8. The Thirteenth House (The Twelve Houses) by Sharon Shinn. 484 p. Published Spring 2006.
This is the second book in Shinn’s Twelve Houses series, and focuses on our royal shape-shifter Kirra Danalustrous. The Thirteenth House storyline takes off right where Mystic and Rider left us.
Kirra and her tight-knit group of friends rescue Romar, the man the King intends to charge with the Kingdom and heiring princess in case anything should happen. Romar’s capturers appear to be members of The Thirteenth House – merchants with riches to rival the royal families, but who lack official political power. The stirring of the Thirteenth House against the king worries Kirra and Senneth, already troubled by the rising rebellion of Halchon Giltress and his allies in the south.
After safely delivering Romar to his own gaurd, Kirra and Donnal, her friend and mystic companion, return home. There she finds that, not only will her father not contribute forces to the King’s army, but she has been usurped as eldest and heiress. Instead, her father chooses Casserrah, her younger sister. Despite what you may think, this does not trouble Kirra, who has found that her loyalties lie with the kingdom as a whole, not simply her own house.
Already itching to be on the road again, Kirra agrees to her father’s scheme – to take Casserrah’s place in the annual summer circuit of royal parties. Kirra, assuming her sisters shape, begins to travel the land, collecting information and determining where exactly everyone’s loyalties lie. She is joined by Senneth, also of noble birth, who is escorting the Queen and Princess. And of course, Tasye, King’s Rider and Senneth’s lover, Justin, Donnal and Cammon are along as well.
As the party heads southward, Kirra finds herself not only dealing with the political maneuverings of representing her sister and the King, but with a mysterious disease that is sweeping much of the land. And to complicate things further, Romar is also traveling the circuit, and it appears he may return her feeling of attraction. With sudden attacks on the Princess and Romar, and the unexpected interference of certain parties, Kirra must make some very tough decisions about her life, love, and magic that will change Kirra more deeply than her abilities ever had.
Shinn’s continuation of The Twelve Houses series is inspired. While Senneth retains much of the focus, each novel uses a different member of the group as protagonist. Of the four books, The Thirteenth House is my favorite. Conflict assails Kirra on every conceivable level, and I couldn’t help but empathize with her plight. Shinn’s astounding ability for complex characters truly has the reader ensnared. The Thirteenth House is a marvelous continuation of a great story. Look forward to my reviews on the final two parts.
Rating: 4 out of 5