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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fortune and Fate by Sharon Shinn

Fortune and Fate by Sharon Shinn. New York: Ace Books, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-441-01636-5

The last book I blogged was the fourth in Mercedes Lackey's “500 Kingdoms” fantasy series. This is the fifth book in Sharon Shinn's “Thirteen Houses” series. And both series have quickly become favorites. Not only that, but I think this is the best book yet in this series. Initially, I probably wouldn't have thought so, since the main character is not one of the primary characters from the other volumes (although they get significant space also), but rather, the one King's Rider who chose NOT to become a Queen's Rider.

Wen is her name, and she no longer feels worthy to be a Rider, one of the elite corps of royal guards that are more than a cut above the regular soldier, and are willing to give their lives to protect their monarch. That's the problem, you see. Wen was standing next to the king when he was killed. The Riders were literally overwhelmed by hundreds of off-island assassins, who came over the walls of the royal palace totally without warning.

Wen feels that for the king to be dead, and she to still be alive, represents a complete failure on her part, and she is no longer worthy to be a Rider. Even though the Riders were vastly outnumbered, and the assassin who killed the king came through the dead rider on the other side of the king, not through Wen. Nevertheless, she left the royal court, and began aimlessly wandering throughout the kingdom of Gillengaria, utterly and completely depressed, caring not whether she lives or dies.

Unexpectedly she rescues the daughter, now heir, of the very man, head of a noble house, who was one of the prime instigators of the uprising against the king. Against her will, and with extreme reluctance, only because she sees a need, she agrees to become the captain of the sixteen-year-old girl's guard, and, mind you, only temporarily, until a suitable replacement can be found.

The tale of how she gradually becomes involved with this family, formerly enemies of her sovereign, is truly heartwarming, in only the way that this classic “romance” plot element can be when used at its finest. By that I mean the person who initially dislikes someone or something, but gradually, over time, has a change of heart.

Only here, the romantic element (woman meets man, woman gets man) is peripheral to the plot; the romance that we get caught up in, is Wen's gradual acceptance of herself as a person worthy to be alive, and with an important role to fill, a role that she comes to value, as she comes to value herself.

Highly recommended, and probably OK to read, even if you haven't read the rest of the series, but the story will make more sense if you have read the others. They are Mystic and Rider (2005), The Thirteenth House and Dark Moon Defender (both 2006), and Reader and Raelynx (2007). Since there are thirteen houses, do you suppose there will be thirteen novels in the series? I don't know, but I certainly hope so!

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