Finally, you may be saying to yourself, a (mostly) spoiler-free review!
The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory was very much a cover buy on my first shopping spree on Book Outlet. I love the cover and the blurb promised swashbuckling adventure and that’s what it delivered.
The beginning was a bit rocky, I would have to say, and it was both too slow and too fast. Let me explain. It seems to take Clarice an extraordinarily long time to leave home, and yet even so we have a six month skip to the point of when the actual swashbuckling on the high seas begins. I wouldn’t mind that so much if the book didn’t constantly refer back to those six months as a time when she learned such and such a skill. I think we would have benefited from seeing her having these experiences.
Another gripe I have is more about personal taste. I do not tend to like it when books take place in a world that’s similar to ours but actually isn’t. For example, Swaansgaarde is not a real nation, but the Russian Empire does get mentioned in passing and a lot of places don’t have the same name as they do in the real world, but are obviously parallels to our world (Mana-hattan, for example, one guess as to where that is). It’s sort of a case of the Uncanny Valley. It’s too close to reality to be fantasy that can fully immerse me, but still has enough of a difference to not be classified as historical fiction. I think picking one or the other would have made me suspend my disbelief more readily.
I enjoyed the characters. Clarice is a wonderful character and she is fun to root for, especially her dream of becoming a sword fighting teacher. Dominick is another favorite. He’s the steadfast love interest. We have some conflict of a Mulan nature, wherein Clarice poses as a man and falls for Dominick, who cares about her, but doesn’t realize that she’s a woman. While I definitely rooted for their relationship I still felt like it wasn’t very developed. It felt rushed because their friendship and growing relationship was often referred to in passing, rather than shown to us. A lot of deep conversations and moments were merely mentioned and I would have loved to see their relationship grow.
Plot-wise, the last two thirds of the book were a lot of fun! The pace was quick and the swashbuckling started in earnest here. While I enjoyed the magical aspects, I wish they were a bigger part of the plot.
I may or not be interested in reading the rest of the series (if it ever comes out? This book was released a while ago and there has been no word that I could find on the status of the rest of the series). Overall I enjoyed this read but I didn’t absolutely LOVE it, but I’d say it was a solid 3 out of 5 stars.