Michelle West – House Name

House Name (2011), the third novel in The House War fantasy series by Michelle West, is a break from the previous novels as the setting has changed and there is a change in focus on the characters and plot development. There is also a change in atmosphere. The main protagonist and her group of side characters were in the lower echelons of society, now they are suddenly propelled into the highest. There are different rules of behavior to which they have to adapt.

The different environment also has its effect on the story. The playing field against the enemy changes. West makes a realistic choice which has a peculiar consequence. In the first half the main protagonist stands central and the story revolves much around her. This is where¬† actually the most dramatic scenes are found in which characters are portrayed the most strongest. Very early on in the novel there is a minor great event which compared to the previous novels would have been equal to a finale. Much earlier than expected things get overturned and the scale of the story suddenly changes. The main protagonist, and her group, get sidelined for a long great finale of the story. Other characters get center stage, but they remain much less developed and the reader doesn’t care as they did for the central group of characters. The finale is engaging and very entertaining, but it lacks the cleverness and emotion one was used to. It is an epic clash while the previous ones were more mundane and limited in scope. Now there were too many people engaged which made the attention to each of them too limited.

The fantastical element is increased even further in this novel. It had been steadily expanding in the earlier novels and plenty of supernatural things and magical happens in House Name. One could almost say it goes all out. The magic itself remains rather mysterious and West does not spend time explaining how it is supposed to work. They just “do” it.

Somewhat peculiar is that the story has a lengthy epilogue-like conclusion. West wraps up a number of things and takes her time for it. From Wikipedia I have learned that the first three books of this series form a sort of prequel so it is understandable that West wants a neat fit with her older works. I am just not that certain that it needed this extension. I guess I will find out once I continue with those earlier novels before I continue with The House War.

House Name has more great events than the previous novels but it does not have their strength and compelling atmosphere. A great part of the story is overtaken by other, less familiar characters. It were the familiar characters that had the best scenes and they were lacking in presence. I enjoyed the read and kept flipping the pages easily but it did not deliver as strongly as the first two books of the series. Still, the overall quality of the book is good and there are many new things to discover. West creates some interesting worldbuilding although we didn’t get to see that much yet as the events had a stronger domination on the whole.

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