This book is: a creative story that lacks pizazz.
Other elements: Magic, swordfighting, princesses seeking adventure, pirates, evil sorceresses, ships, sailors.
Read it: if you like fantasy, adventure, and pirates, and don’t mind very tame romances.
Overall rating: 6.5/10
Even now that I’ve finished reading it, I’m surprised I didn’t enjoy The House of the Four Winds more than I did.
There’s a brave young princess who disguises herself as a man to venture forth into the world and build her reputation as a sword-fighter. There’s an island inhabited only by pirates and ruled by a cruel and powerful sorceress. There is ship-board intrigue (somewhat Pirates of the Caribbean crossed with The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle). It’s written by fantasy superstar, Mercedes Lackey, in collaboration with someone I know nothing about but have no reason to think ill of.
The writing is solid, the worldbuilding is consistent and interesting. But there’s something missing; something important. The story doesn’t pop. It proceeds at a reasonable clip, not dragging or bogging itself down with unnecessary information – but it just never leaps off the page. I blame the characters, who always felt the slightest bit stiff to me.
Speaking of the characters’ stiffness*: the romance at the center of this novel has some of the worst fictional chemistry I’ve ever encountered. By which I mean: no chemistry at all. Either this book is supposed to be safe for young readers who aren’t supposed to know that physical attraction is a thing, or our hero and heroine are swashbuckling adventures with no interest in sex. Or the authors planned to go back later to add the sexual tension and forgot.
Either way, the entirely cerebral romance between the brave, aspiring sea captain and the swordfighting princess masquerading as a man – which should have been crackling with hottness – is instead so chaste that it’s pretty shocking at the end when they decide to get married.
All in all, this is a perfectly good book that just didn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary.
My thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing me with a review copy of The House of the Four Winds.