31 October 2014

The House of Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

Hey everyone,

So its Halloween and being British and a slight cynic it isn’t a holiday I celebrate; I mean I may have baked a chocolate cake, opened a bottle of cider and read an amazing book but that’s not celebrating. For a start there are no costumes, scary or otherwise in sight! Secondly I have yet to have a single trick or treater, however, I appreciate this holiday is extremely popular in America and perhaps in other parts of the world (Is it? Does anyone know? I’ve never even thought about it before) so happy Halloween everyone and as a gift from me to you I give you a review of The House of Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory. I’m nice like that... Well some of the time at least.

The (audio)book:

The tiny nation of Swansgaard is a lovely place with abundant natural resources, including the royal family, which has been blessed with twelve daughters and a son. As this boisterous baker's dozen approaches adulthood, the king and queen lovingly tell their daughters, "You must make your own fortune, for we cannot enrich you without impoverishing our people or leaving our lands defenceless, and that we will not do."

Clarice, an expert swordswoman, is the first to depart. Disguising herself as Clarence, she signs on for a voyage to the New World. The captain is vile and blackhearted, and the crew soon mutinies. Clarice becomes first mate - and finds her heart captured by the new captain, Dominick, who is, to his own surprise, increasingly attracted to Clarence.

Now outlaws, Dominick and his crew turn to piracy - though their hearts are not entirely in it. They soon run afoul of the Pirate Council, who orders them to retrieve the Heart of Light. All who have searched for this great treasure have vanished, with neither ships nor crews ever seen again and no sign of their fates ever discovered. But none before have carried with them the sorceress Shamal, who stakes a claim of her own on Dominick's heart.

My Thoughts:

Pirates, magic, romance and fantasy all combine in The House of Four Winds to the wonderful narration of Emily Sutton-Smith. As soon as I read the blurb I was desperate to read this book, so much so that I rashly brought the audio version as it wasn’t available in Kindle format in my country. I am so glad I did. This story swept me away into a world of intrigue and adventure upon the high seas. Set in a fantasy world that was arguably similar to our own in the 17th and 18th century it follows the story of Clarice, a Princess who must make her own way in the world, who chooses to make her fortune as an expert swords(wo)man. To do so she disguises herself as a male and goes by the name Clarence; the cross-dressing trope is perhaps one of the oldest in the romance world, I mean just look at Shakespeare’s comedies. Yet Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory pull it off beautifully.

The first few chapters introduce the reader to the world, Clarice background and her journey before becoming a passenger of the Asesino. Although this is a romance it is one with a slow build, for the majority of the book Dominick accepts Clarence as his male friend, someone who has in back and vice versus. Yet even though it was arguably a little light on the romance I still loved this book. I loved hearing about the Asesino as it slowly grew closer and closer to outright mutiny. I felt compassion for nearly all the characters that were being victimised by the evil captain and his bunch of minions. Reverend Dobbs was by the far the worst. Emily Sutton-Smith’s narration was perfect, the evilness of Dobbs, the virtue of Dominick, the kindness of Dr Chapman and many others were all portrayed in their voices. Each character was distinct in both voice and personality.

Two me this felt like a book in two parts, part one was the build too mutiny and the inevitable takeover of the ship and part two was discovery of the pirate council and the quest for the Heart of Light. What I believe is the strength of this book is Mercedes Lackey’s and James Mallory’s ability to engulf you a world, and also too create believable yet truly horrific villains. There were so many little details that made this a full and enriched world with its own history, culture and traditions that is often so lacking in fantasy novels. This was translated into the characterisation that was equally thought-out and detailed from the multiple villains to the numerous secondary characters.

Although this book doesn't have a fast pace, it was never boring as the crew of the Asesino is nearly always fighting for something, mainly their freedom. Having said that, however, my one criticism is I wish we had seen more interaction between Dominick and Clarice after it was reveal she was a woman. Although I believed in their love because of how they behaved towards each other through out the book it would have been nice to see them interact more Perhaps just a slice of normalcy towards the end. The love between Clarice and Dominick is one development in hushed moments, small gestures rather than grand declarations. I would give The House of Four Winds five stars and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good pirate story with their romance.

My rating:
Happy reading and see you next time!