After King Bayrn was killed during the uprisings led by houses Fortunalt and Gisseltess two years previous, Kings Rider Wen has felt nothing but regret and guilt for letting the king be killed while under her protection. Unable to face her fellow Riders, she refrained from swearing allegiance to Queen Amalie and instead set off in search of redemption - by aiding anyone in need of help. In her travels Wen rescues young Kayrrn Fortunalt - serramarra and future marlady of Fortunalt - from a young man trying to force her into marriage. Finding Wen to be particularly handy with a sword, Kayrrn and her bookish guardian Jasper Palladar ask Wen to stay on at the underprotected Fortune to train a house guard for the serramarra. Feeling a need to keep moving, Wen only agrees to stay at Fortune for a short time, all the while becoming more and more attached to the people of Fortune - especially the serramarra and Jasper.
Back in Gosenhall, Cammon - the Queen's consort - has decided to take a tour of the southern houses and has asked Senneth(!), Tayse, and numerous other soldiers and Riders to accompany him on his journey. I was thrilled to see a new Cammon - one who could easily navigate court politics while simultaneously glad-handing every man, woman, and child they passed on the road. Gone are the days of his complete cluelessness (which I sort of missed), but Cammon can always be counted on to watch out for even the most seemingly insignificant person.
This fifth installment in Sharon Shinn's much loved Twelve Houses series was full of adventure and the loyalty and love that I've come to expect from her characters. This book does depart from the others in that it was much slower moving with more inner character development and less constant and often explosive action. Which was not a bad thing. I quickly grew to love Wen in all her guilt-ridden but selfless heroism. Fantastic writing with nary a hitch.
series reading order:
~ Mystic and Rider
~ The Thirteenth House
~ Dark Moon Defender
~ Reader and Raelynx - my review
~ Fortune and Fate