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Mystic and Rider

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Author: Sharon Shinn

Published: February 28th 2006 by Ace (first published March 1st 2005)

Format: Mass Market Paperback , 432 pages

Isbn: 9780441013036

Language: English


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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 there are those in the noble Twelve Houses who could use this growing diss 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 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 farther 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…

30 review for Mystic and Rider

  1. 5 out of 5

    Keertana

    From the ages of six through thirteen, I dreaded Back-to-School Night. Every year, my parents would meet the new teacher I had been assigned that fall and every year, that teacher would repeat the same phrase: "...an advanced and voracious reader, but fails to read diversely." Following those meetings, my parents would return home with a concerned frown on their faces, having been told their daughter was bright and apt in all subjects, but simply refused to pick up a novel outside the fantasy ge From the ages of six through thirteen, I dreaded Back-to-School Night. Every year, my parents would meet the new teacher I had been assigned that fall and every year, that teacher would repeat the same phrase: "...an advanced and voracious reader, but fails to read diversely." Following those meetings, my parents would return home with a concerned frown on their faces, having been told their daughter was bright and apt in all subjects, but simply refused to pick up a novel outside the fantasy genre. In fact, it is thanks to those very same Back-to-School Nights that I've stockpiled on beautiful editions of the classics: everything from Little Women to Anne of Green Gables has made its way under my Christmas tree for years, to no avail. Eventually, I grew bold enough to venture into contemporary fiction, but to this day, it fails to bring me the same sense of grounding -- of lightness of being, if you will -- as fantasy does. I can't explain it, but there's something incredibly calming about losing yourself in an other world, forced to remember a multitude of names, cities, and countries which don't exist on our plane, but do in another. Mystic and Rider, after a long and hollow reading slump, has awakened my passion for both reading and writing after a too-fatigued era of empty novels. Inevitably, fantasy never fails to bring me around; I just don't know why it took me this long to remember. Shinn's introduction into her Twelve Houses Series is a bold and unforgettable story. I dare you to try to put this aside after finishing its first chapter -- it may as well be declared impossible. While many reviewers have claimed Mystic and Rider is slow to start, I found it riveting from beginning to end, unable to turn my eyes away from this tale of political turmoil and religious upheaval. Gillengaria, a country overseen by a king, twelve houses, and home to mystics, is in grave danger. Rumors that the king has been ensnared by a sorceress, his young new queen, have shaken the land and, secretly, the houses prepare for war. Senneth, a mystic in the king's favor, is dispatched with two of the King's Riders, Tayse and Justin, alongside Kirra, another mystic, to travel the kingdom and bring back news of the nation's unrest. From the surface, Mystic and Rider follows the most basic format known within the fantasy genre. Shinn's novels, as I've learned, though action-packed with plenty of intriguing plot action, are driven primarily by her characters. Senneth, our protagonist, is a powerful mystic, capable of controlling fire. Kirra, a shapeshifter, joins her journey with her bodyguard, Donnal, yet another shapeshifter. Lastly, Cammon, a young boy Senneth finds in captivity and frees, discovers that he, too, is a mystic, capable of sensing those nearby. Accompanied by two King's Riders, deadly bodyguards whose sworn loyalty to the king and weaponry skills are legendary, the six traveling companions are far from friends. Justin mistrusts mystics and aristocrats, Donnal mistrusts anyone who isn't Kirra, and Tayse is wary of Senneth for her secrets and, more importantly, for her lack of allegiances. With the exception of Senneth and Cammon, each of these travelers bears loyalty either for the king or for one of the twelve noble houses they belong to. With a multitude of warring loyalties, the inner politics of this group alone are sufficient to carry forward this story. But Shinn's world-building is beyond impressive. Mystics, or those who possess magical ability, burn when brought in direct contact with moonstones. As such, a religious sect devoted to the Pale Goddess of the Moon, is bent on eradicating the mystics from Gillengaria. Meanwhile, the twelve houses are torn, some determined to erase mystics while others merely seek to install a different king to the throne. Wherever Senneth and her group of companions travel, they lack no end of deception, intrigue, and danger at every corner. What makes Mystic and Rider a remarkable novel, despite its hefty length, is its sheer presence. Shinn allows her characters to creep under your skin, slowly but surely. Each of these six travelers, remarkably unique and starkly different in their own light, find a way to breach their differences and trust one another, quite unexpectedly, as the story wears on. In most novels, such situations can seem easily contrived but Shinn weaves these into the narrative, never deviating her focus from Senneth's task and the political upheaval of this nation. Yet, the emotional impact of this novel never suffers for that focus, only benefits from it. Moreover, though, the romance present within the pages of Mystic and Rider stole my breath away. Subtle and slow, wavering but kind, doubtful yet aware; it's a mature, entirely beautiful arc that unfolds carefully, rewarding the reader for their patience. Senneth, the protagonist and one of the main narrators of this tale alongside Tayse, is precisely the type of heroine I crave to read about. While she is powerful, she is no "Chosen One" for her successes are empty without the help of those around her. Yet, it is her strength of will that builds her into such a compelling protagonist. Shinn balances courage alongside vulnerability so well within each of her characters, rendering them incredibly realistic, and then she does it again, balancing their personalities and strong wills alongside a romantic interest in such a way that they complement one another, on perfect ground and equal footing despite the surface inequalities that may lie between them. I remain in awe of her skill, constantly, and can only be grateful for having discovered such characters; characters who not only understand one another, but who -- inexplicably -- understand me. It is hard to tell if I've enjoyed Mystic and Rider more or Troubled Waters, though I suspect it is the former, after all. Sharon Shinn's novels, even the one I have been disappointed by, always manage to strike a powerful cord within me, likely because of their quiet brilliance. While I heartily love the loud, voracious novels of fantasy, such as The Song of Fire and Ice Series, I find that I equally appreciate -- if not more -- the silent stories; just as strong, just as fiery, just as compelling.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melindam

