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Dark Moon Defender: A Novel of the Twelve Houses    by Sharon Shinn order for
Dark Moon Defender
by Sharon Shinn
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This book continues the romantic fantasy series of the Twelve Houses of Gillengaria, begun in Mystic and Rider and continued in The Thirteenth House. The first book brought together an assorted group of magic users and warriors, focusing on the relationship between powerful fire mystic Senneth and King's Rider Tayse. The second told the story of a love triangle amongst shapeshifter Serramarra Kirra, the king's regent, and her childhood companion, Donnal.

Now, in Dark Moon Defender, we watch the development of the unlikeliest romance to date - between King's Rider Justin and Ellynor, a young woman who is a novice in Coralinda Gisseltess's order of the Pale Mother - but who knows little of her Lestra's ruthlessness. Ellynor, a daughter of the Lirren clans (who worship the Black Mother, the great goddess of the night), has been sent to the convent as companion to her headstrong cousin Rosurie. Though her cousin has 'embraced the Pale Mother with all her heart', Ellynor had not planned on a lifelong vocation and misses her brothers and clan. It takes time for her to see the reality of the fanaticism at the heart of the order she has joined.

Justin has been ordered to the city of Neft, close to the Lumanen Convent, to spy on the comings and goings of the convent guard. There, he poses as a malcontent, gets a job in a stable and develops a wary friendship with town magistrate Faeber, who clearly has reservations about convent guards' ruthless handling of mystics. Justin is not happy about his separation from his friends and fellow Riders until the day he rescues a young Lumanen novice who's accosted while on an errand. Justin escorts Ellynor back to her residence, but their immediate liking for each other grows through other meetings into something much stronger - despite the fact that they both keep secrets, Justin that he's a King's Rider, and Ellynor that it will take a battle to the death for him to win her hand.

Of course, this is not only Justin's story, and before too long, he's joined by a succession of old comrades - Senneth, Tayse, Kirra, Donnal, and Cammon come and go. And Justin makes a discovery about Ellynor that creates a strong incentive to get her out of the convent. But she delays, concerned about her cousin and also about her family's reaction to Justin. When matters come to a head, it takes all the mystical talents of Justin's comrades to ensure the lovers' survival - and Senneth's wiles to assure their acceptance by Ellynor's clan. As Kirra tells Ellynor of her new friends, 'You'll never have a peaceful moment again in your life' - something for fans to anticipate as this exciting and highly romantic series continues.

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