Reader and Raelynx, by Sharon Shinn

>> Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TITLE: Reader and Raelynx
AUTHOR: Sharon Shinn

PAGES: 432

SETTING: Gillengaria
TYPE: Fantasy Romance
SERIES: 4th in the Twelve Houses series.

REASON FOR READING: I love Shinn's writing and this series has been fantastic.

In this novel of secret sorceries and forbidden desires, the mystic Cammon must put aside his personal feelings for Princess Amalie while he reads the souls of her suitors for any potential threats. But Cammon is unable to read Amalie, and he begins to suspect that she herself possesses magic powers-a revelation which would put her life in danger, and throw the kingdom into chaos.
MY THOUGHTS: Even though there's going to be a 5th book in the Twelve Houses series, Reader and Raelynx is in every respect the book where all the overarching plot lines which had been developed in the first three books reach a climax.

The threat to the kingdom and mystics represented by Halchon Giseltess and his sister Coralinda has grown to the point where they're finally ready to openly challenge the crown. Meanwhile, King Baryn has decided it's time to contract a marriage for Princess Amalie, and Reader Cammon is entrusted with the task of helping vet the candidates (having someone who can know their innermost thoughts proves to be very useful!). But of course, two attractive young people spending a lot of time in close proximity can lead to feelings that could be potentially disastrous for the kingdom.

As in the rest of the series, although the outside plot is gripping and fascinating, what makes this book a joy to read are the characters. I've always had a soft spot for Cammon, liking the contrast between his sweet, trusting nature and the dark, scarily powerful potential of his mystic abilities. It was nice to see the unwanted, previously unloved child find romance in this book, but I was more interested in his relationship with the other five members of his makeshift family, the protagonists of the previous books, who play a huge role in this story as well (especially Senneth, who keeps stealing all the scenes she's in).

In fact, I did like the romance, but I'm afraid I didn't love it. For all that Cammon and Amalie's relationship isn't at all chaste, it still had a bit of a YA vibe to it. I can't really pin-point why, but it didn't feel completely grown up. Plus, I was a bit annoyed by Amalie, maybe because in this book she seems very inconsiderate and insensitive about the consequences of her actions, of her getting what she wants, on Cammon. She's getting him in trouble with everyone -with the courtiers, with Queen Valri, even with his own friends- by singling him out so obviously and insisting on a closeness she knows will make him face a lot of disapproval, but she doesn't seem to particularly care.

And then there was also the issue that the conflict created by the forbidden nature of their relationship kind of fizzled out. This is the forbidden romance to end all forbidden romances, but this element ends up being totally overpowered by the momentous nature of the events going on. It makes sense, really. If everything's in danger and no one knows if they'll be able to survive, having the Princess be a bit too close to a low-born nobody is not the biggest worry in anyone's mind!

The outside plot about the final, all-out confrontation between the royal forces and the hateful rebels was fantastic. Shinn succeeded in making me feel the high stakes they were fighting for, and therefore care very much about the outcome. I especially liked the final battle scenes. They reminded me a bit of those in Valley of Silence, in that they were very, very well done, with a sense of enormity that reflected the huge consequences they would have, and yet with enough human detail to make sure we readers didn't feel distant.



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