Sunday, May 17, 2009

REVIEW: The Thirteenth House by Sharon Shinn

Series: The Twelve Houses

Author's Website 


The Thirteenth House is Book 2 of The Twelve Houses series, the first of which is Mystic and Rider. Here, we have the story of Kirra Danalustrous, who together with her companions, rescued the Regent Lord Romar Brendyn from his kidnappers. In the process, she and the married lord fell in love and conducted a tumultuous affair while the world fell into chaos around them.


Sharon Shinn is a good writer. Almost against my will (more on that later), I was drawn into the adventure and I couldn't stop reading. Her characters took on a life of their own, and here, Kirra has her own personality and she was depicted quite convincingly different from Senneth (from Book 1). In fact, I quite like Kirra, when she wasn't mooning over Romar Brendyn.

In Book 1, we see Kirra as the flirtatious serramarra and happy-go-lucky shiftling. In Book 2, we realize she's restless by nature, and yet, she can be serious and responsible when the situation calls for it. In the end, she has to make a hard choice, and I admire her strength in being able to do so. She does not see only what's good for Kirra Danalustrous, but for the whole country, and she can act on it.

That said, I don't like one point in this story: the adulterous nature of Kirra's liaison with Romar Brendyn. I've been a long time reader of romance (interspersed with other genre), and because of that, it was hard for me to swallow the idea of an adulterous heroine. That, more than anything, made me reluctant to start this book, but because I wanted to know more about Senneth's and Tayse's developing relationship, I plucked up the courage to read this book.

However, Kirra did try to do the right thing at the start by rebuffing Romar's flirtatious attempts. I could even label her as honorable. But her yearnings for her own romance, coupled with her attraction for Romar and his "courtship" made her cross the line into a forbidden passion. It made me wonder though, is this usually how people fall into affairs in real life? Perhaps there was resistance on the part of one party, a conscious act not to betray one's code of honor, but the other party's persistence eventually wore his/her resistance down and made him/her succumb.

And succumb she did, even toward the end, until something woke her up. A hard slap to reality that she needed.

I wish we could've read more about Kirra's real happy-ever-after romance, but perhaps her adulterous liaison mirrors the unrest boiling in the country and how often we seek for love and acceptance in the wrong places. On the other hand, I admire the author in tackling this subject that isn't often seen in either romance or fantasy, and Kirra's emotional journey and her ultimate choice.

Another thing I noticed is how Romar is portrayed so very differently from Tayse. Though Tayse has feelings for Senneth over the course of Book 1, we don't see him actually "courting" Senneth. He was even denying his feelings for her and suffering from insecurity. However, here we see Romar Brendyn, "courting" Kirra with words and actions. Which would have been romantic had he not been married. I actually liked him for a time, until I remembered he was married and quite consciously deciding on cheating on his wife.

Like Senneth's story, I think we will see more of Kirra in the next books. I hope so. I want to know what happened to her and Donnal.

Speaking of Donnal, I don't like the way Kirra took him for granted. But perhaps, we tend to do that to friends who have been at our side for a long time, and it is only when said friend is gone that we come to value him and his friendship. What I like best about this entire book was the scene of Donnal's leaving. I almost cried.

On the whole, I think the gods dealt harshly with Kirra in this book. She went through hard trials and difficulties, betrayals and abandonment. Though Romar professed to love her, I think he's very selfish. He didn't want to leave his wife, yet he wanted to have Kirra as well. Where does that leave Kirra? What kind of life is he subjecting her to? He's like a man who wants to have his cake and his pastries and eat them. Then again, this book is about choices--Kirra's choices--and we also see her growth and development as a character. 

Book Rating: 3.0



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