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House Name: The House War Book Three    by Michelle West order for
House Name
by Michelle West
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2011 (2011)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Michelle West's House Name follows The Hidden City and City of Night as the third in her House War series, set in the same sophisticated world as her brilliant Sacred Hunt and Sun Sword series. In West's world, god-born and demons walk alongside humans in various well conceived, ornate societies, whose underlying codes of conduct are often in conflict. The House War is set in Averalaan, capital of the Northern Empire.

The earlier episodes introduced seer-born Jewel 'Jay' Markess, a young woman with a shining compassion for others. Orphaned in the slums of Averalaan, Jay was mentored by Ararath (brother to Amarais, who rules House Terafin). As Jay steadily gathered other waifs to join her den, Rath showed her the Old Weston undercity. But the undercity grew steadily more perilous - they faced demons and lost den members. As City of Night ended, Rath fought his last battle and Jewel fled (as he had instructed) with her surviving den members to House Terafin.

The Prologue to House Name shows demon lord Isladar, who plays his own long game. He has been embroiled in the plan of a minor demon, Sor Na Shannen, who seduced an overambitious mage. Now, on the orders of the Lord of the Hells, she summons Kialli Lords Isladar and Karathis to prepare a way for their ruler to walk the human world once more. To keep the Kings of Averalaan above unaware of their enterprise, the demon lords start closing the ways that Rath once used to enter the undercity.

After Amarais discovered Jay's seer talent and Jay saved her life, the Terafin took in her den, assigning them their own wing in her house, and a domicis to teach them its ways - it's quite an adjustment. In return, Amarais asks Jewel to work with irritating mage Meralonne APhaniel (one of the few able to detect demons) - and later with Devon ATerafin - to find an entrance to the undercity. Though the mage urges the Terafin to inform the Twin Kings of demons below, she delays for political reasons, to her eventual regret.

Other members of Jewel's den are assigned key roles in House Terafin - Arann as a House Guard; Teller and Finch in business offices. While they learn new skills, the Terafin hosts important guests - Hunter Lord Elseth of Breodanir, his Huntbrother Stephen and wild Espere, daughter of the Hunter God (tying in the Sacred Hunt series to this one). Attempts are made to assassinate these guests - and Amarais - inside the House, and all face the Hunter's Death.

Then demons begin torturing and slaughtering men, women and children in the undercity, their screams increasingly audible to those above, causing huge stress and nightmares. Finally, Amarais alerts the Council and the Kings. Jay works out how they can get into the undercity, and The Terafin claims her as a House Member. Angel meets a godborn and fulfills his father's task. And Evayne moves in and out of time and the story, making critical interventions and holding to a slender hope as gods walk the world once more.

This book ends with a party (to celebrate the living and the dead) and closure for both Jewel and the Terafin for those they have already lost in a battle that has just begun. Michelle West has built one of my all-time favorite fantasy worlds, and her fragile but strong Jewel Markess is a remarkable, thoroughly engaging character. As always, I'm anxious for more!

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