17. Dark Moon Defender (The Twelve Houses) by Sharon Shinn. 435 p. Published October 2006.
This is the third book in The Twelve Houses series, and uses Justin as the primary protagonist (if you remember from Mystic and Rider and The Thirteenth House, each book focuses on another member of the party). Justin, one of the King’s Riders, has been sent on a mission – to go under cover and search out threats to the kingdom. In particular, to trace the actions of the Lumanen Convent and it’s leader Coralinda Gisseltess, sister to the man who wishesss to overthrow the king. Convent gaurds have been suspected of attacking mystics and families loyal to the king, and it is Justin’s job to determine the truth.
Justin takes on the role of stableman in Neft, the town closest to the Convent. While there he comes across Ellynor, wandering lost and being harassed by a drunk. Justin, recognising Ellynor’s dress as one of the convent’s novices, befriends her.
Justin soon realizes that Ellynor is more than just a novice, but a mystic, which puts her in great peril. For the Lumanen Convent and Coralinda have declared mystics as evil creatures and demand they be put to the flame. Ellynor, however, does not believe she is a mystic, attributing her healing powers to her goddess The Dark Mother, sister to the Pale Mother of Coralinda’s faith.
Justin is torn as Ellynor return to the convent, and becomes determined to see her free of danger. This inevitably puts him in peril, and Ellynor must use her powers to save him, in turn revealing her mystic nature.
Shinn does an amazing job of developing the totally unrealistic romance between Justin and Ellynor (damsel in distress has been a tad overplayed in the last century). With plots as much character driven as anything, Dark Moon Defender is an excellent example of Shinn’s deftness with a pen. As in the other books, Senneth and the rest of the group make occasional appearances, keeping the reader current with the kingdom’s status. And, as always, the group joins together at the greatest moment of need. I have to admit, that part is starting to get a bit old, but the interaction between the entire group is enjoyable enough. All in all, this is a decent addition to the series.
Rating: 3 out of 5