The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

The House of the Four Winds(Description nicked from B&

“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.”

You know, I normally like Lackey’s books. Even if I haven’t been all that pleased with her writing style lately, I at least enjoy reading them. This one?… not so much. It seems like a good premise—woman disguised as man making her way through adventures—one that even Shakespeare used to good effect. But in this book it just didn’t work all that well.

The most basic problem with this novel is the fact that it reads like a re-telling of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Woman on board pirate ship, said ship carrying a curse, blood needed at the destination to undo something magic, etc. I’ve seen the movie, so I don’t need to read a knock-off. Even with the similarities, the action takes a long time to get going. The mutiny referenced in the synopsis doesn’t happen until almost halfway through the book, and then there’s a long stint of nothing happening again until the sudden ending.

Another issue is that I just don’t believe that Clarice could have passed as a man for as long as she did. While she was on the road (which happens mostly offstage) I could believe it, but once she was on the ship, it become increasingly less feasible. Any fantasy reader who knows anything about boats knows that there are no private bathrooms on board—you just go over the railing in full view of everyone. I think that sooner or later, someone would have noticed that Clarice was missing some equipment. And there are other female issues that would be hard to hide (not mentioned here for delicacy), but believe me, any female reading this book would wonder how those things were managed.

I also caught some writing quirks that pulled me out of the story. A big one is the overuse of adverbs. The authors must have been to Lolly’s Adverb Store, because everyone says things “slowly”, “dryly”, “quietly”, and so on. Sometimes the same term repeats fairly quickly after its first usage. What really disrupted my enjoyment of the story, though, were the shout-outs that popped up. For instance, the ship’s doctor says that he wants to retire and take on the pseudonym Leonard DeForrest, which is a direct Star Trek reference. Combine that with a sailor named Geordie, and I have to wonder where Mr. Spock is hiding. Also, Clarice’s swordmaster is named Count Albrecht, which is a reference to Alberich the Weaponsmaster from Lackey’s Valdemar books.

And finally, this book continues with Lackey’s recent habit of having all of the pertinent action happen in roughly the last 20-40 pages of the book. In this case, the climax is brought about by the appearance of something that wasn’t even hinted at until just a few pages earlier. Given how many of Lackey’s books I’ve read, I wasn’t completely surprised at this tactic, but I still think it’s not a good way to plot a novel.

Since this series is called One Dozen Daughters, I fear that Lackey and Mallory are going to try to continue with this series for a long time. There are eleven more daughters to go, after all. I just hope that their stories aren’t as sloppily told as this one. The House of the Four Winds might appeal to those who are looking for something light and easy, but I’d still recommend waiting for paperback for this one, if you read it at all.

Series: One Dozen Daughters
ISBN: 9780765335654
Publisher: Tor
Page Count: 304
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Acquired: Provided by the publisher
Author Website–Mercedes Lackey
Author Website–James Mallory
Read an excerpt