''Twelve Houses'' is series of novels by Sharon Shinn, which follow the adventures of an RagtagBunchOfMisfits who have been sent on a mysterious quest by the king to tour the southern lands of the kingdom, where having magic is a death-worthy crime.

The misfits include Senneth, who [[PlayingWithFire can call fire]], Kirra, who can [[VoluntaryShapeshifting shift shapes]] and [[HealingHands heal people]], Donnal, whose main power, although he is able to [[VoluntaryShapeshifting shift shapes]], is mainly to follow Kirra (he is the only character whose point of view has not been used), and Cammon, a mind-reader. The “mystics" are joined by the “Riders" (natch), Tayse and Justin, who are around to make sure no one [[BurnTheWitch lynches the mystics]]. (Mind you, no-one has yet tried to lynch Senneth and succeeded. For good reason). Later, they are also joined by Ellynor, [[TheMedic another]] [[HealingHands healer]], and Amalie, a RebelliousPrincess you can actually ''like''. Additionally, an new book has been written in the same world, following up on the story of one of the ragtag bunch's friends.

Well, ''yes'', it does sound like your ten-a-penny fantasy claptrap, but distinguishes itself by being well-written and genuinely funny. Especially the bits with [[DeadpanSnarker Justin]].

The first four books each follow one romance, and one swathe of the truly massive plot: ''Mystic and Rider'', the first book, has all of the characters meet, and Senneth and Tayse fall in love; ''The Thirteenth House'' is Kirra and Donnal, although not until the last few chapters - mainly, it's plot-heavy, interspersed with Kirra's affair with a married nobleman (so much better than it sounds); ''Dark Moon Defender'', often called the weakest of the original four, follows Justin as he falls in love with Ellynor, although obviously the others have to turn up and be completely {{Badass}}; and ''Reader and Raelynx'', the fourth book, cranks the KudzuPlot UpToEleven, while also featuring the sweetest romance Shinn has ever written between TheEmpath Cammon and RebelliousPrincess Amalie.

Although each book has a focal character (''Mystic and Rider'' arguably has two, as Senneth and Tayse are both given close third-person narration), the feeling of TrueCompanions is extraordinary, and mentioned often by the characters. Senneth and Tayse, who were each pretty badass on their own, make an almost unstoppable {{BattleCouple}} - being the best mystic ever and the best Rider ever will have that effect - and tend to steal any scene they turn up in with their mixture of dry humor and complete [[BuffySpeak ass-kick-ery]]. Clearly the author agrees with the fans; when Shinn tried to write a fifth novel set in the same world, she intended not to use the original characters and start a new MythArc. This did not work - Senneth and Tayse were just too awesome to ignore, and so as the book progresses, their subplot quickly becomes the main plot. This makes for a fairly unsettling book, and ''Fortune and Fate'' is widely considered the weakest by a long way.



!This series provides examples of:

* AbusiveParents: Senneth's father. A lot. [[spoiler: He killed her newborn son because he was a mystic.]]
* AerithAndBob: All over the place. Riders named Justin and Tayse. Malcolm naming his daughters Kirra and Casserah. Nobles whose names range from Martin, Eloise, and Ariane to Els, Coralinda, and Karryn to Halchon, Baryn, and Heffel. The most egregious example is probably the Brassenthwaites, with siblings named Kiernan, Nate, Will, Harris... and [[spoiler: Senneth]].
* ActionGirl:
** Senneth, and, to a lesser extent, Kirra, and to a ''lesser'' extent, Amalie.
** Wen in ''Fortune and Fate''.
* AlwaysSaveTheGirl: Tayse, and Justin.
* AndNowYouMustMarryMe: This is Halchon Gisseltess's plan when he captures Senneth in ''Reader and Raelynx''.
* AngstComa: After losing Romar, Kirra hysterically cries herself into unconsciousness. She only wakes up after Cammon has done psychic surgery on her out-of-control emotional state.
* AnguishedDeclarationOfLove: Everyone, all the time. Most of them angst about it afterwards.
