THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS (ARC)
By Lisa Shearin
Release date: April 28, 2009
(Available for pre-order)
OPENING NOTES FROM THE REVIEWER: I think I may have let out a little squeeee (no witnesses, thank goodness) when I opened a package from Penguin Group this week and discovered—you guessed it—an ARC of THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS inside. I lost no time jumping into the first chapter and being swept up in Raines’ continuing saga. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I try to avoid spoilers. Knowing what’s going to happen takes the surprise and spontaneity out of the journey. And this novel has surprises, spontaneity and twists aplenty. I found THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS slightly darker than the first two books in the series, MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND and ARMED & MAGICAL but no less unpredictable. The heroine has established a pension for doing the unexpected in the earlier books, and she certainly didn’t disappoint in this new tale of magic and mayhem.
Raine—no stranger to trouble, she—continues her penchant for getting into the most dangerous, impossible situations. There’s plenty of action, conflict, supernatural entities, epic battles, but woven into and through the adventure is Raine’s intensifying bond with, and heart-wrenching struggle over, both men who have infiltrated her life, Mychael and Tam. More on that later. On to the elements…
COVER ART: This is my favorite covers of the series, so far. The font has lost its little sparkly twinkles which makes it a bit less busy, and the use of vivid color and mythic backdrop suggests the novel’s tone. The depiction of Raine with knives drawn and “armed for ogre,” seems to capture the spitfire nature of the character I call Calamity Raine. I would still love to get a glimpse of her leading men on a future cover. Or are they best left to my imagination?
INITIAL IMPRESSION: Raine wastes no time finding trouble. By page five she’s embroiled in an attack by powerful demons who have some utterly creepy battle tactics, and who only Raine can see…and things plummet downhill from there. Yup. Calamity Raine is back.
MAIN CHARACTERS: Raine Benares is a seeker, a finder of lost things, and a sorceress of moderate powers. She’s also a street-smart, quick-witted, armed-to-the-teeth member of a family of infamous rogues and criminals. In MLTF, she found something she wasn’t looking for and has been trying to get rid of it ever since. The Saghred, an ancient, soul-munching stone of power, has claimed her as a bond servant—a plight that both disgusts her and at times gives her incredible abilities, but always at a price. Mychael Eiliesor, a fellow elf, Conclave Guardian, paladin and powerful spellsinger came into her life to help her shake off her disturbing attachment, and his job often puts him at odds with her instincts, but she knows not everything Mychael does for her is strictly in the line of duty. Tam, hot goblin, nightclub owner, recovering (or is he?) dark mage with a questionable past also finds himself entangled in Raine’s plight, though an entanglement of a different sort is more what he has in mind. When Raine accepts Tam’s help in one particularly grim and desperate scene, they find there are consequences for their collaboration. Serious consequences. As Raine’s dilemma continues, the love triangle manifests itself in a profound way and ultimately represents the forces of Good, Evil…and Raine.
SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: Oh my, where do I start? Phaelan, Raine’s infamous pirate cousin holds his own with the most menacing threats despite his lack of magical ability. Phaelan is devious, conniving, swaggering and steadfastly loyal. Phaelan’s dad, Raine’s uncle, Commodore Ryn Benares also steals a scene or two. Piaras, Raine’s young friend and adopted “kid brother” is a spellsinger university student of incredible talent. So much talent that it often threatens his life. Talon Tandu, friend and fellow student of Piaras, is a young, seductive, half-blood goblin/elf—and Tam’s son. Sora Niabi, professor of demonology, is very good at her job and a peer Raine can relate to. Vegard, the Guardian assigned to protect Raine, or just keep up with her—good luck with that, V—becomes an unwilling sidekick to many of her escapades. Archmagus Justinius Valerian, most powerful mage on Mid next to Mychael, is still recovering from an attack that occurred in book two. Or is he? Raine’s father, Eamaliel Anguis, also has a presence, though from inside the rock, and has a surprise in store. There are many more characters and it’s important to remember the names and roles of each, as they often make encore appearances.
VILLAIN: There are, once again, many who might qualify as “villain material,” and most either want to possess the Saghred/Raine talent team, or want the stone and/or Raine contained, controlled and destroyed, in no particular order. Sarad Nukpana is back in all his evil glory, as is Rudra Muralin, power-goblin of the past. Sundry demons, my favorite of which is yellow and pops out of the…well, on second thought, see for yourself. The demon horde has a formidable leader who’s in control of the invasion, and thinks Mychael would be quite delicious. Even some of the “good guys” are bad guys, and Carnades Silvanus, in particular, is always plotting and manipulating facts to suit his plans.
OTHER CHARACTERS: There is a large and well-drawn contingent of minor characters, including loyal Guardians, dark mage bodyguards, corrupt officials, seedy minions, and supernatural creatures of darkness. They have a habit of springing at Raine at any time and from any direction. Definitely keeps a reader on their toes.
WORLD BUILDING: The imaginative world continues on the Isle of Mid, home to the Guardian citadel, a university for learning the magic arts, the Quad, government buildings, tunnels, streets, alleys, abandoned edifices, passageways and a bustling seafront. In this fantasy world, the threat of a lawsuit is sometimes as imposing as the threat of violence.
CONFLICT: Raine wants one thing—to rid herself of the Saghred stone. Well, maybe she wants three things, Mychael and Tam also being at the top of her list, though she has good reasons for distancing herself from both despite the fact the Saghred wants to collect them as a packaged set.
ROMANCE: Raine and Mychael and Tam, oh my! How’s a girl to decide between the powerful White Knight of Mid who is sworn to protect her but shouldn’t even associate with her—not that he can stay away—or one of the darkest of dark mages who is doing everything he can to change his spots for Raine. Although this novel can’t be classified as a romance, I feel the romantic conflicts between the main characters is one of the most powerful aspects of this series. The characters are so compelling that I, as a reader, can’t make up my mind who I like better for Raine’s suitor any more than Raine can. That makes for some wonderful prolonged romantic intrigue that has carried through the first three novels, only gets more entangled in the third, and doesn’t look to be resolved anytime soon.
MOST QUOTABLE QUOTE(S): Sooo many fantastic quotes in this one, but some are so pivotal to the plot that I don’t want to spoil all the fun, so here are just a few non-spoiler extracts:
Phaelan’s philosophy: “Live fast, die young, and leave behind a damned fine-dressed corpse.”
Raine’s family: “I’m a Benares. Our standards of proper behavior are a little different than everyone else’s.”
Raine’s lament: “I scare me.”
MAGIC QUOTIENT: One of Raine’s thoughts pretty much sums it up: “…an apocalyptic, magical kaboom waiting to happen.”
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. As you may have guessed from the comments above, this one gets one big, fat, red Approved.
FINAL WORD: It’s rare when a sequel can carry on the inspiration and freshness of the original novel as ARMED & MAGICAL did. It’s rarer still when the third novel in the series can take the reader into uncharted territory in terms of romantic stakes, danger and spontaneity. THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS goes there. The characters get a bit of a breather at the conclusion to reflect, rethink and possibly reload. The story is left with a wonderfully-developed suggestion of impending doom and a sharp, edgy hint that history is about to repeat itself. This air of suspense will no doubt leave readers clamoring for the next book in the series. THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS delivers in spades…and rapiers, spears, daggers, and loads of “kaboom.”