Book 3 of the Twelve House series
Rebellion is brewing in Gillengaria and King Baryn has a lot of questions. In DARK MOON DEFENDER, he sends his guard Justin to investigate the activities of the Lumanen convent and the collaboration between its Lestra, Coralinda Gisseltees, and her brother Halchon.
Justin is reluctant to work alone, without the support of his friends or his fellow Riders, but obeys orders and finds work as a stable hand in a small town near the convent, a convenient post for spying. One night he rescues Ellynor, a young novice, from a drunken attacker and they become friends.
Ellynor is a Lirren girl and has been sent to the Lumanen convent as a companion for her cousin, Rosurie, who has been temporarily exiled to the convent to remove her from an unsuitable romance. A Lirren girl can only marry outside her clan if her suitor fights and kills one of her relatives, usually her father or brother.
Ellynor, like all Lirrens, is a follower of the Dark Mother but sees no conflict between that and going through the rituals of the convent where the Pale Mother is worshipped. Ellynor is a healer but, believing that this ability comes from the Dark Mother, does not consider herself a mystic. Justin, however, realises what she is and urges her to leave the convent where she will be killed if they find out she is a mystic, but Ellynor is reluctant to leave her cousin. She is also reluctant to tell Justin she is a Lirren, in spite of their developing relationship.
I enjoyed Justin in the first two books. I liked the way his unthinking aversion to mystics changed to acceptance and appreciation as he got to know some. I liked his interaction with the other members of the group, particularly with Kirra, and the way they became his family.
Unfortunately, this book separates Justin from his friends, and he becomes, I regret to say, boring. Ellynor is also boring. And silly. Well, maybe not silly as such but certainly young, inexperienced and naïve, and I am not particularly interested in young, inexperienced and naïve heroines or the silly things they do. I am still baffled about why she didn’t tell Justin she was Lirren. And even more baffled about how a mystic could live in a convent where mystics are abominated without anyone noticing. For a whole year. She wore and handled moonstones, which burn mystics, and nobody noticed?
The romance between Justin and Ellynor is sweet but not very interesting. The main obstacle, that they can’t marry unless Justin kills one of Ellynor’s much-loved relatives, is unknown to Justin for most of the book and then just fades away once Senneth gets involved. This was maddening given that the custom was described in the first book as unavoidable.
Another problem was that the book didn’t really advance the series plot. The individual books cover the romances of the members of the group, but the series looks as though it is going to be about the rebellion and its suppression/defeat/success. MYSTIC AND RIDER revealed the major players and issues; THE THIRTEENTH HOUSE revealed some of the minor, but no less dangerous, players, and the beginning of King Baryn’s move against the rebels. DARK MOON DEFENDER doesn’t seem to advance the series at all, particularly as Justin discovers little new information.
The best parts of the book are those with the other members of the original group, particularly Senneth and Tayse. Kirra is bit irritating in that she seems completely unchanged and unaffected by the harrowing, for her, events of the previous book.
I was not impressed with this book. It’s probably OK if you like sweet romances, but it fails to deliver on the promise of the first book.-Margaret
- More on the first two books in the series here.