    Highly recommended to fans of the sword & sorcery / romantic fantasy genres. Trouble may be brewing in the mythical Kingdom of Gillengaria ruled by a king, but divided into 12 fiefdoms of so-called "Great Houses", each headed by marlords or marladies loyal to the king. Or are they? King Baryn sends his trusted counselor, Senneth in the company of her friends Kirra (a daughter of one of Gillengaria's marlords) & Donnal (Kirra's companion) to suss out how the land lies as he has reason to suspect t Highly recommended to fans of the sword & sorcery / romantic fantasy genres. Trouble may be brewing in the mythical Kingdom of Gillengaria ruled by a king, but divided into 12 fiefdoms of so-called "Great Houses", each headed by marlords or marladies loyal to the king. Or are they? King Baryn sends his trusted counselor, Senneth in the company of her friends Kirra (a daughter of one of Gillengaria's marlords) & Donnal (Kirra's companion) to suss out how the land lies as he has reason to suspect that the marlords/ladies from the South are contemplating rebellion to dethrone him. Their reasons are that he is old, has only one daughter & his second wife, a pretty young woman, is most probably a mystic, who bewitched him. Mystics are people born with some kind of magic affinity (fire bringers, shapeshifters, mind-readers, etc..). They are feared and despised in most parts of the Kingdom -so most of them get cast out as soon as their inheritance manifests in some way - but they are tolerated in some places and actually encouraged in Ghosenhall (the capital of Gillengaria). Meanwhile, Coralinda Gisseltess, sister to marlord Halchon (head of the Great House Gisseltess) has established a convent to worship the Moon Goddess, gaining power and influence all over in Gillengaria. She and her growing number of righteous, zealous followers start persecuting mystics & threatening their very lives. Senneth is to find out how allegiances are divided, who is for and against the king's rule. The journey is not without dangers, so 2 of the King's most trusted, elite warriors -called the King's Riders- Tayse and Justin accompany them. It is not a pleasant journey socially either, as the Riders don't trust Senneth or her friends because all three are powerful mystics. On their way they rescue a young mystic boy, named Cammon, from capture and that raises the level of tension considerably. However, views and values get reconsidered and re-established by the end of their journey that proves more perilous than any of them would have expected. The dangers they all have to face forge between them an unbreakable bond of friendship that will last a lifetime. Just like most of Sharon Shinn stories, this book draws you in very fast so that you cannot wait to learn more and more about the plot, the characters and their world. Shinn is soooo incredibly good at political intrigue & world-building and as the story goes on, she raises the tension subtly, but gradually and you just want to keep on reading till the very end. And the way this unlikely group of people turn from mistrustful and hostile to allies, friends or more, is juts wonderful to experience. I listened to the audiobook version: Jennifer van Dyck does a great job, just like she did with Troubled Waters. I love her style and her ability to bring Sharon Shinn’s world so powerfully to me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Read for my 2018 women of speculative fiction challenge. “You say I have the power to break you- well, you have changed me, and I did not think I was capable of changing again. I only hope you will not abandon me, so altered and strange to myself, because you think I am too proud to accept your love. I would hate for my life to go on like that, empty of you. I think I would be the one to finally break, after that.” I read because there is no other medium that makes me feel as much as books do, and Read for my 2018 women of speculative fiction challenge. “You say I have the power to break you- well, you have changed me, and I did not think I was capable of changing again. I only hope you will not abandon me, so altered and strange to myself, because you think I am too proud to accept your love. I would hate for my life to go on like that, empty of you. I think I would be the one to finally break, after that.” I read because there is no other medium that makes me feel as much as books do, and every book makes me feel an entirely special and individual way. Mystic and Rider made me feel the cozy kind of peace that comes with being surrounded by the people who love you unconditionally on a stormy night. It is immensely comforting without being saccharine, and I don’t think that is the easiest feat to accomplish. So What’s It About? There are stirrings of discontent in the southern Houses of Gillengaria, rumors of growing power and terrible acts committed against magic users. The King dispatches the talented mystic Senneth to travel the twelve Houses of the kingdom and assess the true level of danger to the throne. A number of unlikely allies accompany her: two of the most esteemed King’s Riders, Tayse and Justin, the noble and well-connected mystic Kirra and her loyal companion Donnal, and an enslaved mystic boy that they free early in their quest, Cammon. As they travel they grow closer and realize that this closeness may be the only thing that will keep them alive through their increasingly dangerous journey. What Did I Think? There really is absolutely nothing like a found family, is there? I live for those motley collections of oddballs who bicker and squabble with the ease that comes with familiarity, who gradually come to share more of who they are and love each other is spite of and because of their differences. When Mystic and Rider starts there are very clear demarcations of loyalty between members of the traveling party – Tayse and Justin are a guarded, almost-hostile unit, Kirra and Donnal are another unit, albeit much friendlier, and Cammon and Senneth are the loners. Through a gradual and delicate process throughout the story these demarcations blur and ease until the whole is much greater than its parts. Senneth is at the heart of this process and a great deal of her growth comes from gradually realizing that she can let her walls down and trust others. As the gang travels with company of soldiers at the end of their journey, it is apparent how true this is, and how much the others have come to care for her: “Everyone was civil to her, though completely indifferent; she thought, if she wanted, she could slip away entirely. Except that , on the day she was feeling most glum about her near-invisibility, Cammon sought her out to reside beside her for two solid hours. Except that, over nearly every meal as she was being most outrageous, Kirra would send a look and a smile her way. Except that, when a Rider accidentally bumped Senneth on horseback, Justin was instantly beside her, calling the young man by all sorts of furious names and making sure that Senneth was entirely unhurt. Except that, every night as he made his circuit around the campfire, Tayse looked first for her.” I said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but it should be clear that those individual parts are also very special. Each member of the group is a well-drawn and dimensional individual- Senneth is calm, serene and steady, Kirra is delightfully charming and warm, Donnal is long-suffering and single-mindedly devoted to Kirra, Justin is surly and defensive, Tayse is guarded but steadfast and rational, and Cammon is both shy and eager to learn. I want to talk about Justin and Kirra in a little more detail, as they were the standout members of the cast to me. When the story begins, Justin is easily the most hostile character- he is fiercely devoted to Tayse but has nothing but contempt for the rest of the group. As the story progresses, it gradually becomes clear that a great deal of this comes from the manner in which Tayse rescued him from a life of deprivation and violence. When Tayse is kidnapped, Justin shows more vulnerability than he has at any other point in the story and must learn to trust the other members of the group. The following is my favorite moment in the book, so you’ll have to excuse the long quote: “Let go of me!” he cried. “He is-Tayse is- I have to go to him! Stay here if you want-all of you-but I must find him! He is-he is-“ And he stood there in the middle of the road, that sneering, cynical boy, and began to weep with grief. “Justin-Justin.” Senneth exclaimed, pulling him back to her with one hand on his arm, putting her other hand up to his cheek. “Justin, listen to me, we will get him back. Justin, do yo hear me?”… He tried desperately to stop his crying and made an effort to turn away from her, humiliated and terrified and paralyzed with helplessness… “We will go after him. But we have to have a plan. Are you with me, Justin? Will you trust me? I can do this. But you have to help.” Finally he looked at her, his eyes swollen, his face blotched with tears and terror. For a moment she way the boy Tayse must have seen so long ago on the streets of Ghosenhall-fighting for his life knowing it was such an easy thing to lose. She put her hands again to both sides of his face and drew him closer so that his forehead rested against hers. “I trust you,” he whispered. “What do you want me to do?” What a beautiful moment, right? It shows so much of Senneth’s strength and kindness, and so much of the fear and devotion that Justin carries with him in equal measure. I was also delighted by Kirra, who is just this exuberant, charming beam of light and goodness. I have an incredible soft spot for the type of character that she is- I lovr charming and warm and possibly-slightly-spoiled female characters who may be written off as superficial by some people but have secret hidden depths of insight and strength. To level with you, most of my notes for this review were just passages involving Kirra being an absolute revelation: Kirra gestured. “Our room-his room-empty except for the two of you. Surely you can think of ways to mend your differences.” Senneth groaned and slid down on the bed, pulling one of the pillows over her face. ‘Go. Out. Leave before I set you on fire.” “Other people you could be enflaming tonight,” Kirra said, and hastily departed. Or: “…all of them were losing pretty handily to Donnal. “I think he’s cheating,” Justin said at last. “I think he’s changing the cards as he holds them in his hands.” “That’s what I’m doing, but it doesn’t seem to be doing me any good,” Kirra said. Absolutely delightful. The close friendship between Kirra and Senneth is also wonderful, and oftentimes it is with Senneth that Kirra reveals her more serious and genuine side: “If terrible things are coming, you probably cannot avert them,” Kirra said softly. “And if they come, it will not be up to you alone to stop them. Why do you always think that? Why do you always believe there is no one nearby to help you?” To summarize: Kirra!!!!!!!!! As the entire group of travelers grows into a group of friends, Senneth and Tayse gradually fall in love with each other, and it is the relationship between the two that gives the book its name. As with almost everything in the book, their romance is a deliberate, gentle development. There is a tiny bit of angst over one particular revelation but overall it’s an incredibly mature romance in the sense that it is more or less just two rational, kind people gradually overcoming justified distrust and finding that they truly respect and care for each other. As such, its extremely refreshing. The lack of toxic masculinity in the romantic male lead and the presence of maturity and respect in the main romance are two of the characteristics that contribute to the book’s general sense of assumed gender equality. I also value that Senneth and Kira are capable and dynamic women who don’t just ape stereotypically masculine traits in order to be shown as “strong” female characters. I think all too often writer’s assume that an empowering female character has to emulate stereotypically masculine traits to be empowered, but Sharon Shinn has written female characters who possess a complex combination of traits as well as flaws -Senneth’s gentle demeanor and sense of serenity coexist with her leadership skills, sense of justice and hesitance to open up to others, while Kira’s exuberance and blithe nature coexist with her compassion and warmth as well as her ignorance of her privilege. As a result, I think they are shining examples of well-written and enjoyable female characters not just for the fantasy genre but for literature in general. My main struggle with Mystic and Rider has to do with the use of magic as an oppression metaphor. I’ve thought a lot about this in terms of one of my favorite game series, Dragon Age, and I think some of same considerations apply here. With any form of real world oppression, the oppressor’s justifications for their violence are not backed up by any kind of verity, but when mages are oppressed in a fantasy setting there is oftentimes a very valid basis for fear. There is a difference between the nature of the oppressive narratives that just doesn’t track well with me: if a misogynist states that men are superior to women because they are innately more intelligent and capable of leadership than women, there is no basis to that belief other than prejudice. But Senneth actually can fucking light anyone or anything ablaze at any given moment!! I would say that a certain level of caution is justified!! I am not trying to say that the kind of mass paranoia and mob violence seen in Mystic and Rider would ever be justified in response to fear, but to me it does change the narrative when that fear is actually somewhat based upon the fact that the feared group has a massively destructive kind of power that no one else possesses, as opposed to being based solely and entirely upon lies and mechanisms of othering propagated by oppressive forces. One final note is that poor Donnal seems to get much less characterization than the rest of the gang, He spends 90% of the time standing guard in one animal form or another, and the other 10% of his time is essentially spend silently and devotedly traipsing after Kirra like a lovesick puppy. I wish he had been given the same amount of attention that the others were. This is a minor quibble, however, and I nonetheless leave Mystic and Rider with a full heart and a sense of deep contentment. About the Author Born in 1957 and educated at Northwestern University, Sharon Shinn maintains a full-time profession as a journalist despite her prolific output of science fiction and fantasy novels. She reports doing all of her writing in the evenings and on the weekends, and has written 28 books at my count. According to her website bio she is “forced to provide ongoing care for [her] menagerie of stuffed animals” and has been accused of keeping “friends as pets.”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tarah

