Friday, July 04, 2008

Mystic and Rider; Sharon Shinn

A few days ago I wrote out a short review, longhand. Then it got buried under a pile of crap on my nightstand. After that it grew weird tie dye splotches in the middle of the page. So now I have to read through the splotches and remember what I wrote the first time. If only I was less of a procrastinator or more organized or both!

I came across the Twelve Houses series quite by accident, if you really want to know. A few weeks ago I read an anthology titled The Queen in Winter to which Sharon Shinn contributed a story. Her story and her writing caught my attention, so I put requests in at the library. Eventually I had all of the Twelve Houses books sitting on my shelves.

Mystic and Rider is set in a small feudal kingdom, Gillengaria, comprised of twelve regional lords and the king. The lords are restive, deliberately fomenting political and religious unrest. The king sends a small party out into the kingdom to listen in at the taverns and at the great halls and the inns and the posting houses to try and get a feel for what’s going on, what people are saying and doing in relation to the political situation.

One of the traveling party is Senneth, a fire mystic and swordswoman. She holds her cards close to her chest, tries to live up to her ideals and is a confidante of the king. Other than that, she’s not too much for sharing confidences. And she’s defintitely not intimidated by the likes of soldiers. Independent and intelligent, Senneth is warm and caring yet also has a quality of watchfulness that sometimes marks one who has been down the road a mile or two. And not the flat easy sections either. What makes Senneth tick and why does Tayse attract her attention so?

Tayse is a member of the elite King’s Riders and specifically assigned to keep Senneth safe amid the myriad dangers inherent with travel. He is suspicious of Senneth because of her refusal to discuss her background in any detail, not to mention the elemental power in her bones. Tayse grew up in the insular world of professional soldiers in the capital city. Never needed to venture beyond his comfort zones until he met Senneth. Tayse’s first loyalty is to their king, who told Tayse to keep Senneth safe. So that’s his first priority. She puzzles him though. Very much so and very much against his will.

Although MaR is a fantasy, there are strong romantic elements. Senneth and Tayse dance warily around each other like fencers probing for the first opening. Meanwhile the political situation steadily worsens, and religious fanaticism rears its ugly head. Gillengaria and its people fascinated me. Unlike many countries, primogeniture isn’t restricted to males. First born women can inherit titles and property. Women often hold what traditionally man’s jobs, for example smithing or mercenary for hire. Yet slavery, in the guise of indentured servitude, was accepted even if not widespread. Religious fanaticism and intolerance were spreading.

Mystic and Rider is the first in a multibook arc. I have read everything available & they are all quite good, reviews coming soonest. Second title in the series is The Thirteenth House, currently out in paperback. The newest title will be Fortune and Fate , coming this November according to Locus Magazine although Ms. Shinn's website (click link in title above) says only fall 2008. Very highly recommended.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great series to read over the summer! Bring the first book down when you come on Wednesday!
Ta Maman