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The Quilty Reader

Lawyer, mother, avid reader. Game host extraordinaire! Partner in crime to Obsidian Black Plague! My bookish weaknesses include classics, fantasy, YA, and agreeing to read more books than is even remotely possible.

Series Review: The Twelve Houses by Sharon Shinn

A week or so ago, I posted about the first book in this series, called Mystic and Rider. I read the series a couple of years ago, but had been hankering for a light, romantic fantasy series, so I decided to reread. I've now finished the self-contained first four books of the series, which resolves the storylines related to main characters introduced in Mystic and Rider.



The Thirteenth House is the second book, and is probably my least favorite of the four. It focuses on the romance of Kirra Danalustrous, shifter and serramarra of the House of Danalustrous. A serramarra is a Gillengarian title along the lines of "duchess." Very high born, second only to the king/queen.  Kirra becomes involved in an affair with a married noble who has been appointed as regent. The book as a whole is fine, and advances the main story arc about a group of rebel nobles who are getting ready to declare war against the king.


However, I don't really much like stories about infidelity, and Kirra is a bit of a self-centered twit. She takes the whole idea of noble entitlement a bit too far to my mind. She is a powerful mystic, but comes off as self-absorbed and immature.



The third book tells the story of Justin, King's Rider, who falls in love with a novitiate at the convent run by Coralinda Gisseltess. This book develops the religious persecution sub-theme running through the books.


I really liked this installment. While the object of Justin's affections initially comes across as a weak and much-too-girlish character, Shinn does a good job of adding substance to her. One of the issues I have with attempts to write "strong women characters" is that authors sometimes seem to be unable to break out of the warrior-girl stereotype. It is possible for a female character to be "strong" without being able to wield a sword and kick man-ass all over the place. Emotional fortitude, wisdom, endurance and resilience can also be characteristics of a "strong" but less flashy, character. Being physically weak does not necessarily mean that a character is "weak."


So, Ellynor is not a character with tremendous physical strength. But she does have a great deal of emotional strength, and she is stubborn. I thought that the relationship between Justin and Ellynor was sweet and romantic. 



Reader and Raelynx wraps up the original quartet and brings resolution to all of the characters, and to the Gillengarian rebellion. The fourth book is a satisfying ending to the series, and provides an HEA to the only remaining character from the first book that has not yet gotten one - Cammon.


It also neatly wraps up a number of other loose ends - Sabina Gisseltess, Queen Valri, Princess Amalie, Darryn Rappengrass, Coralinda Gisseltess and the Lumanen Convent.


I thought that the religious persecution subplot was an interesting story-arc for the series.  Overall, the world-building in this series is interesting, and I liked Shinn's mystics and the way she structured her system of magic.


There is, actually, a fifth book in the series that I have just started reading for the first time. It is a companion, not a continuation, and begins two years after the ending of the fourth book. 


Overall, I'd give the series 3 1/2 stars, broken down as follows:


Book 1: 4 stars

Book 2: 2 1/2 stars

Book 3: 4 stars

Book 4: 3 stars