    Dear sweet lord I loved this book. I have a hard time getting into a lot of fantasy. It can just seem so, well, silly. You know, like the book you don't want to admit you're reading because you're worried you only like it because it's secretly just a bodice-ripper romance that happens to have dragons and magic... which themselves can make you believe that what you're reading isn't really reading as much as it is wishing you were Harry Potter... Anyway, I find that in addition to the above anxieti Dear sweet lord I loved this book. I have a hard time getting into a lot of fantasy. It can just seem so, well, silly. You know, like the book you don't want to admit you're reading because you're worried you only like it because it's secretly just a bodice-ripper romance that happens to have dragons and magic... which themselves can make you believe that what you're reading isn't really reading as much as it is wishing you were Harry Potter... Anyway, I find that in addition to the above anxieties, I resent that most fantasy because it falls into the following two categories: 1) men who write untouchable, ethereal women who are perfect in every way and aloof until she realizes that our macho dude who slays in the name of justice is secretly good-heated and then she falls violently in love with him and 2) men who write stories in which they imagine women all secretly love macho men who throw them gruffly against the hay and look at them with smouldering eyes, but are also emotionally distant, which, by the way, women secretly want. Bad, fantasy fiction! No biscuit. Okay, so the Cliffnotes: I generally don't like fantasy... because, in my defense, it's generally sexist and/or crap. Enter Sharon Shinn. I've simultaneously reading her Angelica series, which is Sci Fi and generally fascinating. But this series is a lot more fun and a lot more engaging. The characters are all interesting and compelling. There are two strong (but not cliched) women who are interesting, flawed, and funny, but the other characters are also compelling and make a good "ensemble" cast that you genuinely care about by the end of this book. The world is laid out for you in an interesting, but not overwhelming way, and nothing is to obviously simply just a re-write of our reality with a funny-sounding magic name (e.g. a fantasy country that is very clearly American... just in fantasy-world language). It's a fun book that's light and a fast read, but you need not be embarrassed about it. Well, mostly not. I do still just really wish I were Harry Potter.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melindam

