Monday, July 07, 2008

The Thirteenth House; Sharon Shinn

This is the second in the Twelve Houses series, the first is Mystic and Rider and the third title is Dark Moon Rider. Link to Ms. Shinn's website in the title above. Ms. Shinn is well known for her Samaria series, but I’ve not read any of them yet. I think it would be easy to pick up the Twelve Houses series with this book, each book stands on it's own. Although be prepared to want the the rest of them!

The set up is as follows: small group of spies, made up of professional soldiers and mystics, is information gathering and going on missions for the king in the kingdom of Gillengaria. The kingdom is made up of twelve feudal lords under their overlord the king. Several of the lords are fomenting political and religious dissent, thus the king’s concern causes him to form this intrepid group.

In the opener, Serra (a courtesy title similar to Lady) Kirra Danalustrous, her faithful companion Donnal and Justin infiltrate a remote manor the rescue the missing regent, Lord Romar. The king is still alive, but fears of assassination and imminent war lead the king to name a regent for his daughter Princess Amalie- just in case the worst case scenario happens. Events in Serra Kirra’s home province of Danalustrous cause her to assume her sister’s image and identity and then go on a grand tour of the kingdom with Princess Amalie, Queen Valri, Senneth, Tayse, Donnal, Cammon and Justin. It’s basically Gillengaria’s traditional social round, similar to the Season in Regency romances.

The problem is Serra Kirra and Lord Romar embark on a hot affair amid all of the intrigue. To complicate matters, Lord Romar figures out Kirra’s true identity. And he’s already married. But they don’t care. Big surprise. Adrenaline, danger and the thrill of the forbidden spur them on against all odds. However nothing is as it seems and the situation steadily gets more and more dangerous as the tour progresses. Donnal and Kirra are estranged because of the choices she’s making. The Princess is not as malleable as her protectors might prefer. Not to mention an odd disease spreading through Gillengaria, and the unusual, possibly unethical, cure discovered by Kirra.

I especially enjoyed the reappearance of all of the companions from the first novel. Their friendship and continuing character development were very satisfying. The political and social dynamics and the resulting changes and uncertainties are quite well done. Gillengaria itself is a well tended character in the story. Romar and Kirra’s torrid, urgent feelings and actions were very realistic although I thought the wrap up between Kirra and Donnal was...unfinished, I suppose. Murky. Then again that might be the romance reader in me, wishing and hoping.

The Thirteenth House is a satisfying addition to the Twelve Houses series. Highly recommended.

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