Tuesday, August 7, 2012

[Blog Tour] Review + GIVEAWAY: House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier
Orbit Books, 342 Pages
US Release Date: July 10, 2012
Format: finished paperback
Source: Publisher, via TLC Book Tours (thank you!)

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.
--------------------Goodreads Summary

Notable Quote
They were fond of subtle compliments in Lonne, as well as subtle threats.
One of the reasons I became a book blogger was so I could get pushed outside my usual genres and comfort zone of reading. When House of Shadows was offered to me, I went with it – I don’t know much (or anything…) about fantasy/supernatural books regarding bardic sorcery or magecraft, and this one seemed interesting and a good place to start. While I’m not so sure it’s my cup of tea, I’m glad I read this!

I think that if you do particularly like books involving sorcery and magic, this would be a great book for you. It’s interesting and compelling, and I really liked the descriptions. I felt like I was right there, standing next to Taudde and hearing the music from his pipes, or listening to the song of the sea.

I did have to look up if a keiso is a real thing; and while I couldn’t find it definitively, it’s very obvious from the first page they are mentioned that a keiso is almost identical to a geisha (I actually think they are, but as I’m not versed in either culture, I don’t want to make that sweeping statement). I loved that element – ever since reading Memoirs of a Geisha, I find that entire culture and facet absolutely fascinating, and the keiso is no exception. The peek into their world and how one ranks among the house and society itself is interesting and entertaining.

I loved the plot of the book too, but the pacing felt a bit slow for me. There’s not much action, really – a lot of it is plain description, and even though most of it is interesting, I was definitely flipping a few pages wondering when something more would happen. Even the parts that are filled with action are lengthy, and I never did get caught up in the story.

Still, I was never bored, and that’s a feat to me when it’s about subject matter I have absolutely no idea about! There’s a nice subtlety to the entire novel; nothing to knock you off you feet, but an underlying intelligence that I appreciated. There’s a nice sense of completion and satisfaction by the end as well. Even though the ending was predictable to me, and possibly a little too easy, it felt right.

I’m not sure how I feel about the characters though. I never really came around to any of them – sometimes, it was just a bit one dimensional, and on more than one occasion I felt much more annoyed than anything else. Especially with the penchant for most of them to go “mmm…” or say “well…” in the book. I get that some people do that in real life, but it appeared so often I started to get distracted. Maybe the author was going for a realism in dialogue, but we also categorize those as conversational distractions and are discouraged from doing them in real life. Of all the characters, Taudde, Leilis, and Benne were easily my favourites. Even though there’s a bit to be desired about all of them, they felt most fully developed and I really got a sense of the characters and who they were to this society. I was sad to stop reading about them.

Does anyone know if this is part of a series? Because I would love to read more about this conflict between Lonne and Kalchese! I was a bit surprised that I was taken into this political plotline – normally, I don’t like those. I’m not into politics in real life, and my reading self isn’t either; but there was something so compelling about this one I’m curious what will happen!

Speaking of what my reading self is into, I liked the bit of romance in this book. It’s small, and not a huge part is devoted to it even though relationships plays a large part to the plot movement itself; but I liked it that way. They are understated and handled perfectly: just enough to really believe in it, but not so plainly obvious we start to feel it’s forced. Romance was treated delicately, and that fit very well into this novel and the keiso world.

Overall, I really enjoyed House of Shadows; even though I looked ahead a few times, and the characters felt a little flat, the culture and story are so captivating. While I’m not able to suspend my reality enough to really believe in the bardic sorcery and magecraft, this was worth the shot. And if that is something you like, you should pick this one up.

Plus, there’s a dragon in this book. How can you turn down a dragon?!

3.5 Stars / 5

And thanks to the publisher, you can win a copy too!
Open to US/Can only (sorry, pub rules!)
Must be 13 year or older to enter, please read my giveaway policy before entering.
Ends 8/29 - Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead. She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.

Website | Goodreads | Tour Schedule
Amazon | BN | The Book Depository | Indie Bound
(bio taken from Amazon)


  1. NancyAugust 8, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    Hmm, despite your misgivings over the dialogue, must be a worthwhile read if you're interested in a sequel. Think I'd like to read it, too. Thanks for the chance to win.

    nanze55 at hotmail dot com

  2. fakestephAugust 8, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    I love that about book blogging, too. I read Revolution because of book bloggers, even though it sounded like the last thing I'd want to read and I ended up loving it. I love when my comfort zone is challenged.

  3. Andrea @ Cozy UpAugust 8, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    I really love that about book blogging, I have found so many new books that I never would have tried before blogging myself. This sounds really interesting, I am definitely a fan of the magic books. I'm sorry you still had some issues with it, but your review has still got me hooked (DRAGONS?!) Thanks for the awesome review, and the great giveaway :)

  4. LonaAugust 8, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    I agree how can you not love a book with dragons in it. I would like to read this book so I hope I enjoy it as much as you. Thx for giveaway.

  5. Heather J. @ TLC Book ToursAugust 8, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  6. UnknownAugust 8, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    I read her book The Floating Islands and loved it! I wanted something with that Ghibli feeling since I love Japanese culture. Looking forward to this one! :)

  7. Randi MAugust 10, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and I'm intrigued by the political plotline and the keiso culture. I loved Memoirs of a Geisha as well, though it's been...six years (!!!) since I read it. Great review! This sounds like a book I would love. :)

    Thank you for the giveaway!

  8. UnknownAugust 10, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    I just read another review of this book yesterday, and I'm glad you pointed out the possible connection between the keiso and geisha because the plot reminded me of certain aspects of Memoirs of a Geisha too, which I ADORED. I wish the characters would have spoken to you a bit more but it is definitely a book I'm interested in checking out:) Thanks for the review, Ashley!

    1. UnknownAugust 10, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      Oh, how are you liking Code Name Verity, btw?


Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Have a wonderful day <3
***This blog should NEVER have a security captcha - please let me know if you encounter it and I will fix ASAP. Thank you!