    Highly recommended to fans of the sword & sorcery / romantic fantasy genres. Trouble may be brewing in the mythical Kingdom of Gillengaria ruled by a king, but divided into 12 fiefdoms of so-called "Great Houses". Each are headed by marlords or marladies loyal to the king. Or are they? King Baryn sends his trusted counselor, Senneth in the company of her friends Kirra (a daughter of one of Gillengaria's marlords) & Donnal (Kirra's companion) to suss out how the land lies as he has reason to suspe Highly recommended to fans of the sword & sorcery / romantic fantasy genres. Trouble may be brewing in the mythical Kingdom of Gillengaria ruled by a king, but divided into 12 fiefdoms of so-called "Great Houses". Each are headed by marlords or marladies loyal to the king. Or are they? King Baryn sends his trusted counselor, Senneth in the company of her friends Kirra (a daughter of one of Gillengaria's marlords) & Donnal (Kirra's companion) to suss out how the land lies as he has reason to suspect that the marlords/ladies from the South are contemplating rebellion to dethrone him. Their reasons are that he is old, has only one daughter & his second wife, a pretty young woman, is most probably a mystic, who bewitched him. Mystics are people born with some kind of magic affinity (fire bringers, shapeshifters, mind-readers, etc..). They are feared and despised in most parts of the Kingdom -so most of them get cast out as soon as their inheritance manifests in some way - but they are tolerated in some places and actually encouraged in Ghosenhall (the capital of Gillengaria). Meanwhile, Coralinda Gisseltess, sister to marlord Halchon (head of the Great House Gisseltess) has established a convent to worship the Moon Goddess, gaining power and influence all over in Gillengaria. She and her growing number of righteous, zealous followers start persecuting mystics & threatening their very lives. Senneth is to find out how allegiances are divided, who is for and against the king's rule. The journey is not without dangers, so 2 of the King's most trusted, elite warriors -called the King's Riders- Tayse and Justin accompany them. It is not a pleasant journey socially either, as the Riders don't trust Senneth or her friends because all three are powerful mystics. On their way they rescue a young mystic boy, named Cammon, from capture and that raises the level of tension considerably. However, views and values get reconsidered and re-established by the end of their journey that proves more perilous than any of them would have expected. The dangers they all have to face forge between them an unbreakable bond of friendship that will last a lifetime. Just like most of Sharon Shinn stories, this book draws you in very fast so that you cannot wait to learn more and more about the plot, the characters and their world. Shinn is soooo incredibly good at political intrigue & world-building and as the story goes on, she raises the tension subtly, but gradually and you just want to keep on reading till the very end. And the way this unlikely group of people turn from mistrustful and hostile to allies, friends or more, is juts wonderful to experience.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    She loved nothing so much as fire, variegated as autumn and leaping with an uncontainable vitality. To her it was the source of all beauty, all power, all creativity, all destruction. 17 After they’d cleaned up the meal, they all just sat there, by common consent unwilling to seek bedrolls and the nightmares that might come with sleep. 33 People should have someone to mourn them, when they die, someone should be sad. 33 Existing without any pride, what a terrible way to live. 64 She liked the dee She loved nothing so much as fire, variegated as autumn and leaping with an uncontainable vitality. To her it was the source of all beauty, all power, all creativity, all destruction. 17 After they’d cleaned up the meal, they all just sat there, by common consent unwilling to seek bedrolls and the nightmares that might come with sleep. 33 People should have someone to mourn them, when they die, someone should be sad. 33 Existing without any pride, what a terrible way to live. 64 She liked the deep stillness of an untenanted night, the pervasive cold that seemed to take corporeal form and lean against her like an affectionate child. She liked the utter blackness of the sky, the stars that spilled like sugar across an unswept floor. She liked being alone. 98 Its mind was a chaotic tumble of drives and hungers, impatient and lawless; its memories and impulses were all of violence. It was so single-minded and destructive that, in a way, it reminded her of fire, and that made it seem beautiful to her.98 She closed her mind over its mind, made her choices its choices, coerced it into obedience. 98 I have come to believe there are no safe harbors. I am just grateful when there is not a storm raging over my head at the very moment. 136 A love so great it had to be put aside. 143 But it is quite an amazing thing to be surrounded by a family that loves you so much it will not let you go. I did not truly belong there, and yet there were times I would have gladly stayed forever, just to have that sense of being enveloped and beloved. 143 A gutter boy fighting for his life and hating everyone in the world who did not have to fight equally as hard. 149 The sun will find us easily enough, because she will come looking for me. 150 For a moment she felt heavy and earthbound and dull, and she wanted to release him from her own hold because she was unworthy of his beauty. 216 He loved her and he did not want to love her, but it did not matter if he did or if he did not: She was not for him, never would have been, had he declared himself that night she kissed him or last night when she woke in his arms or at some point farther down the road when he was no longer able to keep his secret to himself. 339 He had heard of men who were laid low by despair or grief, men who let bitter emotions rob their bodies of all strength. He had thought of them with some contempt, for who would ever be weak enough to be ruled by the passions of the heart? But he understood them all now. For the first time he believed that a man could be wounded even if no sword cut his chest, even if no arrow pierced his throat. He realized there were wounds to the soul that could fell even the strongest soldier. 340 “That creature is what got you rescued… surely you would not abandon it now?” You are the one who rescued me, he wanted to reply. Are you asking if I would abandon you after all our adventures together? 345. It belongs to a world outside of ours, and we cannot bring it inside our own. It will always be more exotic than we wish. 345 What would I have to be – who would I have to be – for you to allow yourself to love me? 347 If I were to fashion a man I would want to see riding at my side, I would fashion him just like you. He would look like you, he would fight like you, he would be just as wary and hard to convince. He would be you. But he would learn, no matter how slowly, that he need not put love aside. He would come to understand that I am lonely, that I am frightened, that I am a woman building fires to ward off the dark. 349 You say I have the power to break you – well, you have changed me, and I did not think I was capable of changing again. I only hope you will not abandon me, so altered and strange to myself, because you think I am too proud to accept your love. I would hate for my life to go on like that, empty of you. I think I would be the one to finally break after that. 349 I find myself wondering – I have always found myself wondering – what it would be like to hold you so tightly that you could not break away. Would you scream? Would you shatter? Would you succumb? If you were my bride, you know, I would be able to discover the answer. I might be able to discover it anyway. 366 He could not change himself so far as to ask her to change for him. 419 He kissed her until the world was changed. 421

