The House War
Michelle’s Note: Although this book is set in the same universe as the previous two DAW series, it can actually be read without reading any of the prior eight books, as it introduces both the city, the Empire, and the world through the eyes of an orphan and a man who has disowned his noble family. If you are new to the West universe, this is the book I would recommend as the first one you try.
THE HIDDEN CITY
by Michelle West
Back cover: The gathering of the den.
The Hidden City is the first novel in The House War, a saga Michelle West’s avid fans have been waiting to read for over a decade. The House War is the story of the battle to control the most power of the ruling Houses in the Essalieyan Empire–House Terafin.
But it is also the tale of a remarkable young woman, Jewel Markess (though she prefers to be called Jay by her friends). The Hidden City introduces Jewel as an orphan living in the slums of the capital city, Averalaan. She is unexpectedly rescued from this existence by Rath, who abandoned his own family when his sister joined House Terafin. Now his sister is The Terafin, head of House Terafin, while Rath has become a recluse, prowling the ruins of the undercity, finding relics of an earlier age and selling them to the highest bidder.
When Jay steals Rath’s money, he seeks her out to reclaim what is his. Discovering her under a bridge and deathly ill, he takes her in and nurses her back to health. But once she has recovered, Jay insists she must repay her debt, and Rath finds that he cannot be rid of her. Even worse lies ahead. Driven by visions she can’t control, Jay begins to rescue other children and bring them into Rath’s home. As Jay forms the group that will become her den, Rath walks a far more dangerous path. For the demons that once nearly destroyed the Essalieyan Empire are stirring again, reaching out to strike down any who can give warning against them. And soon Rath, who treads ancient ways hidden beneath the slums of Averalaan, and Jay, who is cursed with the untrained talents of a seer, will find themselves targeted by these deadly beings….
CITY OF NIGHT
by Michelle West
City of Night is the second novel in The House War, the story Michelle West’s avid fans have been waiting to read for over a decade. In 1995, Michelle opened the way to a rich new fantasy universe with her Sacred Hunt duology, which brought readers from the insular kingdom of the Hunter Lords and their Hunt Brothers to the much broader landscape of the Essalieyan Empire, a realm with a long and bloody history, a kingdom ruled by the Twin Kings, themselves the sons of gods. It is also controlled by The Ten, the heads of the most influential Houses in Averalaan, the capital of the Empire.
The House War is the tale of the battle to control the most powerful of the ruling Houses in the Essalieyan Empire–House Terafin. But it is also the story of Jewel Markess (Jay to her friends). The Hidden City, the first volume of The House War, introduced us to the orphaned Jewel, rescued from a precarious existence in the slums of Averalaan by Rath, a man who turned away from his own family long years ago when his sister left home to join House Terafin. Now Rath’s sister is The Terafin, head of House Terafin, while Rath has become a recluse, seeking and selling the valuable relics he finds amid the ruins of the ancient and deserted undercity that lies below the populous streets of the Averalaan holdings.
When Rath takes the orphaned Jay into his home, he reveals to her the mysterious undercity and its treasures. And then Jay begins to rescue other children–creating a den of her own–and they too begin to mine the undercity for items that can be converted to coin.
As City of Night opens, times have become even more desperate within Averalaan’s hundred holdings. Street children have been disappearing, theft and violence have increased, and even Jewel and her den are finding it hard to make ends meet.
Though they have been living on their own for some time, Rath has remained their mentor and has continued to sell the items of value they find in the undercity. Then suddenly Rath orders them to avoid the undercity as much as possible. He himself has obviously become involved in something extremely dangerous. Yet Rath refuses to heed the warnings that Jewel’s seer dreams have given her. For he has learned a bitter truth about Averalaan’s undercity and the demonic activity that is escalating both there and in the mortal, surface level city as the worshippers and demonic servants of the Lord of the Hells strive to complete a ritual that will return their god to the mortal realm.
Rath now joins with the mages of the Order of Knowledge to wage a secret battle against this nearly unstoppable foe. He knows that his choice will see him targeted for death–or a far worse fate. In a last-ditch attempt to protect Jewel and her den-kin from what lies ahead, he provides them with a note of introduction to the head of House Terafin–the sister he’d sworn never to contact.
