Titles: Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, & Dark Moon Defender
Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: 2005-2006, Ace
So since the move from NY, I have been mostly unemployed. I had planned to take a few weeks off to just relax and laze about, something I haven't been able to do in years (that whole making a living deal really gets in the way sometimes). It has been reeeeaallly nice. And it got even nicer when I started Mystic and Rider and was able to spend about four days completely immersed in the world of Gillengaria, where Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series takes place. Whole days on my couch with a good book. Ack! Is there anything better?
I discovered Sharon Shinn through the lovely ladies at Dear Author. I read Archangel and was very impressed with her beautiful writing, though the world of Samaria somehow didn't do much for me. Thank goodness I gave her another shot, because this series I LOVE.
Mystic and Rider introduces us to Senneth, a mystic (a woman endowed with magic) who can create and control fire. Though mystics are often looked upon with fear by many people in Gillengaria, she is a trusted advisor to King Baryn. She is sent by the king on a trip through the southern provinces to investigate rumors of malcontent among the people there. Baryn sends two of his most trusted men, King's Riders named Tayse and Justin, along to protect her. Kirra Danalustrous, another mystic who has the power of shapeshifting, and her loyal friend Donnal also join them. Along the way they pick up a young man named Cammon, rescuing him from indentured servitude to a mystic-hater (Cammon is an extraordinarily talented empath). So the six of them ride throughout the land having all sorts of adventures, slowly going from strangers, to wary acquaintances, to the most loyal of friends.
I don't want to make this post tediously long, so these blurbs are going to be ridiculously short. In the second book, The Thirteenth House, Kirra comes to the fore. The six friends are reunited as they accompany the princess Amalie on a social tour of the land, protecting her from her many enemies. Kirra falls in love with Romar Brendyn, the handsome, though married, regent. He becomes a target for the members of the Thirteenth House, the class of lesser powerful lords. Kirra (and friends) must use all her power and cunning to keep him safe.
And the third in the series, Dark Moon Defender, focuses on Justin's adventure as he is sent to the city of Neft to spy on the Lumanen Convent. This is a religious order that is gaining power throughout the land, headed by the mysterious Coralinda Gisseltess. The fanatical teachings of Coralinda claim that all magic is evil and that all mystics must be killed. Justin meets a young novice in the convent named Ellynor, who soon shows that she has mystical abilities herself. As Justin falls in love with her, he must persuade her to leave the convent before her secret is revealed and she is put into terrible danger.
Those were horrible synopses, because there is a lot more to these stories than that. I'm not sure that it's particularly original fantasy, but the world-building is very cleverly done. Lots of great details so that right from the start I was firmly entrenched in the world, and by the end of the third I never wanted to leave. :)
And really, I don't know where to start listing the all the things I liked about these books. The writing is fantastic, lovely and lyrical without ever coming close to being melodramatic. The action is swift and fun. But I think my favorite part of this series is the way the six main characters form such a fantastic unit. They are a motley crew, each incredibly different from the others, but they make themselves into a family. I loved seeing them all come back in each book, picking up together and building more and more bonds of friendship.
The fourth (and I believe, last) book in the series is Reader and Raelynx, due out in November.