5. Mystic and Rider (The Twelve Houses) by Sharon Shinn. 448 p. Published March 2005.
Mystic and Rider is the first book in the Twelve Houses series, and opens practically mid-adventure. The good King Baryn has sent his emissaries to investigate rumors of dissent and unrest among the southern holds of his kingdom. So out rides Senneth, a master of fire; Kirra and Donnal, shape shifters; and Tayse and Justin, members of the king’s elite force of Riders. Senneth, Kirra, and Donnal are mystics – people of the land endowed with supernatural abilities – a class that is quickly attracting fear and hate across the kingdom.
As they head south, the group comes across Cammon, another mystic of unusual talent, enslaved at a local tavern. After rescuing him, the group decides to bring Cammon along as they head southward, only to find yet another stranded soul – a wild raelynx who stalks the countryside. Senneth manages to subdue the wild cat and expand the group once more.
Finally reaching the royal houses of the south, Kirra, a Lady herself, helps Senneth in fleshing out the threat to the kingdom. As they progress father from the capital, Senneth and the others find what they most feared – rebellion and racial hostility. Soon enough Tayse is captured by a dark anti-mystic sisterhood that is quickly overpowering the religious inclinations of the populace. This leaves Senneth, quickly realizing her fondness for Tayse may be something more, in need of a way to free him and also warn the king.
While Mystic and Rider has a gripping plot, Shinn truly drives the story with her fantastic characters and their developing relationship. If there is a flaw with this book, it’s that the developing plot actually extends over the next three volumes. But when you consider how enjoyable Mystic and Rider was (despite being a random grab off the library shelf), the sequels are sure to please.
Rating: 4 out of 5