by Rachel Neumeier
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Orbit
Orphaned, two sisters are left to find their own fortunes.
Sweet and proper, Karah's future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life... if she agrees to play their game.
Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage's offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?
With the arrival of a foreign bard into the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom.
House of Shadows can best be described as a game of chess. The storyline had a slow tempo throughout with strategic moves and actions some expected some completely ingenious. A household of eight sisters undergo a series of unfortunate events when both parents die, a sister's arranged marriage is held in limbo, and they also fall into a pit of unrecoverable poverty. Two sisters of sold into servitude: Nemienne goes as an understudy to a powerful mage and Karah becomes a Keiso at the glamorous Flower House. In this unselfish quest to save their family they inadvertently become intertwined into conspiracies that could destroy everything they hold dear. They've been shielded their whole life. Little do they know their sorcery banned hometown, Lirionne, is plagued with corruption and magic. Where Shadows of teleportation, lead to places unknown and a ruthless king known for his brutality and victories...with a cursed beauty......misguided and destructive whims of a scorn child....illegal and mysterious foreigner neither friend nor foe yet harbors desire for vengeance against the throne.........This is a fantasy lover's delight.
This is written in a very subtle (sometimes political) manner. The culture of the people suggests that being civilized over rules all, even when making threats. Thus there are many undercurrents and implications with speech but nothing straightforward. In spite of the constant romanticizing, I wouldn't recommend this for younger YA readers. I giggled uncontrollably when I realized the keiso were the equivalent of working girls. Dignified and more PG-13 but still women of the night. Referred to as the candle light district yet similar to the red light district if you know what I mean.
While it took me longer to read this novel, overall I found it an interesting read. It was definitely much more creatively eventful then any book I've read in a very long time. I do caution however that due to the cadence, readers exercise patience. This didn't read exactly like an epic novel but it was very similar. The only reason I could not offer a higher rating is because I am a fan of action. While this book held my attention, it didn't make my heart race. I was however thoroughly surprised by the ending. That was definitely a slippy ride. Right when you think the book's reached it's conclusion, there's more and it had me holding my breathe. The overall conclusion had many loose ends and cryptic speech to inspire new chapters.
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