10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the third in the Gillengaria series. I loved Mystic and Rider which introduced us to 6 disparate characters brought together for a journey into southern Gillengaria. The story focused primarily on Senneth, the most powerful mystic in the land, and Tayse, a leader of the King's Riders. The second story, Thirteenth House, told the tragic love story between Kirra Danalustrous, a noblewoman, and married man of the Thirteenth House. I was a bit distraught at the end of Thirteenth House. I suffered through so much emotional turmoil for that book only to arrive at an unsatisfactory conclusion. I still feel that Kirra's life is unfinished, that she is not yet complete. But DMD is such an utterly romantic book that it makes up for the 13th House.
Justin is a King's Rider. A King's Rider is one of 50 men handpicked by King of Gillengaria for their strength and loyalty. One character describes the riders and the mystique around them as follows:
"Fifty men and women whose lives are dedicated to protecting the crown. They train all day--on foot, on horseback--they practice with swords, with crossbows, with daggers, with bare hands. It is said that it takes two men to hold a Rider at bay, three men to kill him, four men to find the courage to drag his body to a grave. And a whole battalion to run in fear from his fellow Riders who come to avenge his death."
He grew up on the streets, robbing and assaulting when one day he picked the wrong man to mark. That man was Tayse. Tayse saw something in Justin and brought him to Goshenall, the seat of the King, to train with the Riders. Justin's whole focus in life is to be a Rider, worthy of the opportunity that Tayse gave him.
Justin is ordered south to spy on Coralinda Giltesess and the Lumen Convent. The Lumen convent is run by Coralinda Gisseltess. She is a fanatic bent on eradicating mystics from Gillengaria. She is gathering a huge army and together with her brother, Halchon Gisseltess who has aspirations for the throne, will set brother against brother in a Gillengarian civil war.
Ellynor is a Lirren girl. The Lirrens, politically, reminded me a bit of the ancient Scottish clan system. There are smaller clans that are part of a larger family of clans. There are alliances and sworn enemies. For a girl to marry outside of her sebahta-ris, her lover must fight and kill one of the girl's family members. The reason Ellynor is at the convent is because her cousin, Rosarie, fell in love with an opposing clan member, and she was shipped off to the convent to quell those rebellious feelings. You can tell a Lirren girl by her hair. The Lirren women paint the family heraldry in their hair.
If anyone were to come across Rosurie, lost or ill or dead--unable to speak-- he could unpin her hair and know exactly to which family she belonged. Even if she was found by one of the warring sebahta, one who hated the Plesa family, she would be returned to them, safe from further harm.
The conflict is immediate and seemingly insurmountable. Justin is a mystic sympathizer. Ellynor is a novice of a convent that is set up for the sole purpose of destroying mystics. Should Justin and Ellynor fall in love, Justin would have to kill one of Ellynor's beloved brothers or her father or her cousin or someone that she values.
This is a book you can read without the first two, but if a reader does she will be missing such rich and precious stories. This story carries on the larger, epic saga of mystic against non believer. The drama, the suspense, each page brings us closer to the finale-the great war that must be coming between the Pale Mother and the mystics. Between Coralinda Gisseltess and Senneth. Between Halchon and Tayse. Between the North and the South of Gillengaria. To the smaller more intimate battle between Justin and one of Ellynor's beloved family members. It focuses on how differences can stir fear, incite hate to a destructive degree. But against this larger backdrop is the intimate story of two young people who fall in love and what they are willing to sacrifice for that love.
This is a novel about people, love and family. Family is an important theme for the series and also for the book. The Lirren clans are built on the importance of family and Justin has no background, the son of a whore. The question is asked more than once, what one would do for love? Would you allow your brother to be killed? Would you betray your father? Would you give up your friends, your people, your way of llife? Would you sacrifice all for the sake of one?
There is this marvelous scene between Tayse and Justin about love and it is not some stupid alpha male speak, nor is it the female speak we often hear out of the mouths of alpha heroes. This is an exchange between two warriors about how love will change your life.
