Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
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.
Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers.
This blurb came from Goodreads.
I haven’t read anything new co-written by Lackey and Mallory in a few years so I forgot how very epic their writing could be. In the best traditions of epic fantasy this includes coming of age, long journey, villains, magic, loss, and a smattering of luck. Reading the back cover blurb I enjoyed the thought and role reversal of sending the Princesses out to find their life and fortune instead of sending out the Princes, or Prince in this particular case. I also enjoyed how the Swansgaard ruling family supported their children in their interests regardless of how varied or unusual they might be so I was curious to see how the eldest Princess would fare.
This story is told primarily through Clarice because it really is her journey and what she experiences along the way that is the focus not to mention she played a key role in several events. It was enjoyable and yet painful to watch Clarice realize all of her education while providing an excellent background wasn’t capable of fleshing out the true details and how depraved or how noble others could be in different situations. Her introduction to life on the open seas was an extremely brutal one fed by her optimism and eagerness to be out and about trumping her common sense and desire to research a ship and its crew.
Dominick wasn’t as fleshed out as Clarice although he had an interesting back story. I enjoyed seeing different aspects of his personality as Clarice/Clarence got to know him during the voyage. Unfortunately, he spent most of the story acting as a pawn to events around him instead of remaining master of his own destiny. Right when I thought he was going to take his knowledge about the sea and seafaring folk to another level, he ended back in a situation when he was dependent on others to for rescue. I think some of what he underwent was probably the worst that could happen to a Captain who cared as much as Dominick did but he never really demonstrated his potential.
Watching Clarice and Dominick interact really struck me as two people meeting and then becoming best friends. I liked watching their friendship grow and while I eventually caught a hint of Clarice feeling more than friendship I didn’t see the growth of any reciprocal feelings. This could have been due to Clarice’s mannerisms as part of her cover of a young man or due to the story coming through Clarice so I never saw what Dominick was thinking. As a result, I never saw this as a romance but more of an epic fantasy with a few romantic elements. I would not have looked for a stronger romantic element except for the wording in the back cover blurb. If Lackey and Mallory revisit these two I would be interested to see if the romance is more to the forefront or stays in the background.
I mentally divided The House of the Four Winds into different emotional arcs. The first was blissful innocence as Clarice set out on her journey, secured berth on a ship, and headed out to see. It was full of pleasurable new experiences, new acquaintances, a joy in the freedom to travel free from the usual trappings/restrictions of life as a woman, and a desire for adventure. The second was a harsh awakening about the dirty underside of adventure, which is glossed over in the tales. This was when Clarice learned that not all men in power were benevolent, there was no higher authority at sea than the Captain, and that the Captain’s word would triumph over anything said by another. It was also when she learned the consequences of taking action against what she perceived as wrong and unjust. Finally, there was the maturing phase. This was really a trial by fire and water for Clarice as she had to learn how to play within and win a game whose rules constantly changed in favor of the other side. She learned what horrors she could withstand and still continue to have hope for better circumstances.
I think Lackey and Malloy created a rather complex world with a variety of different cultures and environments. It almost seemed like the Age of Imperialism/Exploration combined with the old maps depicting “Here be Monsters,” monsters human or otherwise, and magic. It is a vast world with plenty of room for adventure, which bodes well for the women of Swansgaard. I also want to see what Clarice’s sisters discover and what happens when they meet up again. This was an enjoyable if mostly slow paced read. However, I recommend not going into this story expecting The House of the Four Winds to be a fantasy romance.
I give The House of the Four Winds a B-