* [[ProfessionalKiller Assassins]]: A number of these crop up throughout the series and must be foiled by the protagonists. Some of the assassins are successful; [[AssassinOutclassin some are not]].
* ArrangedMarriage: At the beginning of ''Reader and Raelynx'', King Baryn decides to set up one of these for Amalie in an attempt to divert the coming civil war. [[spoiler:It’s averted when Amalie falls in love with the peasant boy mystic who’s supposed to be reading her suitors’ intentions instead, and the king dies. See listing under SuddenlySuitableSuitor below.]]
** Casserah and Will go through with one of these, although it’s implied that theirs will turn out to be a PerfectlyArrangedMarriage—or at least their confidence that it will be is why they agree to it.
* BabiesEverAfter: [[spoiler:Justin]] and Ellynor, at the end of ''Reader and Raelynx''.
* BattleCouple: Senneth and Tayse. Kirra and Donnal, even before they’re a couple, though they get only more effective after they finally hook up.
* BerserkButton: Tayse goes ''loopy'' when anyone hurts Senneth.
* BetaCouple: Kirra and Donnal in the first book, then Senneth and Tayse from there on in.
** There’s also the extreme case of Casserah and Will, whose entire courtship consists of exactly one short conversation in which they conclude that since getting married would be practical and advantageous to both their houses, that’s what they would like to do. Kirra dryly remarks that she and other members of their team, who are forever tangling with complicated romances, should have tried that method years ago.
* BigBrotherMentor: Tayse to Justin, in their backstory.
* BrokenBird: Senneth has a bit of this going on.
* BlondeBrunetteRedhead: Played with in ''Dark Moon Defender'', when Kirra, Senneth and Ellynor sit together. Sort of.
* BroughtDownToBadass: Senneth loses her mystic [[IncrediblyLamePun fire power]] after the [[FinalBattle final battle]], but even without it she still fights nearly as well as a Rider. As of ''Fortune and Fate'', which takes place two years later, she has started to regain her power.
* BurningWithAnger: This has happened to Senneth a few times.
* BurnTheWitch: Most of Gillengaria's population is nervous of mystics, and [[TorchesAndPitchforks more than one terrified mob has consequently tried to execute]] Senneth. Usually by methods ''other'' than burning, though, because [[CaptainObvious trying to burn the fire mystic alive would be less than effective]].
* CelibateHero: Most King’s Riders, because having a spouse or LoveInterest would forcibly divide their loyalty between their liege and their significant other. There are exceptions, though, as [[SubvertedTrope proven by both Tayse and Justin]] over the course of the series.
* TheCharmer: Kirra. She once said it herself: "Charm better be enough, because that and hair are all I've got."
* ChekhovsGun: Senneth’s connection to the Lirrens, when Justin wants to marry Ellynor.
* TheConspiracy: The series’ main story arc revolves around the heroes trying to uncover and thwart one of these. Part of the nobility is plotting to instigate a civil war against the monarchy.
* CoolOldGuy: King Baryn.
* CoolPet: Amalie’s raelynx.
* CoverIdentityAnomaly: When masquerading as her sister Casserah, Kirra nearly blows her cover by forgetting that the uncle she’s spying on, who dotes on Kirra, absolutely hates Casserah.
* {{Cult}}: The sects of the Pale Mother.
* DaddysGirl: Ceribel.
* DeadpanSnarker: Justin. Enough that the other characters {{lampshade}} it.
* DoggedNiceGuy: Donnal to Kirra (though it’s very subtle). Good thing, too.
* DysfunctionJunction: Let's count them, shall we? Senneth: abusive parents, dead son. Tayse: emotionally distant father. Justin: DisappearedDad, whore mother, grew up on the streets. Cammon: orphan, ex-slave. Amalie: dead mom, never allowed to have human connections with anyone. Kirra: repressed, violent, fell in love with a married man. Donnal: masochistic when it comes to Kirra.
* TheEmpath: Cammon, once his “reader” powers come in. He’s actually much cooler and more effective than most uses of this trope, as his powers enable him to act as a LivingLieDetector, and not only read others’ emotions but ''influence'' them. An additional side effect is that he can [[SensorCharacter sense when people are nearby]].
