21. Reader and Raelynx (The Twelve Houses) by Sharon Shinn. 420 p. Published November 2007.
This, the fourth book in The Twelve Houses series, serves to culminate everything building in Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, and Dark Moon Defender. The war is coming, and all our heroes must do their part to prepare for battle. Cammon takes his turn as the primary protagonist, and finds himself charged with protecting Princess Amalie. Using his gift to read the emotions of those around him, Cammon seeks to aid the princess in finding her suitor. But neither Cammon is unprepared for the romance that begins to bud between himself and the princess and must come to terms with the consequences such a relationship would have.
The rest of our faithful group must also prepare for the coming battle. Justin and Ellynor, now wed, return to the king and begin their duties as royal protectors. Senneth, Tayse, Kirra, and Donnal head to House Danalustrous for the wedding between Kirra’s sister and Senneth’s brother. But they are caught unprepared when their many adversaries strike in a synchronized attack spanning all the realms in the kingdom. Senneth, Tayse, Kirra, and Donnal find themselves battling in their wedding garb.
In the capital itself, foreign assassins swarm the King’s castle, unsensed by Cammon until they are nearly upon him. Cammon finds himself defending the princess aside the Raelynx, and while he faithfully protects his charge, the attack costs the kingdom dearly. And it is finally revealed to all that Princess Amalie herself is a mystic.
Girded for war, the group marches out with the aid of mystics and armies from across the land. But with their magics ineffective against foreigners, Senneth and the others must fight harder than ever before in order to preserve the kingdom.
This final book of The Twelve Houses is not Shinn’s strongest. While I was overjoyed to finally bring everything together and close the story, there are a number of plot devices that go untouched and a few others that Shinn has seriously overplayed. While Shinn obviously believes in happy endings, to have each book end in practically the same form left the series unremarkable. I can understand Shinn’s focus on characters, but the constant pursuit of romance in each of them renders them cliche. Frankly, my favorite book in the series features the heroine who doesn’t get the guy and is left heartbroken (The Thirteenth House); It’s almost refreshing. In the end, the story that develops in Reader and Raelynx suffers from an obvious need to bring the series to a close. The plot comes across as contrived and ill-planned, and the world itself is left sadly underdeveloped.
Rating: 2 out of 5