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The House of the Four Winds: Book One of One Dozen Daughters (edition 2014)
by Mercedes Lackey (Author)
The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey
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I personally believe if Mercedes Lackey writes a book, it's going to be a good read. This is one that features a young heroine who must seek her own fortune, so she disguises herself as a young man and sets out for the New World.
The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince's future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.
Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.
Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own--but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won't give him up without a fight.
I really enjoyed the first half, and how naturally everything felt building up. I would have preferred a longer book, as I felt the excitement ended quickly and the ending wrapped up too easily. I was expecting more drama and conflict, and what there was didn't last long. Still looking forward to the next books though.
It's been a while since I sat down and read a book all in one go, so I think that says something about The House of the Four Winds. A fun read, this is more of a light-hearted swashbuckler than many of Mercedes Lackey's earlier works. I've really struggled lately to get into any of her newer novels as they all seem to fall rather flat. Some of her recent novels feel like she gave someone the plot outline and had a (not very good) ghostwriter write the thing. I actually LIKED Clarice, Dominick, Kayan, Dr. Chapman, and many of the characters. They were fairly well-rounded, or at least more than flat. The world-building was intriguing, sort of like the Elemental Masters is set in our world in Edwardian times with hidden mages, only this world Misty has built is more of an alternate reality where magic is just another branch of science.
Clarice is a princess and the oldest of 12 princesses and 1 toddler prince in the teeny tiny kingdom of Swansgaarde. The description of Clarice's parents and upbringing made me snort and roll my eyes a bit, thinking "That's rather too convenient." The royal family is super progressive about training their children to each have a trade (a rather convenient plot device, that, and a little too pat) and yet only a son can inherit the throne? Hmm... Anyway, the royal treasury can't afford 12 doweries, so it's decided that each of the princesses will go to seek their fortune at age 18. (Also rather convenient plot device for a series.) Clarice studied swordsmanship for her "trade," so she decided to go seek adventure and make a name for herself, disguised as a man.
I devour anything with even a whiff of a fairytale about it, and this book had a lovely fairytale feel to it. I also love gender-benders and the girl-masquerading-as-a-guy trope, which this book is also chock full of. All in all, I really liked it and plan to pop onto Amazon and see when the next book comes out as soon as I finish writing this review. While what I really want is another book in the 500 Kingdoms series, perhaps Misty is out of ideas there; this will do instead. :)
fun read with good adventure. the main conflict was a bit brief though.
"Mercedes Lackey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Valdemar series and romantic fantasies like Beauty and the Werewolf and The Fairy Godmother. JAMES MALLORY and Lackey have collaborated on six novels. Now. these New York Times and USA Today bestselling collaborators bring romance to the fore with The House of Four Winds. The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince's future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes. Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain. Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own--but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won't give him up without a fight. Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers. "--
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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I'm impressed I made it as far as I did, to be honest. There were so many named places being thrown around and they were all jumbled up between real and imagined: Poland and Turkey, but Cisleithan (France? Holy Roman Empire?). Some I could muddle along with just because I've read so much that I'm familiar with obscure names for familiar places: Albion for England I'd heard, but Lochrin for London? Why? And many of those names aren't even relevant to the story telling.
To be honest, this felt like a sequel, or maybe fan fiction: we jumped right in with Clarice and I was expected to care about her. Okay, she's plucky and practical, but what else? I was also frustrated by the way things weren't holding together: why did she feel she had to disguise herself as a man if the Albionese navy allowed women? How was this her tiny little nation so forward thinking when most of the rest of the world seemed to reflect reality? Well, except for the Albionese navy and the apparent lack of slaves everywhere except Dorado. How did the Hisp-whatevers, the Caribbean equivalents, function without a slave society? Not that it would have been impossible, but it was such an integral, dark part of that area's history that it's hard to imagine it just...not being.
My biggest beef, though? The jacket copy advertised that Clarice's love interest, "to his own surprise, increasingly attracted to Clarence" [Clarice's name when she's disguised]. I was looking forward to this--surely we're modern enough to have fun here! This is roughly what I wanted to happen:
Alas, not only did this not happen, the promised Shakespearean confusion didn't happen at all. Maybe Clarice had time to fall for Dominick, but when did he have time to fall for her?
So yes, a fun and fluffy romp with unexpected and unexplored flashes of darkness. A good beach read, but one that I'll put on the charity shelf for someone else to enjoy.
p. 161 - "[Magic] is the after-echo of the Divine Word which created the world."
I liked this idea a lot. Thought it was a clever way to account for magic in a world that sort of takes from our own.
p. 261 - Clarice is incapable of embroidery. Because masculine skill with a sword could never be paired with feminine skill with a needle, never mind how thorough Clarice's training in, well, everything. Natch. ( )