Traditional fairy tales are turned on their heads in The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. The duo bring to life a story that feels like part fairy tale, part pirate adventure. The easy natured narrative pulls the reader in for a delightful story of what happens once you’ve come of age and leave your home.
The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.
Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.
Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.
There is something to be said for a writing style that is traditional yet modern, observational yet immersive and royal yet casual. Somehow the writing duo manages this and The House of the Four Winds reads like the best modern fairy tale which somewhat throws gender conventions out the window. There’s a beautiful dance of acknowledging the standards while breaking them, very much like the popular films Brave and Frozen. I love this whole approach and it makes for a story which is genuinely feel good.
The plot is somewhat expected but I didn’t really mind. Even the inevitable romance between the male and female lead felt natural rather than forced. The strongest aspect of the plot is the action and sense of adventure. Many times throughout the book, I felt as if I was right there on a ship sailing to the Caribbean or in this case, the mythical string of islands that is based on them.
Each character has a liveliness that is a testament to good writing. From the villains to the heroes, characters have flaws and assets. Though I quite liked the male and female protagonist, I really enjoyed some of the minor characters and wished I knew a bit more about the villains. Some of the characters which made the biggest impression, be it negative or positive, were those minor characters such as the ship surgeon Dr. Chapman and the ship chaplain Rev. Dobbs. These two characters were like polar opposites of the human experience , one steadfast and an upright citizen, the other a despicable human. The plot helps to make one know the value of a crew behind you. This was where the story was won for me because each death or survival mattered.
I can unabashedly recommend The House of the Four Winds. Not only is it a fast paced read but it is incredibly entertaining. I found myself being satisfied that the story was complete yet wanted more from the world. It had me ecstatic when I found out that this was only the first novel in a new series. With as fun as the eldest daughter’s story was, I can’t wait to read each of the others in the subsequent One Dozen Daughters books.