REVIEW: Dark Moon Defender by Sharon Shinn
Dear Ms. Shinn,
This book was so good that after finishing it I kept saying to myself, "This book was so good! This book was so good!" I sat down at my computer to write this letter and like an inarticulate idiot, all I could think to say was "This book was so good!–Ã‚
Yes, Dark Moon Defender was a very, very good book, and easily the most romantic thing I've read that came out in 2006. Thus far it's also my favorite of your Twelve Houses books, which began with Mystic and Rider“>Mystic and Rider and continued in The Thirteenth House. As I'm writing this Jane has already sung Dark Moon Defender's praises, but my plan is to wait until it comes out in paperback to post my letter, so that readers who can't afford hardcover prices won't have to wait months after reading my raves to get their hands on it.
The plot centers on Justin, a member of the King of Gillengaria's elite guard who is sent to spy in the Northeastern corner of his kingdom. In Mystic and Rider and The Thirteenth House, Justin became part of a tight-knit group that includes himself and five of his friends, four of whom have magical powers. He misses the other five on his spying mission in this book, but one day he sees a young novice from the nearby Lumanen Convent being accosted in the street, and he comes to her rescue. That is how he meets Ellynor.
Ellynor came to the Lumanen Convent to accompany her cousin Rosurie who was sent there in disgrace after falling in love with a young man who was an outsider to their clan. Ellynor and Rosurie are from the Lirrenlands, where men are extremely protective of their womenfolk and in order for a girl to marry an outsider, the man she loves must kill a champion from her family, typically her brother or her father.
But that is not the only obstacle that Ellynor, who quickly falls for Justin and beings to meet with him in secret, must face. Coralinda Gisseltess, the self-styled Lestra who runs the Lumanen convent, fears those with mystical powers, and Ellynor has some unusual abilities that could get her killed if they should be discovered. It is only after she and Justin fall in love that Ellynor learns from him that the Lestra has been commanding her soldiers to kill mystics who have done harm to no one. When Justin realizes that Ellynor is in danger, he pleads with her to leave the convent. But leaving turns out not to be an easy thing.
Dark Moon Defender is narrated in sections alternating the viewpoints of Justin, Ellynor, and Justin's mystic friend Senneth. I loved the romantic relationship between Justin and Ellynor, and enjoyed the sections in Senneth's POV, which focused on Justin's friends, Kirra, Donnal, Cammon, Tayse and Senneth herself, almost as much.
This book is Romantic with a capital R. Not only does Justin and Ellynor's courtship have both the allure of forbidden love and the purity of two hearts discovering for the first time what a true romantic commitment is, but Senneth and Tayse's mature love is also moving, and there are romances involving other secondary characters as well.
Justin is such a masculine guy and Ellynor such a feminine young woman that I'm still trying to figure out why their pairing doesn't feel clichÃƒÆ’Ã‚ ©d to me. Maybe it's because Justin and Ellynor are caught up in a conflict that is far greater than the two of them, an approaching war that threatens to tear them apart forever if they don't hold on with all the tenacity of young love. Maybe it's because they are each individuals with pasts, communities, and loyalties of their own that they bring to their relationship. Maybe it is because they are more than the archetypes they fit.
Whatever it is that makes this book work, it works like Senneth's amulet, like Kirra's shapeshifting, like Ellynor's ability to cloak herself in night. All the elements –" the romance, the camaraderie, the epic battle between good and evil –" come together like (yes) magic, balance perfectly like the characteristics in some intoxicating wine.
When I closed this book, I was so happy that I almost felt a little drunk, so thrilled I might have just come down off a ferris wheel. Even now, a few hours later, I feel grateful to have a forum that allows me to write fan letters like this one, odes to books that make me fall in love. I can't imagine giving Dark Moon Defender any grade less than an A. Yes, it's this good.
Dark Moon Defender is available in paperback starting tomorrow, September 25, 2007