Desert Isle Keeper
Dark Moon Defender
Recently, whenever I run out of books to read, I reach for Dark Moon Defender by Sharon Shinn. This is the third book in the Twelve Houses series and while I liked the others, this book is almost a perfect book for me.
The setting is the country of Gillengaria ruled by King Baryn. Gillengaria is broken down into twelve geographic areas, and each area is controlled by a Marlord. Unrest has invaded the country, fueled by religious fanatics, disgruntled lower house members and fear of people with magical abilities called mystics. In the first book, Mystic and Rider, the king chose five individuals to evaluate the unrest – three mystics, and two soldiers from his elite force. One of those soldiers, Justin, is the hero of this book.
Over the years, religion has gone out of favor with only a few Goddesses being remembered. Coralinda Gisseltess as the Lestra (head) of the Lumanen Convent, has made it fashionable to believe in the Silver Lady, the moon goddess. Along with her message about the greatness of the Silver Lady, she sermonizes that mystics are an abhorrence. Rumors have reached the king that the Lestra no longer just preaches this but has raised an army to persecute them, riding out at night under the cover of darkness, and killing individuals suspected of being mystic. Coralinda’s organization is also suspected of subsidizing her brother’s civil war undertaking.
Justin is sent undercover to discover if the rumors are true and to learn more about the convent and any plans for war. While he will do anything for his mentor and fellow King’s Rider, Justin thrives on the fellowship that he has with his friends and fellow riders so a solitary assignment is not to his liking. Ellynor is from Lirrenland, a country that borders Gillengaria. Normally, a girl from Lirrenland doesn’t leave her family but Ellynor’s cousin caused a family scandal. Exiled to the convent, Ellynor is sent along to keep her cousin company. Ellynor has a secret, she worships the Dark Watcher, the goddess of night who has bestowed her with the gift of healing and concealment. Ellynor and Justin meet when Justin saves her from an assault. Both Justin and Ellynor are in uncharted waters with the friendship that develops. Ellynor’s family doesn’t allow their women to met men outside their culture, and Justin has never had time for women. As they spend more time together, new unrecognized feelings develop between the two. Once they recognize how they feel, Justin and Ellynor must overcome numerous obstacles to be together.
Sharon Shinn is a master at world building. Typically once I read this book, I continue with the rest of the series, because I become so immersed in the fantasy land that she has created and can’t stand to leave it. The relationship between the heroine and hero is built layer by layer with so many great nuances. I love a friendship to love story and this one extremely satisfying.
Normally, I would recommend reading books in a series in order. The first book, Mystic and Rider, provides the background and characterization, and there is an excellent review of it here at AAR. The second book is more problematic, and quite honestly I was disappointed in it because of the way the romance was handled. If you are reading primarily for the romance, and want to start with the first book, I recommend reading book one then three. I do think that there is enough background provided in this book, that it could stand alone, and I hope that others find enjoyment in one of my favorite books.