I want to admit right upfront that I haven't read much fantasy in my time. (g) I think the last (other than Urban fantasy) was probably Lord of the Rings, and that was a LONG time ago. When I was in junior high, actually. So, my point is that I don't know a lot about the genre. At any rate, I've heard good things about Shinn and decided to give one of her YA's a try. But oops...this book turned out NOT to be YA. Oh well. LOL.
Brief Synopsis: Fearing unrest, the King of Gillengaria sends a party of scouts to access the threat throughout the country. Most importantly, he wants them to discover where each of the twelve houses would fall should a power struggle for the throne ensue.
They're a very unlikely group of people:
-- Senneth, possibly the strongest of all mystics, who has the ability to control fire.
-- Kirra, a noble woman of one of the twelve houses of Gillengaria, and also a mystic with the ability to change appearance.
-- Tayse, first among the King's riders.
-- Justin, another King's rider, whose true loyalty lies with Tayse.
-- Donnal, a mystic able to shapeshift who is, above all else, loyal to Kirra.
-- Cammon, a wayward mystic they pick up along the way. He has the ability to read emotions.
Reluctantly banded together, the group must learn to trust one another. Easier said than done when the riders are both extremely skeptical and suspicious of mystics in general. When they uncover a rising fanatacism that would have all mystics purged from the country, they must all learn to trust and depend on each other.
Blah blah blah, yada yada yada. Yep, still suck at these summaries. (g)
At any rate, I don't know what it was about this book. It took a while for me to get into it... actually, during the first 40-50 pages, I didn't know whether I wanted to continue. But then I just _really_ got into it. Not sure what factors changed for me, but I have a feeling it might have been just a matter of growing accustomed to the world and characters. The whole thing just grew on me to the point I didn't want to put it down.
There are a number of things that bothered me about it. LOL. There seemed to be quite a few point of view slips in the beginning--they either lessened later in the book or I must've grown accustomed...not sure which. Also, at times it had a slightly omni feel to it... hmm, but for some reason I really liked it.
The whole book centered around the group traveling to various regions of the country, trying to assess where that particular house's allegiance lies. So, it was a lot of 'how should we appear before them' or 'is it safe enough to go' sort of thing. Very repetitive, yet not annoying. lol. I think it's because the growth of the relationships was really the driving force of the story. I wanted to turn the page to see whether Justin would _ever_ trust Senneth... if Tayse would give in to his inclination to believe mystics have their uses...etc. etc. It was exciting to watch the subtle changes happen amongst the group. Of course, there's one character about-face that bugged me to no end. I just didn't buy it when it happened. Won't spoil it here, but it involved very unlikely tears. (g)
The fanatics (Daughters of the Pale Mother) were FREAKY. They wear moonstones, which mystics are unable to touch without being harmed. There was this really great scene where all of this acolytes of the Pale Mother surrounded the party, basically insisting everyone touch their hands (covered with moonstones), in order to ensure none of them were mystics. Given four of the six were, you can only imagine the tension, etc. Eee. (g)
Anyway, the whole thing had a very familiar feel to it. Will this country go to war in order to met out the future of this one particular group of people (mystics)? Harkens back to the civil war....the world wars... great theme with lots of tension.
The underlying love story -- beautiful. :) I liked the slow progress it took -- the subtle changes pulling them together. Hah..notice I didn't say WHO. (VBG)
Anyway, I really liked it and I woke up thinking about the ending... great sign that I need to get the next book. Well, if there IS a next book out right now. Need to look into that. (Oh YAY...there are two paperbacks and one hardback available in the series.) Hmm, it looks like they shift MC POV... not a BIG fan of that, but perhaps I'll give the second a shot to see how it goes. I really prefer when they stay in the head of the same characters throughout a series... Drat. LOL. Oh well, I'll check out the next to see what I think....and probably try out her other series--both adult and YA.
Buy or Rent? Buy.