  7. 4 out of 5

    Summer

    Mystic and Rider is about three mystics and two King's Riders out on a mission. In their world mystics are what they call people with magical abilities. The three on this mission are a mysterious woman named Senneth, a highborn lady named Kirra, and Kirra's servant Donnal. Senneth intended to go on her quest alone but the king ordered her to have two of his King's Riders guard her on her quest. The two chosen were a young Rider named Justin, and a battle hardened man named Tayse. Neither of thes Mystic and Rider is about three mystics and two King's Riders out on a mission. In their world mystics are what they call people with magical abilities. The three on this mission are a mysterious woman named Senneth, a highborn lady named Kirra, and Kirra's servant Donnal. Senneth intended to go on her quest alone but the king ordered her to have two of his King's Riders guard her on her quest. The two chosen were a young Rider named Justin, and a battle hardened man named Tayse. Neither of these two men however, are particularly trusting of mystics. Senneth's friend Kirra then wanted to follow, and where Kirra goes so does her servant Donnal. Add on to their group a man they saved from a village named Cammon and they have a much larger party than Senneth intended. Their mission is to wander around the area and the Twelve Houses and find out if there is trouble brewing. In the northern areas where the king lives mystics are tolerated and are generally left alone to do as they please. But the further south you go mystics are tolerated less and less. What they find in their journey however is that things are even worse than they thought. Mystics are not being tolerated almost anywhere but the northern Houses. And the further south they travel the more murderous the people are toward mystics. Also a religion, once near forgotten, is now becoming more and more popular headed by a former highborn lady. And this particular highborn lady also turns out to have an agenda to wipe out magic from the earth and take the king off his thrown. The mystics and the riders have to stop fighting among themselves and become one as a group if they are to survive the physical dangers of this mission and return home alive. I was pretty impressed with this book. It started off a bit slow for me and all the complicated world building was hard for me at first to keep straight in my head. But after a while I got into the book and couldn't put it down once I started. There's also a romance in the book between Senneth and Tayse that's sort of understated until the last part of the book. In general I thought this was a really great fantasy book, especially for people looking for more character focused books in that genre. And also for someone looking for a some romance mixed in with their fantasy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Proffitt

    I need to start working through Sharon Shinn's backlist. I can't recall any of her books that I didn't like and many are some of my favorites. This book is a strong contender for future favorite (I have to wait a bit for the afterglow to die down before I can declare a true favorite). Mystic and Rider features a party of magical mystics and King's Riders working together on a mission of discovery, tasked by the king to find out how the southern parts of the kingdom are doing. The answer they find I need to start working through Sharon Shinn's backlist. I can't recall any of her books that I didn't like and many are some of my favorites. This book is a strong contender for future favorite (I have to wait a bit for the afterglow to die down before I can declare a true favorite). Mystic and Rider features a party of magical mystics and King's Riders working together on a mission of discovery, tasked by the king to find out how the southern parts of the kingdom are doing. The answer they find is that fanatical anti-mystic sentiment is growing under the promotion of the local lords there and that preparations for a civil war are already under way. And no, none of this is enough of a spoiler for me to feel I need to flag it as such. While everyone in the party of investigators is interesting, Senneth and Tayse, as the leaders of the different factions within the group (mystics and riders, duh), definitely held my attention as the main protagonists. As they learn to work together, and eventually respect one another, I couldn't help but become emotionally invested in their mission as well as in their growing friendship. And I still can't decide if this leads to one of the greatest rescue scenes in fantasy literature or one of the best plot devices ever setup and exploited for emotional payoff. Maybe it's both? Anyway, if you enjoy solid fantasy with great characters and an interesting social milieu, you'll do well to look no further.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    This is what I'd call light fantasy...like, really, really light fantasy. It's a good pick for readers new to the genre or for those who don't typically like fantasy stories as a whole. But for fantasy reading veterans, I'd skip this. There's room for a deep dive but the author chose to only skim the surface.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    AMAZING! I reread this one I like it so much. One of my all time favorite Shinn's! For 16 and up. Reread 2-20-17- Shin has some amazing books and these are my favorite of hers. This is my 3rd time reading this series. I finally just bought the whole set. Shin has a amazing ability to build a world and place characters in it that come alive. She builds her world around her characters giving you pieces of each as the story unfolds. Senneth is one of my favorite Heroines of all time. She is strong AMAZING! I reread this one I like it so much. One of my all time favorite Shinn's! For 16 and up. Reread 2-20-17- Shin has some amazing books and these are my favorite of hers. This is my 3rd time reading this series. I finally just bought the whole set. Shin has a amazing ability to build a world and place characters in it that come alive. She builds her world around her characters giving you pieces of each as the story unfolds. Senneth is one of my favorite Heroines of all time. She is strong and fiercely brave and loyal but isn't afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help. I love the whole "go on an adventure together and learn to trust and love one another", you throw in a slow building very believable love story and I am hooked! This is just a great series for fantasy lovers and others who just like a good story. Now onto book 2! Sex: Shins characters generally have a world view of sex, basically it's ok if you love each other. At one point some of them go to a brothel, nothing is described, they just laugh about it the next morning. A couple kisses. Language: None except for there own swear words, Like :Bless the Pale lady. Drugs/Alcohol:They sit around at a tavern and have drinks, two characters drink too much but don't get drunk and have hangovers. Violence: There is a bit of violence. fighting with swords, a person is shot with an arrow, innocent people are killed violently in there homes, Throats cut, blood everywhere. Wild animal killed and it is talked about. Nothing is over done or given in such detail you cringe. There is a general belief that a certain type of people need to be exterminated and it's headed by a fanatical religious cult. So the books do get more violent and there is a little more sexual content as the series progresses, I'd rate it pg13 overall.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Shinn does a really interesting thing with the romance in this fantasy novel. For once, it's the heroine who's the mysterious, frighteningly powerful figure, and it's the hero who has to figure out whether *she* is really on the side of good or not, even as he can't help being drawn to her. The dynamic is thoroughly swapped around. On the other hand, I liked but didn't love the first half of this book because I felt so emotionally distanced from the characters. I understood why we couldn't see de Shinn does a really interesting thing with the romance in this fantasy novel. For once, it's the heroine who's the mysterious, frighteningly powerful figure, and it's the hero who has to figure out whether *she* is really on the side of good or not, even as he can't help being drawn to her. The dynamic is thoroughly swapped around. On the other hand, I liked but didn't love the first half of this book because I felt so emotionally distanced from the characters. I understood why we couldn't see deeper into the heroine's psyche - after all, that would take away a lot of the tension as the hero, Tayse, tries to work her out - but I would have felt a lot more invested if we'd been allowed deeper into Tayse's own emotions in the first half. There's also quite a bit of exposition in the beginning, as the rules of the world get explained by one character to another character, and while that's plausibly done (the one asking questions is a newcomer who really wouldn't know the rules), it's still not totally fascinating to read about. I still liked the characters and the situation, and the book was fun to read even in its first half, but as I read it, I felt a little let down, since I usually enjoy Sharon Shinn's novels so much MORE… …and then I got to the second half of book. And wow! Suddenly I couldn't put it down. There were really high stakes, emotionally. And suddenly I was REALLY caring about the characters! I raced to the ending and absolutely loved it. I'm really looking forward to reading Book 2 in the series, and if it has a slow start, like this one did, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. Because the pay-off in MYSTIC AND RIDER was absolutely worth the less-engaging opening.

