Reader and Raelynx is the fourth novel in Sharon Shinn's
Twelve Houses series. Set in the world of Gillengaria, the series follows the adventures of seven disparate friends as they try to save a kingdom. Gillengaria is divided into 12 principalities, each controlled by one of the Twelve Houses, the noble families who have ruled this world since its inception. The Twelve Houses are ruled by King Baryn, who makes his home in the royal city of Ghosenhall.
Unrest is brewing in Gillengaria, with lesser lords unhappy under the rule of the Twelve Houses, and two of the Twelve Houses fomenting rebellion against King Baryn. Baryn is guarded by his elite soldiers, the King's Riders, and a group of powerful mystics with abilities both amazing and frightening. Soon, however, it is Baryn's daughter, Princess Amalie, who will be in need of protection.
In the first three novels of this series, Shinn introduces a group of four mystics and
two Riders who, abandoned by their own families, form unbreakable bonds of love and friendship. Reader and Raelynx is Cammon's story. Cammon is a powerful Reader, sensitive to the thoughts and emotions of others. When Baryn decides Amalie must take a husband, Cammon is called on to help guard the princess, reading the intentions of the men who come to court her. When tragedy strikes the royal house, Cammon becomes even more important, and the relationship between the two young people grows ever closer. With war on the borders and the future of Gillengaria in question, Cammon and his friends must keep Amalie safe, no matter the cost.
This is a mostly satisfying conclusion to a much-beloved series. Cammon and Amalie make a delightful pair, and Amalie is a strong, feisty heroine with surprising complexity and depth. Shinn allows the reader to become reacquainted with all the characters who have featured strongly in previous volumes - Senneth and Tayse, Kirra and Donnel, Justin and Ellynor, Valri, Romar, Coralinda and Halchon Gisseltess - and brings many plot points started in those volumes to their logical
conclusion. While some details are less surprising than one might hope, the overall story is strong.
These novels will not be for everyone - hard fantasy readers may find more romance than they want,
while romance readers may not appreciate the fantastical worlds Shinn creates. However, readers looking for action and adventure with
a good dose of magic and romance won't go wrong with this series.