If one wished to read the Essalieyan series in chronological order, they would start with the Sacred Hunt duology, follow it with the first three House War novels, then all of Sun Sword, and end with the rest of House War. This, of course, does not include the short stories or books yet to be written…but the latter are likely to take place after the existing novels anyway.
I mention chronology because in The Shining Court, book three of Sun Sword, Jewel ATerafin walks a strange road that will shape her future in many ways. Avandar Gallias, her domicis, is less than amused by this of course. For the record, a domicis is a personal servant. When someone like Jewel is served, the domicis is almost their other half, a servant who serves only them, and devotes the whole of their life to their master. It’s a complicated position that I won’t go into much detail about at this time, mostly because we explore the meaning of the term in other books, not this one. And I need a bit of a refresher before I go more in depth.
Here in book three, the Voyani begin to come into their own. These are families, similar to the clans who rule and dwell in the Dominion, who choose a nomadic lifestyle instead. The Voyani have a matriarchal rule, unlike the clansmen, and are known to have old powers in their bloodlines. However, little is known for sure given that they are incredibly insular and untrusting. Still, they are vital to the climax of this particular book.
The Shining Court is the story of one of the biggest gambles to date made by the titular entity. In fact, this Court is that of Allasakar, the Lord of Night, and his demons. The Court also has its share of human members, who seek power by allying themselves with the darkness. The very name evokes the same sort of emotion that sees paranormal romance as a popular genre: that there is something attractive and desirable in what we know to be evil.
Where last book centered on the Festival of the Sun and the Kings’ Challenge, summer holidays around the longest day, this one centers on the Festival of the Moon and the longest night. Here, in The Shining Court, Michelle West begins to reveal the ancient truths that modern Essalieyan cultures are founded upon. It’s not like Lord of the Rings where you see ruins dotting the landscape everywhere, reminding the viewer/reader that we are looking at declining civilations squatting on the remains of their gloried ancestors. Instead, West is gently brushing away the lumps of sand to reveal the stone that lay buried beneath. And, as you might predict, that stone is far larger and more complete than we could have believed from merely seeing lumps of sand on the surface. But we’ll get more into that as the series progresses and then even further in the second half of House War. And then you have to stop and think and remember that even House War is still just setup. That at that point we still have seers looking at the future and a climax larger than any we’ve yet seen.
I know I’ve mentioned how much I love these books. But I will have to continue to repeat myself. I can see it here and now simply in how I write this post. I admit, it took me a bit to get started, but the more I talked about the series as a whole and where it’s going, the faster I started typing and the more excited I got. Just like with The Shining Court, where it almost seemed like I read faster as I got closer and closer to the major plot point of this climax; the halfway point in Sun Sword.
So what am I doing still typing here? Obviously I should be starting the next book.