique, but the world and the magic is interesting and looks to be a great place for more adventures that I'll happily follow.
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on March 22, 2007
Mystic and Rider (2005) is the first Fantasy novel in The Twelve Houses series. Gillengaria is ruled by a king, but the Marlords of the Twelve Houses control most of the land and commerce. If the king dies without heirs, a new king will be chosen from the Twelve Houses.

Mystics in Gillengaria have various talents and are often distrusted and even hated due to these unusual abilities. Senneth is a mystic, but different from all others whom she knows. She can control fire, bathing herself in it if she wishes, a daughter of the sun goddess.

Senneth is sometimes called the King's Mystic since she started doing missions for him. This time she has other mystics with her, Kirra and Donnal, who are shapeshifters, and Cammon, who is a sensitive. She is also accompanied by two King's Riders, who do not trust her at first.

In this novel, Senneth's party takes a side excursion into Dormas to free Cammon from indenture. His family had been overseas when his father died. He and his mother took ship to return to Gillengaria, but she died enroute. The ship's captain sold him to a tavern keeper to pay for their passage.

Once freed and escorted safely away from the town, Senneth starts teaching Cammon ways to use his mystical abilities. He begins to notice that he can perceive things without the use of his normal senses. Although Senneth has duties to perform at the present, she decides to introduce Cammon to some of her sensitive friends as soon as possible.

In a small town, the group discovers a strange phenomenon. Something is killing small animals and even a child and a passed out drunk. Senneth recognizes something familiar in the situation. After gathering more information, she decides that the killer is a raelynx, a wild cat from the Lirrenlands. Senneth sets out at night and lures the raelynx to her and then controls its mind and body. Despite a few protests, Senneth takes the raelynx with them on their mission, much like she included Cammon in the group.

In this story, Senneth is the nominal leader of the group, but encourages the others to contribute their ideas. Although it is her mission, Tayse is the actual leader for daily affairs and defensive decisions. In a sense, Senneth is the strategist and Tayse is the tactician.

Senneth and Tayse have to work together rather frequently and closely. Since she is not a King's Rider, Tayse doesn't trust her, but he beginning to have less distrust. Justin, the other Rider, also begins to respect her ability and judgment.

The group finds numerous indications of hatred toward mystics, from social disapproval to outright murder. The further south they travel, the worst the situation looks. They begin to hear more and more about the Daughters of the Pale Mother and their preaching against mystics. They also hear about the soldiers following the Pale Mother. Moreover, the southern Houses are beginning to expand their household troops.

Senneth and Kirra occasionally meet with the Marlords and discuss their views on mystics and the king. They find that the southern nobles are angry over the potential succession problem of the kingdom. King Baryn has only one daughter, Amalie, and she has been secluded for several years. Amalie's mother had died fairly recently and the King remarried shortly thereafter; some rumors said that the new Queen is a mystic.

Senneth is determined to push on to Gisseltess lands before she returns to Ghosenhall, the royal capital. The others suggest that she turn back sooner, but she is the mission leader and they follow her. Even when they encounter armed bands searching for them, they follow her. Even when Tayse is captured by hostile soldiers, they follow her. By this time, they have become a close-knit team and she is the leader.

Highly recommended for Shinn fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of magical talents, close combat, social encounters and a bit of romance.

-Arthur W. Jordin
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on May 4, 2006
I enjoyed the book very much, and found the characters intriguing and charming, but the plot really was pretty episodic. The reason seemed to be the necessity of introducing a setting that would serve over several books' length of series.

So the excuse was that we'd go meet each leader of 12 houses (I think we only made it through half of them, so the other half are probably in book 2), and the king, and the bad guys.

I like almost all Shinn's books that I've read, and find her writing style is appealingly warm. Like Senneth in the book, it spreads warmth everywhere but is hesitant to catch fire -- lest it do some damage. I think the character of Senneth is a good metaphor for how Shinn is as a writer. She always has the ability to burn everything down, or kill, but she really does not want to.

This means the scale of happenings in the book is mild. I prefer that, but others might miss torture, murder, sadism, or the like. There are fanatics and there are 'bad guys' but overall, they aren't melodramatically bad.

