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.
Rating : 4/5
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.