Book Review: Fantastic Fantasy: Fortune and Fate

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Fortune and Fate, the last in—or maybe just the add-on to Sharon Shinn’s The Twelve Houses series, returns readers to the world we reluctantly left, but does not entirely ease the ache for our own battle comrades nor wrap up all of the loose ends of Reader and Raelynx that I hoped that it would.  Yet, Shinn’s world is as masterfully crafted as ever:  She still creates the sense of camaraderie, though now with a new group; battles are still as thrilling; and we do catch up with our friends, if not enough.  I cheered aloud upon the first mention of Senneth, the first of our dear six to return to the stage.

I say that I feel that Fortune and Fate really is not of the same series as the first four books because it does not follow the same group, primarily, and while I can believe that that group was close to Wen and felt her absence in the time between Reader and Raelynx and Fortune and Fate, I felt no particular attachment to Wen when she parted ways with the other Riders and so felt no real anxiety for her nor great joy at our reunion.

Much of my pleasure in books two through four was in reuniting with old friends

I came to love Wen through Fortune and Fate, though never perhaps with the same intensity that I love the six main characters of the first four books.  She shares a Rider’s nobility and strength, and she is rendered as expertly as any of the other six by Shinn.

Of all of The Twelve Houses, this is the most overtly feminist and made me rethink the feminism of the previous books.  Here, the real difference is that the shift in power towards women is bluntly mentioned, where before we had witnessed the shift subtly as overthrowing cruel rulers (the exception being Baryn), without ever directly pointing out the gender of those lords.  Still, as in previous books, as some of the most powerfully good are women, [SPOILER] so are the most powerfully bad. [END SPOILER]  This book too might result in the pairing with the most radically reversed gendered roles.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this story.  I tore through the pages, and this book does leave few if any dangling threads.  Perhaps what left me most unsatisfied was the absence of the full legends referenced.

Literature does wonders for creating a realistic world.  Shinn’s almost didn’t need it, as so few of the characters that we loved in the first four books seemed the type to be even casual readers, but it is good to know that a canon exists in Gillengaria as do bibliophiles.

The Twelve Houses series as a whole are nicely balanced between being plot- and character-driven, full of exciting battles, sweeping romances, political intrigue, and a complex religion that adds flavor to the world.  Too, unlike many writers today, Shinn does not neglect setting, especially important as the majority of these are journey books.  She captains the reader to hamlets, rowdy taprooms, through the barren wilderness, and into the ballrooms of nobles.  Each of the fourteen regions (including Goshenhall and the Lirrenlands) is unique, a feat achieved primarily through landscape and the culture of its people.

*****

Shinn, Sharon. The Twelve Houses Series, Book Five: Fortune and Fate. New York: Berkley-Penguin, 2008.

This review is not endorsed by Sharon Shinn, Berkley Publishing Group, or Penguin Group.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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