* EveryoneIsJesusInPurgatory: A hilarious in-universe example. Senneth thinks that mystics are descended from the goddesses of Gillengaria. Then Justin calls her out on it, in a typical DeadpanSnarker kinda way.
* EveryoneLovesBlondes: Kirra’s got a pile of golden hair, and she herself [[LampshadeHanging notes]] how important it is to her abundant charisma.
* EvilDetectingDog: Donnal often functions as this in his favorite shiftling form.
* FailureKnight: This is basically Wen in ''Fortune and Fate'', who is trying to atone for [[MyGreatestFailure allowing her king to be slain]] by the rebellion.
* FantasyPantheon: Senneth references, more than once, the existence of goddesses in Gillengaria’s history. Most of the land’s population seems to more or less believe in these goddesses’ (at least past) existence, but with the exception of the Pale Mother cults, most religious practice in Gillengaria is lapsed.
* FiveManBand:
** TheHero: Senneth. So very, very much.
** TheLancer: Justin.
** TheSmartGuy: Cammon and Donnal.
** TheBigGuy: Tayse. Although, unusually, he's the protagonist of the first book (along with Senneth).
** TheChick: Kirra.
** SixthRanger: Cammon.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: Senneth's comments about marrying Kirra into Brassenthwaite, and about Kiernan [[spoiler: turn about to be about her own brothers.]]
* GoodAdulteryBadAdultery: Much of the plot of ''The Thirteenth House'' revolves around this. [[DeconstructedTrope Deconstructed]].
* TheGoodKing: Baryn. He is the heroes’ employer.
* HealingHands: This is Kirra’s second power and Ellynor’s primary one.
* HeroesWantRedheads: Mainly averted, but Amalie's hair is mentioned quite often.
** Interestingly played with when Tayse falls in love with Senneth, very much against his preference and better judgement.
* IJustWantToBeNormal: Senneth. Although hers is a particularly weird case.
* IKEAErotica: Sort of; Cammon undresses in front of the extremely naďve Amalie so that he can explain very matter-of-factly “where everything goes.”
* ImpersonationGambit: Subverted; Kirra spends most of the second book shapeshifted into the form of her half-sister, Casserah. Casserah is not a member of the enemy organization, but she ''is'' a better option for spying on potential conspirators because everyone knows that Kirra works for King Baryn and using her own form would instantly rouse suspicion.
* TheIngenue: How Princess Amalie is viewed by most of her people, though over the course of the last book she’s revealed to actually be fairly savvy (though she remains exceedingly naďve regarding anything to do with sex, at least before [[spoiler:her relationship with Cammon takes off]]).
* IntimateHealing: A mild version of this occurs in ''Mystic and Rider'' when Senneth complains that the only way to cure her magic-induced migraines is via a specialized massage…and discovers that Tayse is actually both strong and coordinated enough to successfully give one. It can easily be argued that this scene is when their romance really begins to get underway.
* IWantMyBelovedToBeHappy: Maybe “happy” is a strong word, but [[spoiler:Kirra [[LaserGuidedAmnesia destroys Romar Brendyn’s memories]] of their affair]] because she knows he will be better off with his own wife, despite that it breaks her own heart so thoroughly she passes out from hysteria afterwards.
* LaserGuidedAmnesia: Kirra inflicts this when she magically obliterates [[spoiler: Romar Brendyn’s memories of their affair]] at the end of the second book.
* LivingLieDetector: Cammon, as he further develops his “reader” powers.
* LonelyFuneral: [[spoiler: Weirdly, for King Baryn.]]
* LovableSexManiac: Kirra, although since this is [[HeroicFantasy Swords And Sorcery]], probably just Lovable Flirt Machine.
* ManOnFire: Senneth set a criminal on fire in a village once to make a point.
* MasterOfDisguise: Kirra, due to her well-exercised [[VoluntaryShapeshifting mystic powers]].
