I read Rachel Neumeier's The Floating Islands (my review) and really enjoyed it, so when I saw people begin to talk about her latest book House of Shadows I knew I wanted to read it. I bought it rather than wait to see if my library would ever get it, and boy am I glad I did. I was able to read this wonderful story that much sooner.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Orphaned, two sisters are left to find their own fortunes.
and proper, Karah's future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House.
She could be pampered for the rest of her life... if she agrees to play
Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer
choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage's offer
of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can
Nemienne trust the mage?
With the arrival of a foreign bard into
the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find
themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset
their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom.
Did you read the synopsis? No? Doesn't matter. This book is about a lot more than that and, in fact, does not focus nearly as much on Karah and Nemienne as it would lead you to believe. True the story starts with them and they are used to introduce us to the world, but there's a lot more going on. And two other characters of far more import. (Or maybe they just seemed that way to me.) Taudde and Leilis. Don't get me wrong. Nemienne and Karah are both important to the story, but Taudde and Leilis were what kept me reading and wanting more. I loved both of them so much. Taudde is a conflicted foreigner torn between his honor and a need for vengeance. Leilis is a bitter ensorcelled young woman who has given up on her dreams, but uses her wits to her best advantage with the life she has been left. I could have read a book all about these two and been quite happy. But that would have been a typical book, and Rachel Neumeier's books are anything but typical and so she made this one more. The shifting viewpoints and all the angles shown of every story give a richer fuller picture of what is going on. At the same time, Neumeier manages to surprise the reader from time to time. It's marvelous. The world these characters live in is rich in beauty and detail. I would love to read more about these characters and their countries.
Also there are mages, sorcery, politics, and a dragon. So you know, it's all awesome. If you are someone who breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of reading High Fantasy, if all the strange long names and places distract you, if you don't like kingdom intrigue and political plotting, then this book isn't for you. If however, like me, you will read anything so described and are over the moon excited when it delivers everything you could want and more, then read this book.
House of Shadows is being marketed as adult but has a definite cross-over appeal for a YA audience which is why I chose to review it here. Nemienne and Karah are both in their teens, and the other characters are in their 20's.