This is the first in the Twelve Houses fantasy series. I was a bit hesitant to get this because it’s often said to be romantic fantasy. I’m glad that I decided to get it because it turned out that to me the romance was a subplot and not the main plot. Also, I’m intrigued by the concept of the series: that the main characters in every book are different but come from the same circle of friends.

Good: characters

Not-so-good: pretty standard setting

Bad: –

Senneth is a very powerful mystic with a mysterious past. She’s also the leader of a team of five people whom the king has sent to investigate rumors of rebellion. Kirra and Donnal are also mystics but their power is mainly the ability to change their shape. Kirra can take on the shape of most animals and to change her human form and clothing. She’s also a noble. Donnal can take on the shapes of animals. He’s a peasant-born and has protected Kirra for a long time. The king has charged Justin and Tayse to protect the three mystics. Tayse and Justin are two of the most elite fighting men in the country; they are the King’s Riders who put their loyal to their King before anything else. The story starts when the group frees a young slave, Cammon, who continues to travel with them. Cammon is also a powerful mystic who is a reader. A reader can see into the souls of other people However, he has never been trained and so Senneth and Kirra start to instruct him. Tayse and Justin don’t trust the mystics and the mystics don’t, of course, like that.

The mood of the people has turned against mystics. While before mystics were at worst just thrown out of their house and family, now they are even killed. The king finds mystics to be very useful and so he’s rather fond of them and employs many of them. The group finds out that a group of priestesses who are devoted to the Pale Mother are encouraging the people to turn against the mystics. The priestesses claim that the mystics are evil and corrupted and will corrupt all other as well. Because the group has four mystics they have to face these attitudes or hide effectively.

The king has heard rumors that some of his nobles are not content and has sent his best mystic to investigate them. Senneth has connections to the nobles as does Kirra so they can approach the nobles who seem to be the most unsatisfied. But the roads are dangerous even to a group like this. They have to learn how to work as a team and to trust each other.

The story is quite character-driven which is somewhat unusual for epic fantasy. While the main plotline is fulfilling the king’s order of probing the loyalties of some of his nobles, the adventures that happen along the way are usually initiated by the characters opinions or attitudes. The main plot isn’t completely solved in this book but the ending isn’t a cliffhanger.

Characters: 7 The characters aren’t really original but they have their own personalities and histories which makes them interesting.

Plot: 6,5 There are quite a few side or subplots which move quite quickly. Still, the main plot is pretty standard fare.

Setting: 7 The setting is quite standard pseudo-medieval country. The only difference is the magic. Each mystic in the group has her or his own distinctive power but apparently the powers are pretty rigidly grouped because Senneth can quickly name Cammon’s power. Senneth herself is a fire mystic who has many powers.

Overall: I liked this book more than I expected. I’ll likely get the next one although I’m not in a hurry to do it. I also really liked the unhurried reader.