In the end, when Justin declares his love for Ellynor, when he invites her to join his family, the tears are flowing. What is so remarkable is that I've heard this speech from Tayse. Oh, not a speech exactly, but thoughts and his thoughts are so his own and Justin's thoughts are so his own. You have so intimately captured who these characters are. They never mimick each other. They are always true to themselves. It is simply remarkable.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This title follows nicely in the path set in "Mystic and Rider" and "The Thirteenth House," the first two books in this series. The bad guys are still stirring up trouble and the good guys are still fighting it. War is still coming, in the near future. The group from the first two books, Senneth, Tayse, Justin, Kirra, Donnal and Cammon, reunite and diverge and reunite and diverge throughout the tale. Justin falls in love and complications ensue. Kirra's shapeshifting abilities are put to good use yet again. I just really like this world that Sharon Shinn has created. It's like a parallel medieval time period. While there aren't any earth-shattering revelations, this is definitely an enjoyable book that will be on my comfort shelf with the rest by this author. She's kind of hard to classify for me; fans of historical fiction might give this a try, as well those as sci-fi/fantasy/romance.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Arthur W. Jordin
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Dark Moon Defender (2006) is the third fantasy novel in The Twelve Houses series, following The Thirteenth House. In the previous volume, Kirra blurs the Regent's memories of her and goes home with Donal to recuperate. There they open a special clinic for people with red-horse fever.
In this novel, Justin is assigned a different sort of job: spying on the Lumanen Convent. He gets work in a stable within Neft, the nearest town to the convent. As a King's Rider, he is not used to working alone. A courier comes by periodically, but the occasional visits by Kirra, Donal, Senneth, Cammon and Tayse help fight off his loneliness.
Ellynor Alowa is a Lirren woman, who has accompanied her wild and passionate cousin Rosurie to Lumanen Convent. Ellynor is an adherent of the Dark Watcher -- a sister goddess to the Pale Mother -- and a healer. She has never heard of mystics and doesn't consider herself one. She doesn't think that the healing and hiding that she does is really magic, only a gift of the goddess.
Justin saves Ellynor from a drunken merchant and develops a fondness for her. She enjoys his presence and the new experiences that he brings into her life. She dresses as a boy and eats at a tavern for the first time. Most of all, she enjoys moving around town without chaperone or her brothers warding her.
Naturally, they grow very close and Ellynor experiences kissing for the first time, but so many things are new to her. When Justin learns that she can heal, he reckons that she is a mystic and urges her to leave the convent. After he tells her a few facts about the activities of the convent guards, she is horrified and becomes more cautious, but still doesn't consider herself as a mystic.
Then she hides the two of them in plain sight from convent guards who look right at them without noticing their presence. It is just a little talent that most Lirrenfolf can use as needed. Justin tries even harder to get her to run away from the convent, but she can't leave her cousin alone.
Then he discovers that the moonstones that she is wearing are burning her skin and he becomes frantic. He even thinks of carrying her off by brute force, but knows that their friendship can never survive such action. He does begin to elicit some doubts in Ellynor, but she stays on with her cousin.
In this story, Ellynor doesn't tell Justin that she is Lirrenfolk, for fear that such knowledge will drive him away from her. Of course, Justin doesn't tell her that he is a King's Rider. They both know that the other is keeping secrets, but accept the other's secrecy as natural under the circumstances.
Of course, Senneth has lived among the Lirrenfolk and recognizes Ellynor's background from Justin's first description of her. She keeps Ellynor's secret, but makes contact with Ellynor's father and brothers and lays the foundation for acceptance of Justin's courtship.
Senneth challenges Ellynor's brother Torrin to a friendly duel and beats him, but declares that she is not good enough to beat Justin. Then Tayse handily defeats her other brother Hayden. Now the King's Riders have a strong reputation within the Alowa family as fighters.
As might be expected, Coralinde Gisseltess learns that Ellynor is a mystic and tries to burn her at the stake. Justin's friends have a hard time keeping him from changing head on into the convent. Naturally, four mystics and two King's Riders have little trouble rescuing Ellynor from the convent, especially with her own talents.
If you are wondering about the title, you are not alone. Coralinde declares that Ellynor is her Dark Moon Daughter because she can see very well in the dark. However, a Dark Moon Defender is never mentioned. On the other hand, Ellynor believes strongly in the Pale Mother in a way that Coralinde would never tolerate.
