Caitlin's Reviews > House of Shadows

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier
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's review
Aug 23, 12

bookshelves: 2012

I've been saying this a lot lately about the things I've been reading, but I absolutely loved this book. I'm having a good run of books and I'm very happy about that.

Lots of people have recorded fairy tales and turned them into literature - not just within the past decade or so, but from the beginning. Lots of people have taken fairy tales as their inspiration and have taken the essential bones of the tale twisting them into new shapes while maintaining the overall sense of the original tale. Others have written entirely new things with a fairy tale lurking behind the scenes. This has become more and more popular over the last 15 years and this makes me very happy. Some of these stories are great, some - not so much. What's rarest of all, it seems, is someone not just creating a new fairy tale (yes, this is in a sense what all fantasy writers do), but writing this fairy tale like a fairy tale - writing in the language and cadence of storytellers. House of Shadows is just such a book and this pleases me even more.

I grew up reading fairy tales and folk tales and mythology of all kinds. My mother was (among many other things) a storyteller and she turned me to many different tales - from The Jack Tales by Richard Chase to the stories of the tricksters from different cultures - Anansi and Raven most prominent. I explored a lot more on my own and learned to tell stories with her and with the children's librarians she worked with at Memphis Public Library. I am thrilled to have had this reading experience because it continues to inform my reading to this day - I can see where the fairy tale is lurking behind the scenes, peeking out from behind the birch trees. Through fairy tales the world of fantasy and science fiction opened up to me, but also the world of literature and modern folklore - this foundation makes me an adventurous reader.

House of Shadows tells the tale of what happens with a family loses its father and must sell out two of its daughters to contracts to keep life and the stone business going. One daughter is contracted as a keiso at Cloisonné House - a world that is derived from the geisha world. The other daughter is apprenticed to a mage and shows a talent for magecraft, but maybe more. I say "maybe more" because Ms. Neumeier has also acknowledged differences between different kinds of magic that are written into folklore, but also into much of the lore of role-playing games such as D&D or Rifts of Telara (a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game). I love the fact that there are mages in this book, but their power is different than that of a bardic sorcerer - derived from different places both physically and philosophically.

Neumeier has written a story of two young girls, placed in the midst of change and conflict, who are able (each in their own way) to play an important part in resolving that conflict. And yes, there is a prince. And a dragon. Beautifully told - highly recommended.

More on books at: chaotic compendiums.

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