House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Orphaned, two sisters are left to find their own way.
Sweet and proper, Karah's future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life... if she agrees to play their game.
Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage's offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?
With the arrival of a foreign bard into the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom.
House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier is a character driven fantasy novel. The story opens when a stone merchant unexpectedly dies, leaving his eight daughters to fend for themselves. They determine that two of the sisters need to be sold in order to finance the business and keep the others sisters safe. The most beautiful sister, Karah, is sold to the Flower House, a keiso house, to be a flower wife - think geisha. The sister who never seemed to fit into her family, Nemienne, is sold into an apprenticeship with a mage.
The story follows four characters: the sisters Karah and Nemienne, and Taudde and Leilis. Leilis is in the Flower House and befriends Karah while Taudde is a foreign bardic mage. As tensions grow between the lands of the Lirionne and Kalches, with all the political intrigue and danger this implies, the stories of these characters converge to determine the fate of a kingdom.
All of the characters are well developed and complex, while magic, naturally, is an inherent part of the story, so is love and trust. Neumeier does an excellent job of carefully nurturing the plot and characters into fruition. Her descriptions are simply lyrical.
The great news for fantasy fans is that House of Shadows is a self-contained novel. So often fantasy novels can become long series, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it's also nice to know this novel stands alone as a complete story. (And those who enjoy it will appreciate the fact that Neumeier does have an idea for a sequel.) My adult daughter, the discriminating fantasy fan here, read and loved House of Shadows. She's looking into Neumeier's other novels, which is high praise indeed.
Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead. She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.
Many thanks to the author and TLC for providing me with a Netgalley review copy for my Kindle
(The giveaway has ended. Thank you to all who entered.)
Rachel Neumeier’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, July 9th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, July 10th: Twisting the Lens
Wednesday, July 11th: Taming the Bookshelf
Thursday, July 12th: Reading with Martinis
Monday, July 16th: Beth Fish Reads – author guest post
Tuesday, July 17th: Pocketful of Books
Wednesday, July 18th: My Two Blessings
Monday, July 23rd: The Brain Lair
Wednesday, July 25th: Kindred Dreamheart
Thursday, July 26th: Fiction State of Mind
Monday, July 30th: Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, August 1st: Book Addict Katie
Thursday, August 2nd: She Treads Softly
Monday, August 6th: Into the Hall of Books
Wednesday, August 8th: Ashley Loves Books
Thursday, August 9th: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, August 15th: Chaotic Compendiums
Thursday, August 16th: Sweet Southern Home