Over the past two weeks I have read the first three books of the series of The Twelve Houses, by Sharon Shinn. I was forgetting to do book reviews individually for them, so I thought I would just do them as a group. The three books are Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, and Dark Moon Defender. They take place in a fantasy world called Gillengaria. (Gillengaria is actually the name of the country; their are a handful of other lands in this world, where the action does not take place.) This country is made up of twelve houses, each house owning the majority of the land under their control. The politics within these noble houses are as in depth as many other fantasy novels.
The basic plotline for the entire series is that there is rebellion brewing in the southern houses, who do not believe that the king will live much longer. They have no faith in his daughter to rule after him, and so have plans to depose her once the king dies. The king's death seems to be a foregone conclusion, although he is in perfectly good health. The other issue that is causing unrest in the kingdom is the presence of mystics. Mystics are people who have various types of magical powers, and they have been around for as long as anyone can remember. But a new religious cult is spreading fear and distrust of mystics throughout the land. Because the king favors mystics, he is seen as weak, and perhaps even under their control.
Each book follows through this plotline, revealing more information and developing the story as time passes. All three books follow the same six characters that are introduced as traveling companions in the first book. These are the central characters to the story, although a few others are introduced along the way. Each book centers on one or more of these central characters, telling the story from their point of view. The relationships between the characters are very well developed, and very complex. There is also a good amount of romance, that fits in very well with the overall plot of the series, and does not seem in any way out of place. Shinn includes at least one romance in every one of the books I've read by her, and she always does a lovely job of making you really feel connected to the characters. This series is just as inventive and entertaining as her Archangel series, and I look forward to reading any new books that come out.