Highly recommended for Shinn fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of exotic magic, political intrigue, and true romance.
-Arthur W. Jordin
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Dark Moon Defender is the third book in the Saga of the Twelve Houses. The second book in the Saga, The Thirteenth House, was such a disappointment to me that I've been anxious for the next installment to redeem the series. After months of waiting for the local library system to get the third book, it finally arrived. Like a chug of hearty soup after taking a swig of milk gone bad, the bad taste left by the last book was washed away and replaced with something truly satisfying. In short, I liked it.
Justin has been sent to spy on the Lumanen Convent, the stronghold of a group of religious fanatics bent on overthrowing the government of Gillengaria and eradicating all those endowed with magical abilities, the mystics. While performing his clandestine duties he falls in love with Ellynor, a convent novice who could only love him in return if she abandoned religious and family bonds. The situation is further complicated when Ellynor is exposed as a mystic and must fight for her life.
Once again, Ms. Shinn successfully weaves deeper themes into the story without allowing them to dominate the story. This episode emphasizes the true self, the essence of who we are regardless of our setting or our position in life. Neither Justin nor Ellynor are living as their heart would lead them - Justin is cloaked in his clandestine role, while Ellynor's path in life has been chosen for her. In spite of the apparent incompatibility of their stations, and even though they both know the other is keeping secrets, they come to trust each other. Each senses who the other is at the core. Their confidence in each other's true character is what allows their relationship to blossom and eventually grow into complete devotion.
It's interesting to me that I liked this book so much. It has so many of the same characteristics I didn't appreciate in the previous book. Like episode two, the main story line is an undercover romance between two people that would be wise to avoid a relationship. Not only that, but the one thing that saved the second book is nearly absent in this one, namely the advancement of the overall saga (well, that's not quite true - there are some potentially significant alliances forged between various groups, but you can only guess at the future importance of those alliances). With so much in common with the previous book you might expect a similar reading experience, yet in this case I really liked the result.
Can't wait for book four...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Fanatic followers of the moon goddess are actively hunting down and murdering mystics, and the King and his Riders can do little to stop them. The people have no particular use for mystics and the priestess of the moon goddess has been preaching against them convincingly. King's rider Justin is sent to investigate the monastery where the Daughters of the Pale Mother are headquartered. Still, actually getting information about the cult will be difficult.
Ellynor dreams of finding a middle way between the constraining rules of her culture and independence. When her cousin falls for an inappropriate man, Ellynor joins her in becoming novices with the Daughters of the Pale Mother. But while Ellynor has plenty of respect for all goddesses, her primary faith centers on another goddess, the Black Mother, Goddess of Night. When she is accosted by a drunk nobleman, Justin rescues her--and the two begin a relationship that is forbidden both by the rules of the Daughters and even more by the rules of Ellynor's culture and family. Since Justin is not from her people, her relatives are bound to rescue her, whether she wants it or not. And they won't stop until either they, or Justin, are dead. For Ellynor, who loves her family, neither is acceptable.
Author Sharon Shinn creates a compelling fantasy world. Aside from his loyal Riders, the King is weak and has no male heir. The nobles are restless and looking for an excuse to rebel--and the King's support for the hated mystics gives them just that. Conflict with Ellynor's clan just might be the final blow to the hopes of the mystics and of the King.
Shinn does a nice job describing the magic. Ellynor's powers, in particular, and the mythology of the Black Mother, are compelling and emotionally strong, as is Ellynor's impossible dilemma of falling for the wrong man.
I would have liked DARK MOON DEFENDER to have taken a bit higher-level look at the political situation and the ramifications of Justin's and Ellynor's decisions. Making the King's opponents a bit more three-dimensional and sympathetic would have helped, I think, make the story even stronger. From a romance perspective, I thought that the resolution to Ellynor's dilemma was telegraphed too obviously, and delivered with almost anti-climactic ease. That said, however, DARM MOON DEFENDER is a hard book to put down, delivers both exciting action and a high emotional charge, and is set in a wonderfully strong world. Shinn's writing sucked me into the story and made me care about the characters.
DARK MOON DEFENDER is a fantasy story, but it will appeal very strongly to romance readers as well as the romance plays at the very center of this novel.