Ace, 352 pages
Raine Benares is an elf and a fair-to-middling sorceress in the world of Mermeia (think of a big version of Venice populated with elves, goblins, and magical "experiments"). She's also a seeker, which means she finds things for people who want things found (although sometimes those people later regret that). Raine's first problem is to keep an eye on Quentin Rand, who's breaking into a necromancer's house. Raine doesn't know what Quentin is after, but she wants to make sure he makes it out of that house in one piece; she's used him on a few jobs before and trusts him - sort of.
One of Raine's cousins, Phaelan, joins her in the alleyway across the street, ready to help, if need be. Raine slipped a tracking stone on Quentin, and it allows her to see things from Quentin's point of view. He's in the necromancer's bedroom and takes out a white stone box.
Raine falls over when Quentin opens the box.
Phaelan helps her back to her feet, and she severs the connection to Quentin. But it's not long before all hell breaks loose. They hear a lot of glass breaking and Quentin's shouts. They head to the back of the house and scramble to the top of a wall. Then Quentin is on the bedroom's balcony, except he's not alone: The Khrynsani, an old goblin secret society and military order, has joined him, and it's not to enjoy the night air.
Quentin jumps into some bushes to get away from the goblins, but they follow him. Raine and Phaelan take care of the Khrynsani as best they can, with a minimum amount of blood shed. When Raine asks what Quentin stole, he's hesitant until he pulls out a chain from under his shirt. It's holding a strange but plain amulet...
...an amulet, Raine finds out, that has unbelievable power, which was taken from a soul-stealing stone. And, when she puts it on, to hold it for Quentin, she finds she can't take it off without dire consequences.
The Khrynsani aren't the only ones after her. There's also the current goblin king's brother-in-exile, and a slimy character named Sarad Nukpana. She hopes to survive with her relatives and friends giving her help, specifically, her brother, Piaras, Garadin, her godfather and former Conclave mage, Paladin and spellsinger-extraordinaire Mychael Eiliesor, and Tamnais Nathrach (Tam), a shaman of royal blood.
Can they keep Raine safe and put the amulet back where it belongs? And if the amulet is put in the box, will that be the end of Raine's troubles?
This is a well-crafted and fun story, with interesting characters and many hints of romance (which adds to the story but doesn't overwhelm it). Raine is a kick-ass heroine but no Mary Sue; she has her faults, gets nicked up from time to time, and at times her romantic feelings nearly get the best of her.
As a wannabe author, what I liked (and envy!) is how succinct Ms. Shearin is with her descriptions: They're always just right, which means I get an idea of what something looks like without it being too skimpy nor too wordy.
Take this passage from the first chapter:
The city of Mermeia in the kingdom of Brenir consisted of five islands that had been forced into existence by the determination of its founders, and kept from sinking by the greed of its merchants. A powerful force, greed. It made solid ground where there had once been marsh; built palaces and trading houses where there were reeds; and inspired humans, elves, goblins, and magic users of all races to live together in a city separated only by the canals that marked their respective Districts. Sometimes we even got along.So we get an idea of the lay of the land, what sort of people/species we'll be reading about, and the MC's cynicism in one paragraph. Nicely done!
This is Ms. Shearin's debut offering, and it's hard to believe, because it's so well done. (And did I say how much I loved the kick-ass, cynical Raine? Ah, oops, yeah!) Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until next year for the next in the series ::sniff::, but Ms. Shearin has graciously included two chapters from her second book, Armed and Magical. Chapter One is here, and Chapter Two is here.
I can't wait! :-)
ETA: Armed and Magical is coming out in April 2008! Must. Wipe. Off. Drool. ;-)