After joining an unlikely band of soldiers and sorcerers to rescue the kidnapped regent, Romar Brendyn, the shiftling Kirra returns home to learn that her half-sister, Casserah, has been proclaimed heir to the land. But when Casserah refuses to go on a social tour of the great houses, Kirra shifts into her sister's form and makes the rounds - during which she unexpectedly encounters her former compatriots. The motley group faces many dangers and Kirra places herself in peril when she falls in love with the married Lord Romar. Revealing her true identity to him, Kirra begins a tempestuous affair that places them in mortal danger, and leads them both into the stronghold of the devious lords of the Thirteenth House . . .
Restless shape-shifter Kirra, having just fallen for a married man and been disowned by her otherwise loving family, needs a break at the start of bestseller Shinn's outstanding second novel in her Twelve Houses series (after 2004's Mystic and Rider). Kirra's younger sister, Casserah, provides her one. The newly titled Casserah is supposed to appear at the summer parties thrown by major lords of Gillengaria, but she could care less. Assuming Casserah's form, Kirra sets out on the social circuit in her stead to learn more about the nobles plotting to overthrow the king. Instead of taking the side of the ostensibly oppressed, Shinn dares to be a royalist, though not without sympathy to the underclasses. She brings back Kirra's companions from Mystic and Rider, adds several enjoyable new characters and paints their journey with a lyrical grace and deep appreciation of camaraderie reminiscent of Diane Duane at her best. Only the one-dimensional villain (always Shinn's weakest point) and the forehead-slapping stupidity of the infatuated lovers mar this superior fantasy series.