Sunday, July 15, 2007


By Lisa Shearin
Ace Books
Urban Fantasy

Opening Notes From the Reviewer: If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I try to avoid spoilers for potential readers. Knowing what’s going to happen takes the joy out of the journey.

So, instead, I look at the elements…

COVER ART: Nice use of color and I like MC Raine’s slightly cocky, slightly whimsical expression. The outfit the MC is wearing and some of her accessories are described in the book. Great attention to detail, there. I like the active font that was used for the title. It’s fun, unorthodox, charming and mysterious—just like the story. I would have liked to see more characters portrayed, one in particular (more on him later)--but then again, maybe sexy, silver-skinned goblins are best left to the imagination.

INITIAL IMPRESSION: Intriguing hook. “Sorcerers weren’t normal, sorcery wasn’t natural, and Quentin Rand didn’t like either one.” These are the MCs opening thoughts that propel her into an adventure. Actually, “adventure” is much too weak of a word for what’s in store for this gutsy elf. I was pulled right into Raine’s head courtesy of First Person POV. By the end of Chapter One, she is already engaged in a fierce battle with a band of goblin shamans and temple guards. Chapter Two brings even more action and greater danger.

MAIN CHARACTERS: Raine Benares is a seeker, a finder of lost things, and a sorceress of moderate powers. Make that a world-wise, quick-witted, been-around-the-block-a-few-times sorceress…with a supportive extended family. Her occupation promises peril, because, as she mentally notes, “some things are better left unfound”.

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: I found the goblin Tam—Tamnais Nathrach—a mesmerizing individual. He is at once exotic, clever, steamy, and trustworthy in a dangerous sort of way. Tam is a primaru, a goblin shaman of royal blood, whose current gig is as owner of the classy nightclub, Sirens. Raine’s relationship with Tam is established before the story opens, and when these two get together, things sizzle. This is not a romance, though it certainly has a fair measure of intriguing sexual tension. But wait. Is there soon to be another man in her life? Spellsinger Mychael Eiliesor, a Conclave Guardian and fellow elf, becomes acquainted with Raine suddenly through a very unpleasant introduction (for him). Piaras, Raine’s young cousin, has a “kid brother” appeal and some developing powers of his own.

VILLAIN: Oh, it’s a cast of thousands. Some of the most notable are goblin Prince Chigaru, his brother the goblin king, goblin grand shaman Sarad Nukpana, creepy, oily shadows that can drink a person whole, and other magical beings that hunt and feed in the darkness of the ruins. Maybe foremost of all (and worst of all?) the Saghred itself, the Thief of Souls.

OTHER CHARACTERS: Raine has an extended family and a circle of friends that make frequent appearances at opportune, and sometimes inopportune, times to assist, shelter and counsel. A wonderful support group for any girl to have.

WORLD BUILDING: A nicely layered and districted Fantasy world of some complexity. Well-drawn cityscapes and ruinscapes. Several locales with considerable creep factor.

CONFLICT: In a nutshell, Raine acquires something she didn't want, attached to trouble she didn't need, and the attention of some evil personas/entities she definitely wants to avoid. Chaos ensues, along with a number of unexpected twists and turns and a journey through some of the darkest corners of this imaginative fantasy world.

ROMANCE: No romance, but plenty of tease and innuendo. In my opinion, more than enough to satisfy those readers who believe no story is complete without a romantic element. (Raises hand.)

READABILITY: Reading MLTF is like being in the head of a close friend as she observes, comments on, and reacts to the situation around her, sometimes with hilarious results. Sometimes with terrifying consequences.

EVIL AUTHORS GUILD STAMP OF APPROVAL: The Evil Authors Guild exists to encourage writers to inflict appropriate amounts of terror, angst and emotional torture into their characters’ lives, and to leave them twisting in the wind at every opportunity. Happily endorsed.

MOST QUOTABLE QUOTE(S): There is a perfect summary of Raine's relationship with Tam. When he asks if she trusts him, she replies: “With my life, yes. But not with the rest of me.” Raine’s initial impression of Conclave Guardian Mychael Eiliesor painted quite a portrait: “His eyes were stunning. Tropical seas stunning—and lock up your daughters and wives trouble.”

MAGIC QUOTIENT: Magic is used in imaginative and surprising ways in MLTF, and in at least one scene it had me ROFL. (Like gondolas, Mychael?)

SECOND READ: There’s so much going on here—character-wise, politics-wise, and plot-wise, that this one is perfect for multiple reads. Many of the subtler points come into sharper focus on the second (or more) pass.

OVERALL RATING: If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I don’t rate on a number scale. Each novel is like sightseeing in a strange city. You learn about the territory as you go. I rate MLTF as a Chicago. It’s fast-paced and exciting facade covers a dark and sometimes threatening underground. It’s a hub of action, a melting-pot of fantasy icons and fresh ideas. It’s a big, big place with a lot to discover. A delightful destination. If you’ve never read Urban Fantasy before, let this be your first. And, oh yes, expect a sequel.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I finally got around to reading this. I have to admit, I didn't like it. For me, it would have been improved vastly by the addition of a romantic element. The hints were there of two and I thought she could have played that up. The major problem for me was the difficulty over the names. Too complex, I couldn't remember who was who half the time. AND they kept coming and coming. A cast of thousands indeed and I saw little point in adding many of those later. I can see that she wants this as part of some long series involving Raine but I wouldn't read another.
    There were some nice quotes - I agree. I like the characters but they were all too shallow. I never got to love Raine and I wanted to love the guys but couldn't. I wondered what market she was aiming for with this. I don't think guys would like it and as most women like some romance - it falls too short there for the majority. The front cover is great and it made me expect more than the book gave.
    Reading it twice would no doubt make everything much clearer but if it can't do it the first time, I woulnd't give it a second chance.
    Thumbs down from me.


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