Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Early Critique: "The House of Four Winds (One Dozen Daughters #1)" by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

I received this e-book for free via NetGalley, but in no way did it affect my literary taste buds. This critique is my honest opinion.

To Be Released: August 3rd

Book #1 in the One Dozen Daughters Series

The Plot:
Clarice Swann is a princess of Swansgaarde out to find her destiny. On her eighteenth birthday, as planned by her parents, she is sent off to wherever she wishes to make a life for herself. A princess's dowry is a costly thing, and the King and Queen of Swansgaarde know they cannot afford twelve dowries, and therefore the princesses are taught a trade before they set out. Clarice has chosen the path of swordsmistress, but first she must go somewhere faraway to gain her fame and then settle down. To that end, she boards the Asesino, a merchant ship, hoping to pay her way to New Hesperia or thereabouts, dressed as Mr. Clarence Swann. But it soon becomes apparent she chose the wrong vessel, as the captain is merciless and the crew grows mutinous. Will she be able to make her way across the sea without shedding some blood?

I loved the plot of this book, even though crossdressing girls are quite frequently found in fantasy (and historical) books. Unfortunately, Clarice had none of the predictable trouble of crossdressing, so the thrill of that line of the plot was reduced to nothing. Not to say I don't like a book to do exactly as its predecessors had, but what was the point of her crossdressing when it didn't feel like it factored in to the grand scheme of things?

Another thing that bothered me about the book was its world. It is an odd mesh of fairytale and historical, with perhaps a tad of fantasy thrown in for the hell of it, and at one point there is mention of a story from the book of Kings (from the Bible). I mean, not to complain about Bible references (I wouldn't have a name without that book), but it felt odd to have it thrown in a world where magic (or thaumaturgy) exists, and is somehow biblically based.

The characters were simply okay. They did have moments when it felt like they might be adults, but the rest of the time it felt like they were all stuck in junior high. There was some plot with regards to the ship's crew having a hand in the Asesino politics and such, but that angle was quickly thrown aside as well.

A spoiler regarding the main plot, and my frustration over it (Highlight to view):
The sorceress who holds Dominick (Clarice's love interest) in thrall needs him because he is a virgin as well as a ship's navigator (a rarity). Clarice and Dominick know this, but not once is it even discussed that they might consummate that and therefore destroy the sorceress's chances to get what she wants. I don't think it would have been appropriate for them to do that (being Dominick has only known Clarice as a girl for a little while), but instead the authors have them break the magic by virtue of true love (or as I like to say, to blave). They don't even try to see if it works- they go into the final battle blind. Blinded by their true love that has grown from a friendship between what was thought to be a guy and another guy. If I were Clarice, I would've been leary of his confession (despite his being a virgin and all). It was just a bit too odd for me to accept that they have true love so soon.

This is a book I would've loved to read as a teen, or even as a tween. As an adult, it falls a bit short of my expectations of a good fantasy pirate yarn with a dash of romance. If you like young adult books, you may be of a different opinion, but for me, this didn't qualify as quite good enough to broach three stars.

Rating: 2.5 Stars, for a simply okay read that didn't fulfill my expectations.

Content: Mild violence. Ages 14+

Page Count: 307 pages expected in the hardcover edition.

P.S. I (Talitha) am named as one of the dozen princesses of Swansgaarde in this book. Even though this book wasn't for me, I'll definitely be reading the one that features that princess.

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