  12. 4 out of 5

    MarsianMan

    In a world where magic and magic users (called Mystics) are feared and hated in the South and tolerated at the king’s order in the North. The king sends a mixed group of Mystics and Riders (the king’s martial / trusted representatives) to investigate the rumors of trouble in the south. Leading the party is Senneth the friendly, unknown, and strongly powerful Mystic; not an easy task when even the King’s Riders do not trust Mystics. The book is a fairly light hearted considering the serious natur In a world where magic and magic users (called Mystics) are feared and hated in the South and tolerated at the king’s order in the North. The king sends a mixed group of Mystics and Riders (the king’s martial / trusted representatives) to investigate the rumors of trouble in the south. Leading the party is Senneth the friendly, unknown, and strongly powerful Mystic; not an easy task when even the King’s Riders do not trust Mystics. The book is a fairly light hearted considering the serious nature of the investigation and the amount of prejudice harbored against Mystics as a group. The writing itself was fine but the story progressed slowly. That is not a very good description. Let me try and explain better. They went on this investigation and even when major events happened like one of the Riders being kidnapped; it did not feel like a major event. And even though I could see the romantic relationship occur, it felt rushed and/or contrived. My main complaints are that the entire novel felt more like a really long, short story prologue or prequel than a several hundred page novel and that I was never excited by the story. I was interested in the story, but never felt the grip of excitement that comes from a certain level of immersion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Truly superbly plotted, and impressively paced, too: this feels like a stroll through a fully realized world. It’s so controlled - the writing is rich in detail and structured well; a lot of action-packed events take place, but the narrative is never propelled in their wake. It’s that deliberate pacing that allows the characters’ stories to emerge without feeling manipulated. It creates an almost elemental space, some breathing room, and a degree of inevitability, which shapes the characters and Truly superbly plotted, and impressively paced, too: this feels like a stroll through a fully realized world. It’s so controlled - the writing is rich in detail and structured well; a lot of action-packed events take place, but the narrative is never propelled in their wake. It’s that deliberate pacing that allows the characters’ stories to emerge without feeling manipulated. It creates an almost elemental space, some breathing room, and a degree of inevitability, which shapes the characters and makes the world more grounded. This is Senneth’s story perhaps more than anyone’s, and that fire in her seeps into the entire book. This is only a sliver of the story of a kingdom in flux, and a lot is left open-ended. But there’s enough here - in terms of page count and detail - that it feels satisfying nevertheless.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    Okay read. A bit too light fantasy for me to want to continue with the series.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Fani *loves angst*

    Nice combination of romance and fantasy but not very compelling. There was not a lot of action -only a battle or two- and the group seemed to wander undendingly to gather information for the king. The first half was boring: yet another village to visit, yet another disguise to done and off we go on the road again. In the second part the characters were more developed and exposed, the pieces of the puzzle starting to cling together and the stakes starting to rise. I particularly didn't like the a Nice combination of romance and fantasy but not very compelling. There was not a lot of action -only a battle or two- and the group seemed to wander undendingly to gather information for the king. The first half was boring: yet another village to visit, yet another disguise to done and off we go on the road again. In the second part the characters were more developed and exposed, the pieces of the puzzle starting to cling together and the stakes starting to rise. I particularly didn't like the abrupt beginning: The story starts with the characters already on the road for several days? weeks? and the explanation of their purpose, powers and politics comes later gradually. So, the reader isn't fully aware of what is happening and who everything is, until the story is well on its way. Once I grasped the basic idea, I became more interested in their journey and the heroes themselves. As I mentioned, the second half was much better than the first, and although in the beginning I didn't believe I would go buying book #2, I'm now considering it quite seriously. It seems that all books are quite heavy on romance, and that's definitely a plus for me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Simply Sam ツ

    This was a mixed bag for me. There were some wonderful parts. I really liked most of the main cast of characters, though none were perfect. In some cases those imperfections added to their charm but other times it made me want to yell at them. Loudly. Maybe even shake them a little. Or a lot. They were in equal parts frustrating and endearing. BUT There was this boring repetitiveness to big chunks of the story and in much of their actions/interactions with one another. I just kept waiting for some This was a mixed bag for me. There were some wonderful parts. I really liked most of the main cast of characters, though none were perfect. In some cases those imperfections added to their charm but other times it made me want to yell at them. Loudly. Maybe even shake them a little. Or a lot. They were in equal parts frustrating and endearing. BUT There was this boring repetitiveness to big chunks of the story and in much of their actions/interactions with one another. I just kept waiting for something to happen. Anything besides the monotonous "Tayse walks the perimeter of the campsite. He checks the horses. He checks the people. It was his habit." every friggin night. And there were some topics I felt were poorly handled. In fact, while at times I loved Tayse, he was not my favorite and I spent much of the story extremely irritated at him. While I ultimately enjoyed the book and really want to read the next one I'm still not 100% on how I want to review or rate this one. I must think on this. I'm tentatively giving it 3.5 Stars rounded up but that may change up or down once I sit down and write an actual review. Or maybe not. I really don't know at the moment.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Head in the clouds

    WOW. What a stunning read! I literally did not put this down and finished it within a day - and now it is past midnight so no coherent thoughts anymore; but I love this book for its character focused narrative - god dammnit I love Senneth - and Tayse and every one of the motley crew of travellers. The bonds of friendship that forms by the end of this book is absolutely beautiful - I will definitely check out the next books, although I desperately hope they live up to this first one, which in a s WOW. What a stunning read! I literally did not put this down and finished it within a day - and now it is past midnight so no coherent thoughts anymore; but I love this book for its character focused narrative - god dammnit I love Senneth - and Tayse and every one of the motley crew of travellers. The bonds of friendship that forms by the end of this book is absolutely beautiful - I will definitely check out the next books, although I desperately hope they live up to this first one, which in a sense can be a standalone in terms of character developement. All in all, a very enjoyable read!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katey Moore

    This series was so hyped, I was leery of it at first. The book seemed a little hard to get into, but once I did, I flew on through. The characters are so well developed, I missed them when I finished Mystic and Rider and harrassed my friend into bringing me book two. The addiction is real.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Maia

    I found a new serie to love! I already love Sharon Shinn's serie Elemental Blessings, so I'm happy to have found a new serie of hers that might be just as great, I'm still in the "wait and see" phase but I'm exicted to find out :) I found a new serie to love! I already love Sharon Shinn's serie Elemental Blessings, so I'm happy to have found a new serie of hers that might be just as great, I'm still in the "wait and see" phase but I'm exicted to find out :)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Belcher

