I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The House of the Four Winds by James Mallory, Mercedes Lackey
Series: One Dozen Daughters #1
Published: 2014 by Tor
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Mercedes Lackey’s newest novel, The House of the Four Winds, is about a cross-dressing princess who has adventures on the high seas.
Clarice is one of twelve princesses in the kingdom of Swansgaard. Swansgaard is a tiny country in an alternate Europe that doesn’t have much money. There certainly isn’t enough for twelve royal dowries, and so after a son (and heir) is finally born, the sisters agree to each go forth and make their fortune when they come of age. I did find this setup to be a bit of a stretch, but hey, let’s go with it. Even though this book is the first in a series, it can serve quite well as a standalone. Presumably the rest of the series will focus on the other princesses, which means they’ll be able to be read in any order.
The House of the Four Winds focuses on Princess Clarice, whose talent has always been with swords. She wants to become a master swordsman (swordsmistress?), but to do that, she needs to build some practical experience. Because it’s way easier to be taken seriously as a guy, Clarice cross-dresses and becomes Clarence. She books passage on a ship to a faraway country, hoping to seek adventure. She does not count on mutiny, pirates, and sorcery.
Clarice’s cross-dressing gives her a unique perspective on the world. As Clarence, she’s got a lot more freedom to go where she wants to go and do what she wants to do. To keep up her masquerade, she wears a special corset to flatten her chest, and she has her own cabin. As much as she enjoys the privilege associated with being Clarence, she starts to develop feelings for Dominick, one of the crew aboard the Asesino. She’s torn between whether to let him in on her secret, because she’s got a certain amount of comfort and respect being among the crew that she suspects would disappear if they found out her true gender. She doesn’t know if Dominick feels the same way about her, and since he’s straight and thinks she’s a guy, it’s a bit one-sided and awkward. Clarice doesn’t want to complicate matters, but she struggles with the fact that she has to hide who she is.
The House of the Four Winds is good if you’re looking for a lighthearted swashbuckling adventure. It’s very good-guys vs. bad-guys in nature without a lot of moral ambiguity. I might have liked a bit more complexity there, but overall I was pleased with the story.