* TheMedic: Ellynor, once she joins the team. (Kirra also has a healing power, though it's not used nearly as much as her shiftling abilities, and might fit this trope prior to Ellynor’s entrance.) Sort of Cammon on a mental/emotional level, as shown when he was able to use his empath powers to bring Kirra out of her hysteria after she [[spoiler:wiped Romar Brendyn’s memories of herself]].
* MyMasterRightOrWrong: No Rider has ''ever'' betrayed his King or Queen, even if they were someone who deserved betrayal.
* MySisterIsOffLimits: ''Every'' Lirren male to ''any'' non-Lirren suitor of their daughters/sisters/nieces/cousins. [[EngagementChallenge In order to prove their worthiness to marry a Lirren girl, said outsider must defeat the most skilled warrior in her family in a]] DuelToTheDeath.
* NayTheist: Much of Gillengaria’s population doesn’t seem to put a lot of stock in what the goddesses think, though they do more or less believe in their existence. Averted with the fanatic moon goddess cults.
* NonIdleRich: Kirra, who is basically a princess, much prefers to be a wanderer/mercenary/spy/lioness.
* NoSocialSkills: Cammon, because he was raised outside of Gillengaria.
* OddCouple: Justin and Ellynor.
* OhMyGods: Averted; though the inhabitants of Gillengaria ''have'' goddesses, they prefer to swear by red, black, silver, or opal hells, or any combination thereof.
* OneOfOurOwn: When Tayse is kidnapped, and then when Senneth gets shot.
* OnlySaneMan: Senneth, when the younger ones are all arguing. But then she goes and [[ManOnFire sets someone on fire]].
* OverprotectiveDad: All Lirren males—be they fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins—towards their female relatives. They would literally rather die than see their daughter/sister/niece marry outside their clan.
* PassedOverInheritance: In the second book Kirra loses her place as family heir to her younger half-sister. However, it's made quite clear that this was done purely because Casserah was far better suited to the life of a ruling noble than Kirra ever would be, and that Kirra would remain a respected and valued member of the family, even if she would never be its head. This is made quite clear when a vassal of the Danalustrous family makes some rather rude comments about Kirra in Casserah's hearing - and she promptly banishes him from Danan Hall.
* PlayingWithFire: Senneth’s mystic powers—and are they ever ''impressive''.
* PowerNullifier: Moonstones have this effect on mystics, to the point where prolonged contact can kill the mystic.
** Halchon Gisseltess also has this effect on Senneth.
* [[spoiler:RagsToRoyalty: Cammon, an orphaned former slave, eventually marries Princess Amalie and ascends to the kingship of Gillengaria.]]
* RaisedByNatives: A version of this occurs in Senneth’s backstory—after she was dispossessed by her abusive father, the 17-year-old mystic wandered into the Lirrens. The Lirren natives saved her life and adopted her into their clan.
* RebelliousPrincess: Amalie, most notably, but also Kirra, who juggles being a serramarra with being a lion, and [[spoiler: Senneth, who ran away from home.]]
* ReligionOfEvil: The cults of the Pale Mother are viewed as this by mystics—though most of the practitioners (aside from the inner circle, who are using it as [[TheConspiracy a cover to commit treason]]) aren’t really evil, just narrow-minded and bigoted. No one remembers enough about the gods to say if the Pale Mother is truly evil, but she sure isn’t friendly to mystics in any case.
* RunningGag: That they will each fall in love with the most inappropriate person possible. Which they do. [[spoiler: Senneth, a serramarra and a mystic, marries Tayse, a glorified soldier with a severe distrust of magic; Kirra, a serramarra-ier serramarra, falls in love first with a married man and then with Donnal, a peasant; Justin, a glorified soldier, weds Ellynor, an over-sheltered Lirren girl; and Cammon, a peasant, hooks up with Amalie, princess/Queen of Gillengaria. And it all works out in the end, except for Kirra’s adulterous affair.]]
* SecretTestOfCharacter: What some fans think Baryn was doing sending the RagtagBunchOfMisfits to find out things that he already knew.
* SensorCharacter: Yet another side effect of Cammon’s powers, as he can identify who is feeling what emotions nearby and where they’re coming from.