    Probably really a 3.5 but I rounded up because I really enjoyed the last 1/3 and could see myself continuing the series. Saving the rest of my thoughts for book club.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Loise

    magic. political intrigue. strong heroine. and slow burn romance! what else could i ask?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    *written on the 2nd Aug. 2009 Some books make you dream. Some make you laugh. Some keep you on the edge of your seat with every turn of the page. Some make you anxious and curious. Some make you cry and touch your heart. Sharon Shinn's "Mystic and Rider" novel, though not managing to reunite all the above, simply grows on you, no matter the preference you could have as a reader. Not being the first fantasy novel I've read by this author, I knew I could expect Shinn to deliver an enthralling tale, *written on the 2nd Aug. 2009 Some books make you dream. Some make you laugh. Some keep you on the edge of your seat with every turn of the page. Some make you anxious and curious. Some make you cry and touch your heart. Sharon Shinn's "Mystic and Rider" novel, though not managing to reunite all the above, simply grows on you, no matter the preference you could have as a reader. Not being the first fantasy novel I've read by this author, I knew I could expect Shinn to deliver an enthralling tale, yet I knew not what I was REALLY getting myself into... With a startlingly fresh beginning, in which the narrator unravels the events from a mere inn keeper's perspective, I was caught in the wills of 6 travelers' adventure. The prose is fluid, not overly descriptive and the writing is as touching as I last remembered it to be, though not the most poetic. Shinn captures her characters exceedingly well and develops them with a swift and focused eye. If there is something that can spoil a good plot it's the lack of "good" characters. That evidently not being the case with this author, who always draws out such a lively and varied pallet of characters that simply can't fail. Thus, the reader meets haughty, beautiful, yet surprising mystic healer and shape changer Kirra, her faithful and watchful companion and childhood friend Donnal, also a shape changer, honest and soft-hearted Cammon, who finds his real identity along this adventure, restless and sharp-tongued young Justin, friend and fellow King's Rider along with Tayse, a restrained and seemingly calculated strong man, all of whom follow the lead of a mysterious and secretive woman, Senneth, who carries herself with the grandeur of a queen, yet shows the thoughtfulness and mercy few people do. A mystic above all else, Senneth leads this strangely complementary party of five through their country on a deadly mission in search of vital information for the king. Does that ring a bell for you too? Well if it does, it's because I've started reading this series as a recommendation for a good follow-up to Lynn Kurland's "Nine kingdom" series. I had no idea what exactly will the similarities be, but I was happy to see that Shinn's series stands true and unique and the only evident parallel that can be drawn between the two being the plot aspect of having a group of people searching the land on a mission for their king. That and the fact that both Shinn and Kurland weave a delightful tale of love and adventure, each of them in their own, wonderful way. While proving to be a master in characterization, Shinn also faces our expectations of an entertaining plot, riled with just the right amount of suspense. Both are handsomely drawn out, with the exact amount of anticipation a reader needs without turning it into an overly dramatic soap opera version of Lord of the Rings. The main characters have enough perilous encounters along the road to keep both them and the readers wide awake and fighting to go on. I can't remember once being anxious to finish a chapter, getting bored with the events or anticipating the action so fully that I'd lose interest in reading and for all the above I must thank the author for weaving the tale with such mastery and skill. And since I can't seem to stop singing praises to this author and her novel, I will end by warmly recommending this first installment in The Twelve Houses series. I could find very little to complain about and that in itself is unexpected for me, who enjoys pointing out even the smallest or unimportant defect. Yes, Shin still constructs her villains rather plainly, mostly as linear characters and her prose is not as poetic as Juliet Marillier's or other authors, yet there is nothing beyond this that I could mention as a draw-back to the novel. Mystic and Rider is a jewel worth coveting and as such it is more than worth your reading time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Miss Clark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 3.5/ 4 stars After a somewhat lukewarm reaction to Fortune and Fate, where the only characters I cared about were Cammon, Senneth and Justin, I was looking forward to having them as the main characters in this volume and I was in no way disappointed. We get to see how each of the main group comes together and bonds over the course of a trying mission on behalf of their King. Magic, religion and politics blend to create a situation rife with tension and nuances that set the stage for the series' m 3.5/ 4 stars After a somewhat lukewarm reaction to Fortune and Fate, where the only characters I cared about were Cammon, Senneth and Justin, I was looking forward to having them as the main characters in this volume and I was in no way disappointed. We get to see how each of the main group comes together and bonds over the course of a trying mission on behalf of their King. Magic, religion and politics blend to create a situation rife with tension and nuances that set the stage for the series' main conflict that centers around Senneth, the most powerful mystic of her time, and the group of friends that come because of her. I like each of them, but I love them together. This is definitely an ensemble cast - there is just something so special and tangible when they are together and I love it. The romance between Tayse and Senneth was all right and while I am glad that they have each other, I could have taken it or left it. I just feel like Shinn sometimes is not at her best with romance, since that is what normally drove me away from her other books, but I digress. Donnal is the most hard to get a read on here and from what I've heard, that doesn't really improve. I like how Justin changes to really like and trust Senneth and all the complex relationships between individuals within the larger group. And Senneth? She is no paragon of virtue, but she struggles every day to be true to her conscience and do the right thing and that strength of purpose and purity of purpose make her the perfect focal point of the core group and the series, as she ties everyone together. Looking forward to the rest of the series, minus The Thirteenth House.... 2019: I decided to revisit these because I had fond but very vague memories of them. Enjoyed this one just as much as the first time. Completely agree with my initial impression and thoughts!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Samantha W.

    This is my second time reading this book, I read it for a really fun new book club I'm a part of. Rereading fantasy is always interesting to me, because I generally don't reread books at this point in my life, and because frequently fantasy sticks with you (or at least with me). So, while I remembered a lot of the big things that happened in the book the details between characters I'd forgotten. I found that to be a pleasure to rediscover. Sharon Shinn is definitely one of my favorite authors. I This is my second time reading this book, I read it for a really fun new book club I'm a part of. Rereading fantasy is always interesting to me, because I generally don't reread books at this point in my life, and because frequently fantasy sticks with you (or at least with me). So, while I remembered a lot of the big things that happened in the book the details between characters I'd forgotten. I found that to be a pleasure to rediscover. Sharon Shinn is definitely one of my favorite authors. I have read a lot of her books, and I own more than 2 (which is saying something). If you enjoy fantasy I highly recommend this series as well as her Elementals series. They're both very similar in the expression of the characters. You love them and literally just want the best for everyone.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Férial

    I was determined to give this book a 2 stars rating but I really really liked strong and yet fragile Senneth and I liked how the characters interacted, how their relationship evolved from distrutful (riders vs mystics) to bonded in friendship (and love). The system of Houses too (though not innovative) was interesting. If you want something light, if you want magic, friendship, some plotting, some romance (and a lot of riding and camping), then this book is for you. Will I keep on reading this ser I was determined to give this book a 2 stars rating but I really really liked strong and yet fragile Senneth and I liked how the characters interacted, how their relationship evolved from distrutful (riders vs mystics) to bonded in friendship (and love). The system of Houses too (though not innovative) was interesting. If you want something light, if you want magic, friendship, some plotting, some romance (and a lot of riding and camping), then this book is for you. Will I keep on reading this series ? I shall give a try to The Thirteenth House (even if I know it's about Kirra the shape-shifter) because I hope I'll see Senneth face her family. If I don't, then I'll be disappointed *shrug*