For only within the well-guarded walls of the Terafin manse will Jewel and her comrades stand any chance of escaping the unnatural forces reaching out to claim them….
by Michelle West
HOUSE NAME is the third novel in The House War, the series that began with The Hidden City and City of Night. Set in the same rich fantasy universe as Michelle West’s Sacred Hunt duology and her six-book Sun Sword series, the House War novels recount the events leading to the momentous battle between the demonic minions of the Lord of the Hells and defenders of the Essalieyan Empire–a realm with a long and bloody history. The empire is ruled by the Twin Kings, themselves the sons of gods. It is also controlled by The Ten, the heads of the most influential Houses in Averalaan, the capital of the Empire.
But The House War focuses no only on the larger war but also on the campaign to control the most powerful of the ruling Houses in the Essalieyan Empire–House Terafin.
As House Name opens, former street orphan Jewel and her den have been given shelter in House Terafin. The price for them to remain there is that Jewel must prove her value to the House. And saving The Terafin, the ruler of the House, from a demonic assassination attempt is certainly a good start.
Now Jewel has been assigned the task of finding the entryways to the ancient undercity that lies beneath the streets of the empire’s capital, Averalaan. But even with the aid of the most powerful First Circle Mage of the Order of Knowledge, Jewel’s search seems hopeless. All of the ways into the undercity seem to be magically disappearing before Jewel can lead the mage to them. And if they can’t find a means to reach the undercity, they will not be able to prevent the demon kin from whatever attack they are planning.
Not only does Jewel fear that failure on her part will see her den expelled from House Terafin, but she has been troubled by grim visions of the future–visions of the death and destruction of all she has come to hold dear.
Yet is is not until the unthinkable happens–a direct attack on House Terafin–that the stakes are raised to a whole new level. And both Jewel and the Terafin can only hope that it is not already too late to prevent the demon kin from reaching the goal they have worked centuries to achieve–the return of the Lord of the Hells to the mortal realm….
Paperback: DAW books, January 2012, 978-7564-0703-2, 728 pages. Cover artist: Jody Lee.
Read the first chapter: House Name Chapter 01
by Michelle West
Skirmish is the fourth novel in the long-awaited House War series. Set in the same rich fantasy universe as Michelle West’s Sacred Hunt duo logy and her six-volume Sun Sword series, the House War novels recount the events leading to the momentous battle between the demonic minions of the Lord of the Hells and the defenders of the Essalieyan Empire — a realm with a long and bloody history. The empire is ruled by the Twin Kings, sons of the gods. It is also controlled by The Ten, the heads of the most influential Houses in Averalaan, the capital of the Empire.
But The House War focuses not only on the larger war but also, and more importantly, on the campaign to control the most powerful of the ruling Houses in the Essalieyan Empire–House Terafin.
As Skirmish opens, Amarais ATerafin–The Terafin–lies dead, assassinated by a demon at the very moment that Jewel ATerafin returns from the war in the South, appearing as if out of thin air, having traveled by hidden paths. Jewel is accompanied by her domicis Avandar, known as the Warlord, by Lord Celleriant of the Winter Queen’s court, and she rides on the back of a giant stag–the Winter King. Yet still she cannot arrive in time to save her leader, but only in time for Celleriant to slay the demon assassin.
Jewel returns to a city beset by a mysterious “sleeping sickness” for which there appears to be no cure. Only one healer–a young man who shelters with Jewel’s den–can temporarily wake the sleepers so they make take enough sustenance to survive. And the sickness continues to spread unchecked. As the Empire strives to combat this insidious disease, and stave of demonic attacks, House Terafin begins preparations for the funeral of its Lord. And four members of the House declare themselves as candidates to claim the House Seat, ready to do whatever it takes to wrest control.
Only Jewel remains silent, though she is the heir secretly designated by Amarais before her departure to the South. While some seek to intimidate Jewel or recruit her for their own bids, others begin to gather around her: her own den, the most loyal of House Terafin’s Chosen, Haval the dressmaker, powerful magi, and three mysterious ‘winged cats’ who come to her in the midst of a deadly encounter in a forest not meant for mortals to walk….
Jewel is determined not to make any decisions before the Terafin is laid to rest. But as the enemies of House and Empire mobilize, it becomes terrifyingly clear that everyone–including Jewel and her otherworldly allies–must survive the three days of the funeral rites before they can even be certain that there will be a House Terafin left to fight over….
Hardcover: DAW Books, January 2012, 978-0-7564-0701-8, 598 pages; cover art: the fabulous Jody Lee