* SonOfAWhore: Justin’s backstory. (Luckily it doesn’t get brought up often.) Thanks to Tayse, Justin grew up into a HeroicBastard with a respectable and elite career.
* SpoiledBrat: What Wen believes sixteen-year-old Karryn Fortunalt is at the beginning of ''Fortune and Fate''. As the story goes on, Wen (and the audience) learns that her late father's emotional abuse and CloudCuckooLander mother's distance have left Karryn very insecure and unsure of her own worth. By the end of the book, Karryn is much more SpoiledSweet than SpoiledBrat.
* StealthExpert: Both Kirra and Donnal qualify, considering they can shapeshift into any animal they choose. Kirra particularly is fond of morphing a cat for this purpose, as they are acrobatic and virtually silent.
* SuddenlySuitableSuitor: Senneth and a sympathetic noblewoman finagle this for Cammon to enable him to marry Amalie; the noblewoman invents a story about his being her long-lost son (a story that actually does have some truthfulness and therefore believability, except that her ''actual'' long-lost son was stillborn). The change in status makes him an acceptable consort for the new Queen. ([[FridgeLogic Very fortunately for everyone]], as Amalie had vowed not to marry anyone if she couldn’t have Cammon, a choice which would result in a SuccessionCrisis and most probably another civil war upon her death.)
* TakeThat: The [[SarcasmMode wow-so-subtle]] message against discrimination.
* ThouShaltNotKill: Examined. Tayse and Justin, and to a lesser extent Senneth, are all fighting machines, but they are also the heroes, and even squeamish Kirra kills people with wild abandon when she's a lion.
* TomboyAndGirlyGirl: Senneth and Kirra.
* TwoGirlsToATeam: Again, Senneth and Kirra among the original six companions.
* UnwantedSpouse:
** Villain Halchon Gisseltess does not hide the fact that he wants to get rid of his wife Sabina so that he can marry Senneth. (It doesn’t seem to occur to him that Senneth herself is already HappilyMarried.)
** Romar Brendyn makes no secret of the fact that he resents his wife during his affair with Kirra, though he’s not likely to actually bump off his wife to be with his lover. (Much of his marital unhappiness stems from the fact that his wife is [[LawOfInverseFertility apparently unable to have children]], which is resolved by the novel’s end, hopefully to the betterment of their marriage.)
* UnluckyChildhoodFriend: Poor Donnal looks like he’s going to be stuck as this while Kirra is head over heels for Romar Brendyn. Luckily for everyone, subverted in the end into a successful ChildhoodFriendRomance.
* UnrequitedLoveLastsForever: Averted with Wen in ''Fortune And Fate''. Most Riders are celibate anyway, and what with her heart being all smashed up over Justin’s marriage to Ellynor, Wen could pretty reasonably be expected not to get a romance subplot. Except that it’s Gillengaria, where unlikely romances practically grow on trees. Wen eventually falls for Jasper Paladar, who is luckily kind enough to return the favor.
* UptownGirl / InterclassRomance: Kirra and Donnal, eventually. Also, Cammon and Amalie. And Senneth and Tayse. [[LampshadeHanging Didn’t someone say something about how they were all destined to fall in love with the wrong people?]]
* {{UST}}: Shinn's MO anyway, and particularly bad between Kirra and Donnal. All four novels/couples have this in spades.
* VoluntaryShapeshifting: The basic powers of any shiftling mystic, including Kirra and Donnal.
* WellDoneSonGuy: Tayse’s backstory.
* WickedStepmother:
** Averted with Kirra's stepmother, Jannis, who is implied to have always treated Kirra well even though she is a mystic.
** Averted with Queen Valri, who is rather stoic but cares deeply about her stepdaughter Amalie.
* WideEyedIdealist: Cammon, early on. Amalie, until about the middle of ''Reader and Raelynx’’.
* WreathedInFlames: Senneth on multiple occasions, of course, but most notably in the FinalBattle, where she [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome literally burns herself out while saving the day and redeeming mystics in the eyes of her heretofore hopelessly bigoted family]].
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