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Sharon Shinn
12 houses
Mystic and Rider

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Mystic and Rider
The fire mystic Senneth crosses the country of Gillengaria on a mission for the king, trying to discover if noble marlords from the Twelve Houses are planning an uprising. She is accompanied by the soldiers Justin and Tayse, two King’s Riders who are unswervingly loyal to the crown. Also on the journey are the shape-changers Kirra and Donnal, and a young mystic named Cammon who can practically read minds. It’s soon clear that not only are marlords planning a rebellion, but that they are being aided by Daughters of the Pale Mother, a fanatical religious sect that hates mystics. While Senneth can clearly take care of herself, Tayse finds himself unable to stop watching her—determined both to protect her and to uncover her secrets.

Publishing history: Published in hardcover in 2005 and mass market paperback in 2006. Nominated for the 2005 Romantic Times Reader’s Choice Award for Best Epic Fantasy.

Interesting tidbit: The thing that most people seemed to find disappointing about the Samaria books was that they didn’t follow the same people through successive storylines, so from the outset I planned the Twelve Houses books as a series about six main characters. I gave Senneth my own headaches just so I could share the pain.

While I was writing this series, I was frequently playing a CD made for me by a friend, which features a collection of “monster ballads.” It occurred to me that many of them could be used as the theme songs for some of these characters. Def Leppard’s “Bringing on the Heartache” always seemed like the song Tayse would be singing to Senneth.

My favorite scene: The last few pages of the book, the final scene between Tayse and Senneth. It took me forever to complete. I would write a sentence, then fold my hands in my lap. Write another sentence, fold my hands. I got what I was going for, though.

The Thirteenth House

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The Thirteenth House
Noble-born shape-shifter Kirra Danalustrous has accepted her father’s invitation to style herself as her sister—the heir of Danalustrous—and attend all the social events being held by the Twelve Houses. She is accompanied by Donnal, a peasant and shape-shifter who has served her most of her life. She is delighted to learn that Senneth, Tayse, Justin and Cammon will also be making the social circuit as they escort Princess Amalie to the summer balls. But it’s soon clear that Amalie is under attack from factions that want to overthrow the throne, and Amalie’s uncle Romar, regent of the kingdom, might be in even more danger. Kirra gladly helps protect them both, though it is disastrous when she begins to fall in love with Romar. For Romar is a married man—and half of Kirra’s heart already belongs to Donnal.

Publishing history: Published in hardcover in spring 2006; mass market paperback scheduled for spring of 2007.

Interesting tidbit: Originally, I was going to have Kirra practice her shape-shifting skills on Cammon when they were all gathered in Rappengrass. Once I decided Justin would be a better candidate, it helped me figure out how I would write a pivotal scene in Dark Moon Defender, in which someone has to infiltrate the convent in disguise.

More theme songs from the “monster ballads” CD: Cinderella’s “Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone” (Kirra to Donnal), Hagar/Schon/Arronson/Shrieve’s “Missing You” (Romar to Kirra), Poison’s “Life Goes On” (Kirra to Romar).

My favorite scene: The one where Donnal leaves. I was actually crying when I wrote it, which took me by surprise.

Dark Moon Defender

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Dark Moon Defender
The Rider Justin is sent to the small town of Neft, so he can spy on the nearby Lumanen Convent where the Daughters of the Pale Mother reside. He quickly learns that Coralinda Gisseltess, the leader of the Daughters, is indeed persecuting mystics and the people who shelter them. Even more quickly, he falls in love with Ellynor, one of the convent novices. But the courtship is perilous in the extreme. Not only does Coralinda hate the king and the king’s Riders, but Ellynor is from the Lirrenlands, where women are not allowed to take lovers outside of the close-knit clans. If her brothers find out about Justin, they will insist upon a duel to the death...and if Coralinda finds out that Ellynor is a mystic, Ellynor’s own life will be instantly at risk.

Publishing history: Published in hardcover in fall 2006; scheduled as a mass market release in fall of 2007. Cover artist Donato Giancola won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, though not specifically for this book.

Interesting tidbit: Many of the details of this novel were cannibalized from a book I’ll never write and that had its origins in a short story I wrote for an English class in junior high school. The tale of the healer Maara comes from that book, as does the bit with Senneth’s necklace.

