Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn (Twelve Houses Series: Book 1)

7/10 Lack of focus translates to a lack of tension.

Gillengaria seethes with unrest. In the south, hostility toward magic and its users has risen to a dangerous level, though King Baryn has ordered that such mystics are to be tolerated. It is whispered that he issued the decree because his new wife used her magic powers to ensnare him…

The King knows that there are those in the noble Twelve Houses who could use this growing dissent to overthrow him. So he dispatches the mystic Senneth to assess the threat throughout the realm. Accompanying her is a motley band of magic users and warriors including Tayse, first among the King's Riders – who holds a hard view of mystics in general and Senneth in particular

But as the unlikely allies venture further into the south, they will face death in a land under the sway of a fanatical cult that would purge Gillengaria of all magic users. And they will come to realize that their only hope of survival lies in standing together.

I've got rather mixed views on this book. On the one hand, the characters are just how I like them; vivid, complicated and sympathetic. The world is detailed, consistent and shown just so without acres of description. On the other hand, the action pertaining to the plot was just too meandering to hold me. While the romantic sub plot was fairly nicely done (not much in the way of fireworks though), the main plot centres on a group of people touring the countryside gathering information, which, to be frank, isn't all that exciting and lacks focus. That lack of focus translates to a lack of tension as the travels are a series of incidents that do little to thicken the plot or up conflict. Rather, the company meets a different, mostly unrelated problem, at various points. There is a snowstorm. They rescue someone. They save a village. There is no sense of rising action or conflict, which stays pretty much the same throughout. While there are incidents that play out nicely, and obviously this is the start of a series so groundwork is being laid, some scenes felt like filler and the overarching plot never really solidified for me, leading to a climax that was rather a let down considering the build up to it. It does read very much as a 'first in series', almost like a book length prologue. One can only hope that now this is out of the way, the following books can pick up the threads and use them convincingly.

I dithered for a while about the score for this one, because while I like Shinn's writing, as a book it left me feeling unsatisfied. In the end I gave a seven because for some readers who like a relaxed pace this might be just their thing. Sadly, it has not encouraged me to pick up the second in the series.

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Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses Series series

Mystic and Rider

Twelve Houses Series: Book 1

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