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    First, let me thank Linda for the loan. Great fantasy, an heroine I could root for, an intriguing world building made this a great reading experience. If the sequels had followed the heroine, I would have loved to keep reading to know how the situation evolved.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Felicia

    I enjoyed this book a lot, thought it's been so long since I've read it I need to refresh my memory to keep going with the series. To-DO List!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chachic

    Originally posted here. Mystic and Rider is the first book in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. I enjoyed reading the Samaria series by the same author and Archangel is one of my favorite books. I think I've read more contemporary titles than fantasy this year so I find myself wanting to read more of the latter. I decided it would be a good idea to give this series a try. And an interesting tidbit from the author: The thing that most people seemed to find disappointing about the Samari Originally posted here. Mystic and Rider is the first book in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. I enjoyed reading the Samaria series by the same author and Archangel is one of my favorite books. I think I've read more contemporary titles than fantasy this year so I find myself wanting to read more of the latter. I decided it would be a good idea to give this series a try. And an interesting tidbit from the author: The thing that most people seemed to find disappointing about the Samaria books was that they didn’t follow the same people through successive storylines, so from the outset I planned the Twelve Houses books as a series about six main characters. I gave Senneth my own headaches just so I could share the pain. I like the idea that the entire series features one group of characters. I've actually finished reading the first two books but I'll review the second one after this. Just like the Samaria books, each of the Twelve Houses books features a romantic couple. I guess it's pretty obvious from the title Mystic and Rider who those two are. Senneth is a mystic, a person with magical abilities, and she can control fire while Tayse is a King's Rider, a member of the elite guard dedicated to serving the crown. It's easy to like both Senneth and Tayse - the former for being a strong female protagonist who has a mysterious past and the latter for his loyalty and willingness to serve and follow his king's commands. I actually guessed Senneth's heritage way before it was revealed but I didn't mind knowing it early. I liked that the point of view changes from Senneth to Tayse and back again because we get to see how both characters think. I also like that this series deals with the same set of characters. I felt like this first book was an introduction to the six companions - Senneth, Tayse, Justin, Kirra, Donnal and Cammon. I obviously liked the first book well enough to start the second one right away. While I felt that the romance in Mystic and Rider was more quiet and restrained than I'd like, I understood that it reflected the personalities of the two individuals involved. Like a friend on Goodreads mentioned, Senneth and Tayse become the mother and father figure of the group because they're several years older than the other characters. They're both older, wiser and more subdued than the rest of the group. The same goes for the worldbuilding, I felt that this book introduces readers to the world of Gillengaria, where the nobles (and the ruling class) come from Twelve Houses. The companions travel all over the country to gather information for the king. The readers get to know more about the nobles and a possible uprising because of the growing distrust against mystics. Because the books were meant to be read in order, the plot will make you want to read one book right after the other to get more information not just about the characters but about the fate of the kingdom. While I wasn't blown away by the first book, I think the Twelve Houses series looks promising and I recommend it for fans of epic fantasy looking for a solid series to read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    jD

    I truly enjoyed this character driven story. Sunneth and her fellow travelers engaged me on a level I hadn't expected. As a fantasy, this is not the strongest work I have come across as far as worldbuilding. The magic and the characters are what makes this one a series I will continue to follow. The magic is held by those called Mystics. They live in a kingdom where ambitious nobles have decided the King needs replacing. The question is why and to that question there are many answers and suspect I truly enjoyed this character driven story. Sunneth and her fellow travelers engaged me on a level I hadn't expected. As a fantasy, this is not the strongest work I have come across as far as worldbuilding. The magic and the characters are what makes this one a series I will continue to follow. The magic is held by those called Mystics. They live in a kingdom where ambitious nobles have decided the King needs replacing. The question is why and to that question there are many answers and suspect motivations. The King sends the trusted and powerful Mystic Sunneth to travel the kingdom and determine if war is on the horizon and if so, where do the loyalities to the crown lie. The journey to the truth takes up the majority of this installment and lays a solid foundation for the series. Sunneth is not traveling alone. She is accompanied by two of the King's Riders. These are soldiers that are the best of the best. One of these soldiers is Tayse. He has no magic and does not trust Sunneth or her magic. There is a love story that builds between these two that made me sigh aloud. There are two shifters, one of which is a noble daughter named Kira. She is a blood thirsty little thing. I loved her. There is a young man they pick up at the onset of the journey named Cammon who is a mystic but didn't know it. He has the ability to read minds but it is undeveloped when they rescue him. I wanted to hug his character so many times. I especially enjoyed the unique 'pet' Sunneth captured while saving a town. At it's heart, this story is about power and persecution. There are some long dead gods involved but this installment only touches the surface of what is at the heart of the magic. I expected a prophesy to pop up but it hasn't yet. There is more than likely one coming. Sunneth believes she is blessed by the sun goddess while the people killing Mystics worship the moon and have no magic. I look forward to finding out if these gods are still manipulating the lives of their followers and who is truly cursed or blessed. This installment didn't resolve the mystery of Mystics but I never felt at a loss when I got to the end. I am going with 4-stars because the first few chapters were too slow. Once I got into the characters and began to understand the magic, I was hooked. I highly recommend this book to fantasy readers who enjoy character driven tales with simple magic at it's heart. This is YA and the violence is not too bloody -- yet. There is very little angst but I think that can change going forward.

  30. 4 out of 5

    S.J. Abbo

    3.5 not so epic stars The King send the small group of three mystic and two of his best riders on the trip through a country to listen and find out what's going on in his kingdom. And so they travel, and travel, sleep in the woods and sometimes in some taverns and then travel some more. It's a slow, long journey. (And a slow, long book) There isn't almost any action in the first half, and also very little in the second half of the book. We have 6 characters (they add one more mystic to their gro 3.5 not so epic stars The King send the small group of three mystic and two of his best riders on the trip through a country to listen and find out what's going on in his kingdom. And so they travel, and travel, sleep in the woods and sometimes in some taverns and then travel some more. It's a slow, long journey. (And a slow, long book) There isn't almost any action in the first half, and also very little in the second half of the book. We have 6 characters (they add one more mystic to their group) The focus of this book is on Senneth. She is a powerful mystic (manipulates fire), mature 34 year's old women, and the leader of this group. Kirra is her younger friend and former student (a shifter and a highborn lady). Donnal is Kirra's "servant" and a shifter like her (only better). Tays is a warrior and one of the King's Riders (the best of the best) and Senneth love interest. (Their romance is very, very, slow. Almost nonexistent until the end). Justin is the younger King's Rider, and Cammon is young mystic they saved on their journey. I expect more and in the end, it is not the bad but, not what I wish it to be.

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