Dark Moon Defender Hardcover – Oct 3 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
In Shinn's intrigue-filled third Twelve Houses fantasy (after The Thirteenth House and Mystic and Rider), Justin, one of the elite King's Riders who serve King Baryn of Gillengaria, finds plenty to be concerned about after going undercover as a stableman to learn about threats to Baryn's rule. Noblewoman Coralinda Gisseltess, head of the Lumanen Convent of the Daughters of the Pale Mother (a moon goddess), has begun her own campaign against mystics, preaching that their magic is an abomination to the goddess. Then Justin meets Ellynor Alowa of Lirren, a young novice from the convent, and loses his heart to her. Things get complicated when Ellynor is denounced as a mystic because of her healing abilities. Rescuing Ellynor from being burned at the stake won't be easy, but if Justin succeeds, he'll then have to deal with the taboo against Lirren women marrying outside their clans. Once again Shinn expertly mixes romance with traditional fantasy for a satisfying read. (Oct.)
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About the Author
Sharon Shinn is a journalist who works for a trade magazine. Her first novel, The Shapechanger's Wife, was selected by Locus as the best first fantasy novel of 1995. She has won the William C. Crawford Award for Outstanding New Fantasy Writer, and was twice nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has lived in the Midwest most of her life. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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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.
I found this novel pretty sappy. Justin is sort of a bland character. His MO is to be stoic, and sarcastic and grumpy and it got old after a while. He is sent to do a job- spy on the lestra, and yet it seems he spends far too much time pining after Elynnor who was likewise a bit of a sue and neglects his duties. There isn't a lot of tension, or surprises in their relationship, and I would've much rather the author dealt with the reason he was sent to the town in the first place- to spy. I also feel in hindsight, it would've made a much better story to have made Ellynor a true follower of the Pale Mother. It would've made the love affair more interesting and intense. Instead Ellynor has her own secrets which took a lot of the potential tension out of the relationship. I'm sure there are some good worshipers of the Silver Lady. It would've been interesting if Ellynor had been one.
I disliked a bit how sue-ish the characters are becoming. No one is more powerful than Cenneth... No one stronger than Tayse.. No one prettier than Kyra etc. It gets a bit dull when the whole troop is filled with people who are the best. The conflict is likewise pretty black and white. I'm sure Coralinda does good things and mystic do bad things, but you wouldn't think so. I'd like to see the villains and good characters get some more development to make them cardboard and more realistic.
On the positive note, it was nice to see Kyra again, and the rest of the crew, although I was disappointed there was no fallout to the events of the previous book. The ending was too sappy for my taste and entirely predictable. I was glad it was over, to be honest.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition of the novel, so my apologies if names aren't spelled completely right.
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.
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