"Reader and Ralynx" brings the focus of the Twelve Houses series back to it's roots: political manuevering, religious fanatacism, magic, romance, and the battle to preserve the kingdom. The original six main characters are in abundance, as well as the key supporters who have appeared throughout the series. In short, this book is a good finale to the series, but not a good choice to read independently.
Each book in this series has focused on one character of the original six more than the others. This book lets us see into Cammon; finally, Cammon develops into more than just the 'tag along little brother.' His growth in this book is fun and engaging. Cammon is the obvious choice as the focus character because his magical powers links him to his friends in a powerful, vivid, and emotional way. This allows the reader to feel more involved with all the characters despite the emphasis on Cammon's viewpoint.
The beginning of the book is a little slow for the reader familiar with the Twelve Housees series, as it reintroduces characters and plot points. I recognize that this is necessary background for the new reader but it was also a way to move back into the series after the sidelines of the last book, "Dark Moon Defender." Once the foundation is laid, however, the plot progresses at a reasonable pace for most of the book. The background offered in the book is not enough for the new reader to understand the intricacies of the characters and plot points, however.
My biggest criticism is that the ending of the book feels truncated and rushed compared to the rest of the series. That problem is why I've rated the book 4 stars. As a reader, I strongly dislike feeling rushed through the end of a book. Shinn does take great effort to tie up all the loose ends, though, even bringing in memorable but minor characters from the previous books.
As always, Shinn does a wonderful job working within the world of Gillengaria as laid out in the previous books. There are no crucial yet previously unknown facts about the world introduced to advance the plot. Her characters are endearing and entertaining, if a bit predictable. Overall, this book is a good ending to a very enjoyable series.
Aside from the rushed ending, I was disappointed by Shinn's approach to King Baryn. In previous novels, we have been able to read dialogue between the characters and the King. In this book the best offered is references to the king. Characters still meet and discuss problems with King Baryn but we don't get to experience this 'firsthand'. Making King Baryn more visible in this text would have gone a long way to further understanding several characters, their motives, and plot points surrounding King Baryn's death.