MYSTIC AND RIDER by Sharon Shinn
The king is getting old, his mysterious second wife has failed to produce any children, and his only heir is his 18-year-old daughter who nobody ever sees. Some of the powerful families (known as the 12 Houses) see this as their chance to grab the throne, and some of the less powerful families (known collectively as the thirteenth house) see this as their chance to become more powerful.
Senneth, a powerful mystic (magic user) has been sent out by the king to investigate feelings and activity among the southern Houses. She is accompanied by Tayse and Justin, who are Kings’ Riders (elite guard), Kirra Danalustrous, the mystic daughter of one of the 12 Lords of the kingdom, and Donnal, another mystic assigned by Kirra’s father to guard her. Early on they are joined by Cammon, a young and untrained mystic.
The book is episodic so mainly consists of travel and adventures as they discover worrying alliances and a determined hate campaign against mystics. The real story arc is not so much the plot as the developing relationships among the group. At the start the Riders dislike and distrust the mystics and are disliked in turn. Senneth is nominally in charge but Justin obeys Tayse, not her, and Donnal obeys Kirra. As they learn more about each other and are forced to rely on each other the dislike and distrust are reduced and they become a cohesive group. A closer relationship develops between Senneth and Tayse who find themselves attracted to each other. Tayse finds this more disturbing than Senneth does as he feels there is no hope of any future together; however, everyone else, particularly Senneth, is in favour.–Margaret
THE THIRTEENTH HOUSE by Sharon Shinn
Sequel to MYSTIC AND RIDER. To quell rumours that his daughter is unfit to be Queen, the King has sent her on a circuit of the 12 Houses. She is accompanied by her stepmother, Senneth, and a group of King’s Riders, including Tayse and Justin. Cammon goes along as well.
In the meantime, Kirra’s younger sister has been named as Heir to Danalustrous and should also go on a circuit of the houses but refuses to leave the land she loves. Their father suggests Kirra, a shapeshifter, impersonate her. She agrees and, accompanied by her sister’s maid and Donnal, sets out. Naturally they soon join up with the princess and Senneth and the group is together again.
The royal party is also joined by the princess’s uncle Romar who has been named as regent-to-be, if one is needed. Life becomes more complicated as the princess and Romar come under attack and, as if this isn’t enough, Kirra and Romar fall madly in lust and embark upon an adulterous affair to the irritation, disgust, and distress of Kirra’s companions. I don’t enjoy reading about adultery and thought less of Kirra for her thoughtlessness and selfishness but her actions are not condoned by her companions, and she eventually comes to see the price others are paying for her self-indulgence.
I enjoyed this book, too, but not as much as MYSTIC AND RIDER. I look forward to the next in the series.–Margaret
- See our previous thoughts on MYSTIC AND RIDER here.