Another interesting fact: The original cover featured a Rider who looked much like actor Josh Holloway. (For a long time, that cover was featured on Amazon.com.) But everyone was a little nervous about how that might play out legally, so Justin’s face was changed. The original artwork is stunning and sold for more than I could afford at the 2006 ComicCon. While I was doing a signing in London in 2006, I met people who were friends of the couple who had bought the original artwork!

Theme music: Saigon Kick’s “Love Is On the Way” and Tesla’s “Love Song,” both Justin to Ellynor.

My favorite scene: Tayse’s proposal? Justin’s proposal? The rescues? Hard to pick.

Reader and Raelynx

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Reader and Raelynx
King Baryn has decided that if he marries his daughter Amalie to a high-ranking noble, the rebellious marlords might be pacified and he might be able to avert a war. So he invites all the young serramar to the royal city to court his daughter. To protect Amalie from any unsavory suitors, the mystic Cammon is installed to monitor all of Amalie’s courtships, because Cammon is a reader who can tell if someone harbors violence or malevolence in his heart. Much to the dismay of her advisors, Amalie begins to fall in love with the wholly unsuitable Cammon. Even worse, war comes to Gillengaria anyway, and Amalie can only be kept safe through the combined efforts of the Riders, the mystics—and the wild raelynx that has mystical powers of its own.

Publishing history: Hardback published in November 2007
Paperback published in October 2008.


Interesting tidbit: While each of the Twelve Houses books is meant to stand alone, this one would be fairly difficult to follow for anyone who hadn’t read the previous three books, I think. I always considered it the concluding chapters of one very long novel, and I tried to tie up all the threads and clues that were presented in earlier books. I also jumped at the chance to bring back minor characters from the previous books to make cameo appearances—Sosie, Mayva, Kelti, Torrin, Lara. Everybody’s here.

In terms of theme music, I haven’t really been able to come up with a good heavy metal ballad that fits Cammon and Amalie. Sadly, the song that most seems to capture their relationship is The Monkees’ “Cheer Up, Sleepy Jean” with the line about the “daydream believer and the homecoming queen.” I’ll keep thinking.

Favorite scene: Without question, Chapter 29. Action! Heartbreak! Desperation! Rescue! I love it.

Fortune and Fate

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Fortune and Fate
Two years after civil war tore Gillengaria apart, the former Rider Wen is still aimlessly wandering the countryside, unable to find peace. In an effort to atone for one single disastrous failure, she looks for opportunities to do good and make amends. She rescues a kidnapped young serramarra, who turns out to be Karryn Fortunalt, daughter of one of the marlords who took the country to war. Karryn’s guardian, Jasper Paladar, persuades Wen to settle at the house known as Fortune and assemble a guard that can protect the serramarra from future attempts on her life. Wen finds herself drawn to the gentle, scholarly Jasper, who is like no one she has ever known before, and she grudgingly grows fond of the flighty Karryn. Nonetheless, she is eager to fulfill her contract and move on—but she cannot leave when she realizes Karryn is still in danger.

Publishing history: Hardcover published in November 2008.

Interesting tidbit: It was a lot of fun to write Jasper Paladar, a scholar and omnivorous reader, who’s a lot closer to my own personality than most of the soldiers and mystics I’ve profiled in this series! The verse he quotes to Wen in Chapter Thirty is from a poem I wrote a long time ago for someone I’ve lost track of, who probably doesn’t even know I’ve written a book…

I hadn’t actually given much thought to the hard-rock theme music for this book until a fan asked me about it. But then I instantly knew: Wen’s unrequited crush on Justin is expressed pretty well by Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” (of course, it was an Everly Brothers song first). Linda Ronstadt’s “A Long, Long Time” is also pretty dead-on. Jasper is more upbeat, and more modern, since his theme song would be Del Amitri’s “Roll to Me.” As things start improving for Wen at the end, Heart’s “Straight on for You” would be her theme song.

My favorite scene: I think I have to go with the extended love scene in Chapter Thirty.

The Queen in Winter

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"When Winter Comes"
"When Winter Comes" was published in the romance anthology The Queen in Winter. I wanted to write a story set in the Twelve Houses world and following characters that were familiar but not essential to the overall story arc. That way, anyone who hadn’t read the novels would be able to read this piece on its own. Then, once I introduced Lara in this story, I liked her so much I brought her briefly back into the third and fourth novels of the series.

© 2010 Sharon Shinn, All Rights Reserved