In the face of growing persecution of mystics, dissent from his Marlords, and grumbles of possible revolt (if not outright civil war), King Baryn of Gillengaria has decided to marry off his only child, Princess Amalie. Once hidden from view, she now has the beginnings of a public face - if he can manage a match that aligns him with a powerful House he may be able to stave off a battle that could tear his country apart. But he loves his daughter, and though she knows her duty requires a marriage borne of politics rather than love, he had no stomach for a wholly incompatable union. And, more strategically, no wish for his daiighter to become a pawn in a calculating political battle. So he enlists the services of Cammon, along with his fey wife Valri, to mentally eavesdrop on meetings between the princess and her potential suitors. They sit behind a drape, alert for hints of avarice and danger.
But Amalie has a mind and a will of her won. She is tired of being told what to do, and is ready to make her own decisions - from how she spends her time to who she weds or beds. And despite Baryn's best efforts, the opposing forces amass unabated.
As engrossing, textured and interwoved as its predecessors, this fourth book in the Twelve Houses series is as well crafted and compelling as its predecessors. The spectre of war creeps inevitably closer, and while the plot advances we get to revisit those characters who we've journey with thus far. The writing is uniformly superb, with attention to detail that is both precise and unobtrusive, and strongly three-dimensional character creation. There is an excellent sequence early on, where an assassin is so well portrayed that I found myself almost hoping his mission would succeed even though he intended to kill the king - and the foiling of his attempt was magnificent.
I'm holding off borrowing the last (so far) in both this series and the Samaria novels because once they're read I'll be bereft, but it's not easy. - 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