Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses Series

MYSTIC AND RIDER by Sharon Shinn

Mystic and RiderThe 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 HouseSequel 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.

6 thoughts on “Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses Series”

  1. I really enjoyed both of these books. I felt a lot of the structure of the first book was to ease you into this world Shinn created, and I think it was done well. I do agree that the second book is harder to read because of the adultery and the essential selfishness of the heroine. But you see it come back to her at the end of the book, and you do see growth in all the characters with this, so I was satisfied overall.

    I’m very excited to see where the next book, due this fall and on Justin, will take us.


  2. I was very disappointed in the second book of this series. Shinn is one of my favorite writers, but this book does not come close to her usual level of excellence. The adultery/love story was offensive. The author’s attempt to make Kirra love self sacrificing at the end was cloying and saccharine. I will still read the next book.

  3. Really? I wasn’t disappointed at all. In fact, I think I might like the second better than the first. All of her House books are my backup-reads.

    In any case, the third one is fabulous, as well. I didn’t think so at first, but I warmed to it.

  4. I lost all respect for Kirra and Romar in this book. I guess the arranged marriages in the Twelve Houses mean adultery is just fine for the hero. Her friends will still stick with her because she is a noble from a great house. Maybe Kirra can be forgiven because she is a young wild child. Romar should know better.

  5. I enjoyed Mystic and Rider thoroughly, with no reservations. With The Thirteenth House, I found myself with a much more ambiguous story, suitable to the central character, I think. In many ways, I find Kirra an extremely appealing character, and in the novel, she comes of age. It’s not terribly admirable, but what growth opportunity is? Eventually we all learn that we are responsible to ourselves. I return to this book of the series most often, probably because Kirra does come through in the end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>