After a long wait, due to the vagaries of the postal service, I finally got my copy of Rachel Neumeier’s latest, House of Shadows. After The City in the Lake and The Floating Islands, Neumeier’s books are pretty much on my auto-buy list and what I’d heard about House was definitely intriguing.
I found it a very satisfying book, with plenty of political machinations (I’ve mentioned before how very much I love fantasy books with politics) and a nice hint of romance. There were some lovely moments as well, especially the descriptions of Taudde’s magic.
The story follows three main characters, Nemienne, Taudde, and Leilis. Although the back cover had promised a little more in terms of interaction between Nemienne and her sister Karah(Nemienne and Karah do work together significantly at several key points, but their relationship is more of a constant undercurrent and I would definitely call Karah a minor character), I quickly got over my disappointment. Because the three main characters are awesome: detailed, nuanced, and conflicted. Taudde is possibly my favorite by a hair, partly because I really resonated with his journey, but I loved all three and cheered for them.
The book opens with the kind of language and situation that links fairy tales and 19th century literature: the father dies, the daughters are forced to find their way in a world that is not kind. The balance never tips over into too much darkness or danger, but it is made clear that there are real things at stake here, that Nemienne and Karah’s futures (and Leilis and Taudde’s in a more oblique way) are not certain.
I like the world as well. It clearly has some Japanese/Asian influences, which is shown on the cover, but I also felt that it had almost a Northern English/Scottish feel to it–the city perched on the edge of a wild sea. I loved Taudde’s interaction with the sea, the way he was drawn to it and yet feared it.
And…I liked the way the conflict was resolved, and most especially Nemienne’s role in it. I’m not entirely sure that others will agree with me, but it was satisfying on the character level and I am definitely a character reader rather than a plot reader.
So I personally found the whole thing very pleasing indeed, and am happy that I bought it.