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Skirmish: House War #4    by Michelle West order for
by Michelle West
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I'm a long-time fan of Michelle West's brilliant, intricate and interconnected fantasy series - Sacred Hunt, Sun Sword and House War. So when I realized that I was getting behind in House War episodes, I immediately added them to my Christmas wish list. Skirmish is the fourth in the series, following House Name.

God-born and demons walk alongside humans in various well conceived, ornate societies in West's imagined world, their underlying codes of conduct often in conflict. House War is set in Averalaan, capital of the Northern Empire. Its lead is seer-born Jewel 'Jay' Markess, an orphan with a shining compassion.

In the slums of Averalaan, Jay was protected and mentored by Ararath (estranged brother to Amarais, head of House Terafin). As Jay steadily gathered waifs into her den, Rath revealed the Old Weston undercity, which grew ever more perilous. When Rath died, Jewel and her den sought refuge in House Terafin.

Gradually, Jewel's den were assigned key roles in House Terafin - Arann as a House Guard; Teller and Finch in business offices. Jay's talents saved Amarais' and others' lives, and her knowledge of the undercity was invaluable in stopping the demons' foul work there. The Terafin began to groom Jay as her replacement.

The action in Skirmish begins after The Sun Sword's conclusion and the assassination of The Terafin by a demon. There are many powerful contenders for the House Seat and high collateral damage is anticipated. Jewel's chances of survival are not considered high. But, with people close to her at risk, she should never be underestimated.

And she has allies in addition to her den members - skilled tailor Haval who used to engage in a very different profession; three magical, very rude, winged felines who call her 'stupid girl'; the Winter King who carries her on his back; and the Terafin Spirit who offers counsel, among others. She walks the hidden ways, wins Rath's sword, and survives an attack by a very powerful demon.

And she does win the House Seat - but can she hold it? On to episode five, Battle, to find out. If you read fantasy and have not found this author yet, you have a rare treat in store!

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