Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: The House of Four Winds

The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

This book could have conceivably been a series of short stories tied together by the fact they're stories of Clarice.  There's several different "arcs" throughout the book that have a beginning, middle and end making this feel more serialized at times in fact.  There's Clarice's decision to leave home and seek adventure as far she could travel (culminating with her finding passage on the Asesino), the precursor to the mutiny, after the mutiny and lastly outwitting a demon spawn witch.

In all fairness time is so weirdly mentioned or figured that while the above sounds like quite a bit, I couldn't tell you exactly how long it was (except that it wasn't a full year as the book began on Clarice's birthday and we didn't pass her next one).

Clarice is a likeable, if rather a Mary Sue, main character.  She's pragmatic almost to her detriment and has a thirst for knowledge that is kept sharp by her perceptiveness.  For all that she is still a tad young (18) and comes off as naively lucky.  She mentions at one point she was happy that she thought to disguise herself as a boy, since no one gives her and her sword two looks that way so she's had a relatively safe journey from home.  That strained my credulity a little bit to be honest.  Even a young boy (Clarice guessed she looked about 15 or 16) traveling alone, with relatively high quality though not flashy apparel and sword would attract attention.  

Aboard the ship as Clarence, our dear princess splits her idle time between fraternizing with Dominick (the ship's required but mostly ignored navigator, who's only a couple years older then her, charming, tragic backstory and vow of resilience (Beyonce was his spirit animal singing "I will survive" constantly) or hanging out with the crabby, but tender-hearted ship's doctor.  She spends a good deal of her time avoiding the Captain, his first mate and the preacher on board as well however. 

World building is...sketchy at best I'd say.  Its sort of, kind of set in an alternate history Earth somewhere in the late 1700's/early 1800's.  Common enough fantasy adventuring details are included and the only really interesting things to me were Clarice's oddly liberal and forward thinking ancestors/family and the Pirate island hangout place.  The Pirate island fared better in the detailing, though even that is stifled in lieu of Plot Convenient Evil Other Woman appearing.

Overall there's nothing particularly wrong with the book, but it won't stand out to long time fantasy fans.  If you're looking for an interesting pirate fantasy book I'd point you at CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA by A.M. Dellamonica and better sketched out world building Lackey books exist in the "Elemental Masters" series she writes solo.