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Lackey and Mallory team up in this light charming sea faring pirate fantasy

The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory


In "The House of the Four Winds", a sword and sorcery yarn set on the high seas, one small duchy decides that it will let its daughters make their own way. Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, who teamed up in the dynamite "The Obsidian Trilogy", have chosen a lighter tone in this navel fantasy, but it serves them well. More importantly, these two veteran authors know how to pen a believable female character and romance with snappy dialogue and smart character portrayals.

Princess Clarice, who has trained with the best swordsmen in her realm, travels to a major port, to board ship for the New World. Rather than wear a skirt, Clarice, puts on a pair of trousers, and as Clarence Swann seeks a berth as a swordsman. Masquerading as a man is a time honored fiction motif, but it is handled well here. She buys passage on the lucky Captain Sprunt's Asesino. Sprunt has somehow escaped several encounters with pirates. Clarice quickly befriends the guild trained navigator Dominick Moryet and the ship surgeon, Dr. Chapman.

Once the ship is underway, Clarice finds a place at the Captain's Table and meets the rest of the officers and the unmerciful ship's chaplain Reverend Dobb. Lackey and Mallory quickly paint a vivid picture of shipboard life on the seas. And it is not a happy one.

Clarice watches as Sprunt and his first mate start to brutalize the crew in a calculated manner - punishing selective crewmen for minor transgressions. It soon becomes clear that the ship is a powder keg just waiting to erupt. Could there be an ulterior motive for Sprunt's actions?

When the inevitable mutiny occurs, Clarice will prove her skill with her blade and pay a pivotal role in the fight for control of the ship. However, the law of the seas is unfair. Irrespective of Sprunt's brutality, a mutinous crew who seizes control of a ship is tarred as pirates.

After the mutiny, Clarice seizes from the evil Dobbs a pendant that has a hidden map. The ship decides to use the map and finds its way to a secret pirate base, where they meet the lords of the Pirate Fleet, and the powerful sorceress that rules the haven. Clarice soon surmises that there was more to Sprunt's luck than skill. All the answers are at the pirate haven.

But the safety of the pirate haven is an illusion, and Clarice, who is developing feelings for the dashing navigator, and Dominick will be attacked by magic and forced to sail to uncharted waters, where magic, monsters and the very seas will be a boil. While the outcome is never in doubt, the confrontation has some good surprises.

This straight forward ship tale is not complicated, but its never boring. There is plenty of action. Clarice will play a pivotal role in all of the major scenes in this yarn

Its a good sea fantasy. Hop on board.

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