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Book Review – House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

Synopsis:  Orphaned, two sisters are left to find their own fortunes.

Sweet and proper, Karah’s future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life… if she agrees to play their game.

Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage’s offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?

With the arrival of a foreign bard into the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom.

First Line:  In a city of gray stone and mist, between the steep rain-swept mountains and the sea, there lived a merchant with his eight daughters.

Random Quote:  Thirty-one more times, the newest flower of Cloisonné House filled a small cup with berry liquor.  Thirty-one times, she shared of cup of liquor with a keiso, beginning with Silvermist, who was the oldest of them all, and ending with Bluestar, who was the youngest.

Review:  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 prominently.  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 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 Dungeons and Dragons or Rift (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.

FTC Disclosure:  Advance copy received from publisher for the author’s virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours

Publishing Information:  Orbit – July 10, 2012

Format:  Paperback


I pleased to be a part of Ms. Neumeir’s virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours.  Be sure to stop by the other places on her tour for lively opinions about her book.

Rachel Neumeier and friends (image source)


About Rachel Neumeier

Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby that was totally unrelated to her research.  Before her first novel hit the shelves, her only previous publications were in journals such as the American Journal of Botany.  However, finding that her interests didnt actually lie in research, Rachel let her hobbies take over her life instead.  She now lives in southern Missouri with a large garden, a small orchard, and a variable number of extremely beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.  You can find out more about Rachel and her books at

Rachel Neumeiers TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Thursday, July 12th:  Reading with Martinis
Monday, July 16th:  Beth Fish Reads  author guest post
Wednesday, July 18th:  My Two Blessings
Monday, July 23rd:  The Brain Lair
Tuesday, July 24th:  Twisting the Lens
Thursday, July 26th:  Pocketful of Books
Monday, July 30th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, August 1st:  Book Addict Katie
Thursday, August 2nd:  She Treads Softly
Monday, August 6th:  Into the Hall of Books
Tuesday, August 7th:  Kindred Dreamheart
Wednesday, August 8th:  Ashley Loves Books
Thursday, August 9th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, August 10th:  Fiction State of Mind
Monday, August 13th:  A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, August 16th:  Sweet Southern Home
Friday, August 24th:  Chaotic Compendiums


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