August 6, 2014 by mmileti
Acclaimed fantasy writers Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory have joined together again to create the first novel in the new One Dozen Daughters series. Like much of their previous work, House of the Four Winds is an epic fantasy in its purest form. It has the tone of a fairytale, a protagonist who is a girl coming of age during a swashbuckling voyage, and a light-hearted plot filled with romance and magic. Though it is far from a groundbreaking or genre-defying story, it is a fast paced and enjoyable read that is perfect for anyone who is in the mood to read an archetypal fantasy adventure.
House of the Four Winds follows the protagonist Clarice, who is one of twelve princesses of the small country of Swansgaard. Clarice’s single brother will inherit the rule of Swansgaard, so it is up to each of the daughters to find their own fortunes. Clarice decides that her destiny lies in travel to distant lands, so she disguises herself as a young man named Clarence, and takes a job as a sailor on a ship that she hopes will eventually take her to the New World. But her journey takes a surprising turn, and suddenly she is part of an outlawed crew in search of a famous pirate treasure. Things get even more complicated when she finds herself falling for a man who has been claimed by a sorceress, and the adventure that results will challenge Clarice to become the woman she truly is meant to be.
This novel stands out in a genre that has recently seen a trend of harsh realism. Lackey and Mallory have created a novel that is unsoiled by an indifferent world, and retains its lighthearted fairytale tone throughout even the darkest moments of its plot. It reminds me of the novels that first attracted me to the fantasy genre, and though I have refined my tastes to stories that are much bleaker in tone, it is nice every once in a while to read a book that displays the pure escapist roots of the genre.
Despite this, I found many of the novels themes to be terribly clichéd, and would have liked to see a story that was a little more innovative. Clarice also seemed a little underdeveloped as a character, and many of the aspects of her personality seemed present only for the convenience of the plot line. The plot was also lacking gravity in its important scenes, which, if present, would have made me more immersed and invested in the story.
I would still recommend House of the Four Winds to readers who are looking for a light fantasy, and especially those readers that enjoy a nautical theme. The intricacies of Clarice’s life aboard a ship were some of the best-written and interesting parts of the book. I would also recommend this story to YA readers who would like a fast paced introduction to fantasy. The simple adventure of the story reminded me of why I fell in love with fantasy in the first place.
Overall, I would rate this book a 6.5/10.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in return for an honest review.