King's Rider Justin has been sent to investigate events at Coralinda Gesseltess's convent, where the increasingly fanatical Daughters of the Pale Moon cult is growing in strength and passion. Though he's heard rumours about harassment and worse, he's shocked to witness the murder of mystics, clearly at the instigation of Coralinda, known by acolytes as the Lestra to those at Lumanen Convent, and to followers of the Pale Mother. Ellynor has been sent to the convent to accompany her cousin, Rosurie, who fel in love with the wrong man - a potential disaster among the Lirren, who duel to the death if a female family member wishes to marry outside the complex network of families that comprise the sebahta-ris. Ellynor is restless, happy to obey the dictates of the convent though she worships the Black Mother, the Dark Watcher, who fills her with the power to heal and cloaks her in the night.
When Ellynor, running an errand for the Lestra, becomes lost in the streets of nearby neft, she comes perilously close to being ravished by a nobleman. she is saved by a dashing stableboy, and a close relationship swiftly springs up between them. But the people of Gillengaria and the Lirren are separated by more than the Lireth mountains, and Ellynor knows that anything serious between them can only ends in Justin's death or, if he were somehow able to defend himself with skill, the death of her father, brother or cousin. And yet she cannot stay away.
This third in the Twelve Houses series is as strong and complex as its predecessors - continuing the larger narrative of the inevitable war between those loyal to the king and those affiliated with the Pale Goddess, Dark Moon Defender is also a beautiful romance, continues the journeys of relationships from the earlier books, and both fills in and expands on details of this fascinating world.
I know I gush about Shinn in general, and this series in particular, but the writing is mesmerising. Deeply satisfying, rounded and compelling, its only flaw is that I find myself reading 'just one more chapter' until the early hours of the morning. I'm holding off on the fourth book, but suspect it will be a close thing indeed. - Alex
The Twelve Houses series
1. Mystic and Rider
2. The Thirteenth House
3. Dark Moon Defender
4. Reader and Raelynx
5. Fortune and Fate