Review: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I admit it!  I wanted to read The House of the Four Winds because of the cover.  I think it is absolutely breathtaking.  We all know the problem with judging a book by its cover, though.  Sometimes the story doesn’t live up to that gorgeous cover.  In this case, I’m glad I did pick it up.  While the pacing was occasionally frustrating, The House of the Fours Winds was a gripping read none the less.

I can’t think of the last Mercedes Lackey novel that I’ve read.  It’s been years and years, so I was curious to see if I’d like her writing style now.  I don’t think I liked it way back when, but after reading this, I’m going to have to give her backlist another look. The storytelling reminded me of Diane Zahler, told to a slightly older audience.  While The House of the Four Winds is an adult fantasy, I don’t think there is anything objectionable within the pages, making this a great candidate for a motivated younger reader looking for a challenge.  Clarice, the heroine, is 18, making her highly relatable to a teen reader, and I thought the writing skewed young.

The set up was a bit difficult to swallow.  Princess Clarice is the oldest of twelve daughters, and after her mother finally gives birth to a son, the girls are all informed that they must make their own way in the world.  Swansgaard, their tiny kingdom, would be ruined if the treasury had to provide for twelve dowries.  Instead, each girl will seek her fortune upon attaining the age of 18.  Clarice, gifted with a sword, has decided to become a swordmaster.  Unfortunately, she needs some practical experience if she expects to attract any students, so off she goes, seeking adventure.

Disguised as Clarence, she buys passage on a ship bound for the new world.  Once aboard the ship, she questions the wisdom of her decision.  The captain and the senior officers are cruel men, quick to punish the crew for any infraction.  The only solace is her friendship with the young navigator Dominick.  He is the opposite of the captain; good and kind, he is outraged by the treatment of the crew, but he is powerless to help them.  Until the day the men are pushed too far, and they take up arms against their leaders.  Before she knows it, Clarice finds herself caught up in the munity, even taking an active part when Dominick’s life is threatened.

So, yeah!  The House of the Four Winds has a cross-dressing heroine, mutiny at sea, pirates, and magic.  The first 10% of the book dragged for me, and I was tempted to put it down.  I have so many books to read that a slow start almost guarantees a quick trip back to the TBR mountain.  By 15%, though, I couldn’t put it down.  The pacing slowed periodically, but I liked the characters so much that I didn’t mind getting to know them better.  Much of the book is character driven, with bursts of action and danger, and while I was expecting more action, I didn’t mind its absence.  The treacherous journey under the control of the evil sorceress more than made up for it,  and the end of the book was fraught with terrible challenges for the ever shrinking crew to deal with.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book – Clarice is a strong, intelligent heroine.  She saves Dominick far more often than he saves her, and I really enjoyed that.  Instead of waiting for her prince to find her, Clarice took control of whichever situation presented itself, and became her own prince.  That doesn’t happen nearly enough in the books I read.  Now I’m curious to see if her sisters are as confident and capable as Clarice, so I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

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.