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Mystic and Rider (The Twelve Houses, Book 1) (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Sharon Shinn

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8012011,418 (4)58
Member:cozyread
Title:Mystic and Rider (The Twelve Houses, Book 1)
Authors:Sharon Shinn
Info:Ace (2006), Mass Market Paperback, 421 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn (2005)

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From the cover blurb: “Gillengaria seethes with unrest. In the south, hostility toward magic and its users has risen to a dangerous level, though King Baryn has ordered that such mystics are to be tolerated… The King knows there are those in the noble Twelve Houses who could use this growing dissent to overthrow him. So he dispatches the mystic Senneth to assess the threat throughout the realm. Accompanying her is a motley band of magic-users and warriors including Tayse, first among the King’s Riders—who holds a hard view of mystics in general, and Senneth in particular.”

Like the other Sharon Shinn books I’ve read, Mystic and Rider is most certainly character based. There wasn’t a whole lot of suspense or action; instead, it was the enjoyable characters who made me keep picking up this book.

The “motley band” that makes up the center of this book is composed of six distinct characters: Senneth, Tayse, Kirra, Donnal, Justin and Cammon.

Senneth is the “Mystic” of the title. She has a mysterious and difficult past and possesses powers that relate to fire and the sun. She’s cool headed and collected, but also possesses a fierce passion to do the right thing and to protect the defenseless, even if it endangers herself and her mission. She’s handy with a sword and not someone you’d want to mess with in a fight. She’s also one of the better female characters I’ve read and my favorite written by Sharon Shinn.

Tayse is the “Rider” of the title. As the cover blurb says, he distrusts mystics, particularly Senneth because he sees her as not having any fixed allegiances. Over the course of the book, he starts to reconsider his world view and his attitude towards mystics.

I liked that Senneth was not the only female character of the band – there was also Kirra. And not only that, but Kirra was so different from Senneth. She’s the sort of character who is not often seen as a protagonist in fantasy novels or well created if she is. Namely, Kirra is much more traditionally feminine. She’s outgoing and beautiful and never picks up a sword in the course of the book, but she’s far from useless or helpless. Often times she is the one who gathers important information or soothes the group’s way through her charm and noble connections. Plus, she’s a talented mystic with the powers of shapeshifting and healing. Underestimate her at your peril.

I felt Donnal to be the least well developed of the characters. He’s a shapeshifter who’s devoted to Kirra, but I never got much of a sense of his personality.

Justin was the other King’s Rider of the group. From the outset, he doesn’t trust any of the others besides Tayse and is openly disdainful and fearful of some of them. But over the course of the story, he grows to befriend and admire the mystics he travels with.

The others picked up Cammon in the first chapter of the book. He’s a “sensitive,” or a mystic with the abilities of picking up the emotions and desires of the people and animals around him.

As the title makes clear, Senneth and Tayse are at the center of the story. As is also obvious to anyone familiar with Sharon Shinn’s work, their romance and relationship slowly develops throughout the narrative. She’s one of those authors that I can always rely upon not to write stories where the main characters fall immediately and inexplicably in love at first sight.

The magic system is also noteworthy. While I don’t want to spoil the revelations of later in the book, it’s an interesting set up that I hope will be explored more later in the series, because in the end, Mystic and Rider did feel like the first in a series. This chapter of the plot may be closed, but plenty has yet to be discovered and questions are still up in the air.

I would recommend this book to people looking for a slower paced fantasy story with likable characters. It may not have the shades of grey and grit that seems to be infusing the fantasy genera lately, but it’s still a wonderful book with merits of it’s own. That being said, if action and an addicting plot are what you look for, you’d be best off seeking elsewhere. ( )
  pwaites | Jul 11, 2014 |
Loved it. This was very easy to read, which is always a good thing. I really liked the characters, especially Senneth (the main character) of course, but I also liked Kirra, Cammon, and later the two riders. In the beginning the riders are behaving annoyingly prejudiced, of course, but they stay relatively respectful. When they are not, it's because they do not like mystics, not because they have a problem with powerful women. The women are strong and realistic: they have skills (and impressive ones too), they have flaws, and they have emotions. When they need help, they accept it without fuss, not getting into a power struggle, or acting stupidly out of pride. The same can be said for the men, although one of them is a bit surly about it on one occasion. Not much though, and he totally expected to be rescued by Senneth, after making the smart decision of not fighting when the odds are not on his side. I like the camaraderie of the group, and how they grow closer together. This is mostly shown through incidents on the road, and although that works, it got a bit repetitive halfway through the book. Fortunately, the pacing changed a bit a little later.

I'm not happy that the next book doesn't follow Senneth, but follows Kirra instead, but I suppose I'll try to get over it. This one was very good, in any case. ( )
  zjakkelien | Jun 13, 2014 |
I loved this book, right from the beginning it pulled me in. I could not put it down, the story was really well done and the characters were amazing. I loved how the story began after they had started their journey; and all through the book you can see how they are coming to finally trust each other and learn about their pasts. Senneth and Tayse are definatly my favorite characters in the book, although I really like Kirra too. I'm really glad that the other books have the same characters just from someone else's perspective, it'll make them more interesting but I really want to see Senneth and Tayse again. ( )
  Steph1203 | Mar 14, 2014 |
Sharon Shinn creates an exciting world where people must learn to work through their preconceived notions if they are to save the kingdom. One of the twelve powerful families is getting ready to revolt, and is using religious fervor to gain followers. Can the mystics that are being persecuted work with the king's elite force to save the kingdom?

I enjoy the characters and discovering their abilities. When I read this book I don't want to put it down. It is a book I have read several times, and plan to read several more. ( )
  BittyCornwell | Sep 7, 2013 |
I enjoyed this. The characters were rich and interesting, and some how Shinn makes politics and military theory not boring. After finishing it, I'm still not entirely certain which physical description fits which character name (not so great) but I think that's the biggest detractor. From what I understand, each book in the series focuses on a different character and that makes me a little reluctant to read the next one. I was looking forward to reading the rest of this particular character-based story. ( )
  Krumbs | Mar 31, 2013 |
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For two women, sisters to each other,
who touched my life profoundly:

Cissy, still the best teacher I ever had, and
Mary Anne, who took care of me when I was far from home.

There are all kinds of magic.
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Kardon stood at the back of the tavern, surveying the night's clientele, and smiled with a brutal satisfaction.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441013031, Mass Market Paperback)

Gillengaria seethes with unrest. In the south, hostility toward magic and its users has risen to a dangerous level, though King Baryn has ordered that such mystics are to be tolerated. It is whispered that he issued the decree because his new wife used her magic powers to ensnare him…

The King knows there are those in the noble Twelve Houses who could use this growing dissent to overthrow him. So he dispatches the mystic Senneth to assess the threat throughout the realm. Accompanying her is a motley band of magic-users and warriors including Tayse, first among the King’s Riders—who holds a hard view of mystics in general, and Senneth in particular.

But as the unlikely allies venture farther into the south, they will face death in a land under the sway of a fanatical cult that would purge Gillengaria of all magic users. And they will come to realize that their only hope of survival lies in standing together…

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:12 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The Mystic woman Senneth, accompanied by a team of Shapeshifters and Riders, is sent by the king into the land of Gillengaria to investigate reports of retaliation against those who use magic.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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