I like Shinn's tendency to romance plots, too. I didn't actually expect one in this book, though why, given that she always has them, I have no idea. But about halfway it became clear that it was a romance plot and all the better, the travelogue was getting a bit boring by then and I'd already figured out the characters' secrets.

If you have a soft spot in your heart and would rather not be a killer, rather adopt a man-eating mountain lion than shoot it, and rather risk your ex starting a war over you than kill him in self defense, this is the book for you. If a character like that would make an appealing heroine to you, likewise. :)
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on March 31, 2015
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. Isn't that what it's all about? Well sketched characters, who make you CARE about them? Sharon Shinn does that. I have read all four of this series, and I keep hoping she'll write one more. Come on, Sharon, just one more!
Decent, likeable people who aren't sure they like each other at first, by the end of the book they are blood brothers and sisters. All different, each a dazzling Faberge's egg of personality...gradually they seduce you into being one of them on their peregrination.
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on June 30, 2009
Mystic and Rider is the first in a series of fantasy novels staring a group of friends who are lead by Senneth a woman with mystical powers. Her team is composed of three other mystics and two soldiers. They are on a quest to discover the feelings of the people in the kingdom. On the way they encounter several traitors and a wild creature called a raelynx. I listened to the audio edition of this novel and found had potential but felt it lacked edginess and depth.

I like a bit more... Edge in my fantasy. Senneth and her group never felt quite real. There was no sexual tension, no edge, and certainly very little grit. Even when Senneth is injured this occured off stage. The relationships are all pretty chaste, almost like a young adult novel. Senneth loves Tayse, Donal loves Kira, etc, but they don't do anything other than get mad when they feel ignored/slighted or yearn very subtlely for each other.

Thus, listening to this story, it took me a long time to feel anything for these characters. I also felt the male characters were poorly described. For instance I know that Kira's hair is gold, and Senneth's is White, and what the ladies are wearing, but the guys are usually just described as dark. We learn towards the end that Donal is bearded, but by then, I had created an image of him in my own head, and it did not include a beard.

I think this was an ok effort. The author is capable of more, and I would've liked to see her ditch the Raelynx who was a bit annoying after awhile. Also Cammon (sp) grated on my nerves. I think this could be improved by maturing the series a bit and adding a bit more grit. I don't need every gory detail, but surely in a group of two women and four eligble guys there is more going on than playing cards and being bland. I want action! Hurt feelings! A coarse joke or two, something to make me feel these characters are less Ken and Barbie and more real.
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on April 4, 2013
I really enjoyed this book! I have read the entire series, and at the time I couldn't find this book so I read the second one first (Thirteen Houses). Sharon Shinn is such an amazing writer I was able to connect with Senneth, Cammon and Tayse without reading the Mystic and the Rider. This is a fantasy story with some good romance that isn't overwhelming. A man can read this and not feel like he just read a romance novel because of all the magic and action. I highly recommend the entire series, and I actually prefer this over the Archangel series because this has more romance and magic in it. I connected with all the characters in this book, and it is refreshing to see a strong female lead who isn't annoying.
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on February 24, 2015
I love this book. This is probably the 3rd time I have read it and I bought the e-book version so I will have it for next time. Yes, I will be adding the rest of the series as well. Why? Excellent writing-Sharon Shinn can tell a great story. I love the characters and wish desperately that I had been with them on their journey. Which gifts would you choose if you were a mystic? Me, definitely a shapeshifter. Running as a lion, flying as an eagle, swimming as a dolphin, what a wonderful dream. Time for book 2 I think!
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on February 18, 2015
I learned about Sharon Shinn through Sarah J. Maas' recommended authors, and I have to say I am not disappointed. I loved Shinn's writing, her characterization and story telling in general. The sweeping landscape of Gillengaria was easily visualized, and I became enthralled in the lives of the characters. I didn't want their journey to end, and I'm glad to see it hasn't. If you're looking for an enthralling fantasy, give this one a go. It was an easy read, as I didn't want to put it down.
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