ARMED AND MAGICAL (ARC)
By Lisa Shearin
Release date April 2008
Pardon me while I take a moment to enthuse. (Is that a word?) This is, without a doubt, one of the best reads I’ve had in a long, long time. There are twists, turns, shocks and surprises—all contained in a fast-paced story. Unpredictable would be an understatement and the witty dialogue, both spoken and internal, is exceptional.
ARMED AND MAGICAL is the much anticipated Raine Benares Adventure sequel to MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND. I read it in a day. I could not stop. It rolled from one engrossing, hooky scene to the next. There is much to discover and some absolute pound-fists-on-the-table-and-kick-heels-in-glee surprises. When Raine isn’t immersed in a situation full of terrific humor, she’s up to her ears in bite-your-nails creepiness.
By page 6, Raine’s got trouble—BIG trouble—and I’m once again pulled right into the crux of the action by the first person POV as villains pop out of the woodwork, a major character is in jeopardy, and an innocent is snatched. We’re off!
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 from a family of rogues and criminals. She’s savvy and unpredictable, and you never know what she might say next. Tell Raine to keep quiet? Not gonna happen. In MLTF, she found something she wasn’t looking for that attached itself to her with the tenacity of a Pit Bull. Mychael Eiliesor, a fellow elf, Conclave Guardian and paladin (read that: top cop) came into her life to help her shake off her disturbing accessory, but his job often puts him at odds with her instincts. Mychael is her self-appointed protector, but Raine resists being protected, and coming from a family of criminals that view Mychael’s sort with suspicion, she has doubts about his true motivations. Tam, nightclub owner, exotic bad boy, and goblin with a dubious past also finds himself entangled in Raine’s business, though an entanglement of a different sort is more what he has in mind. Tam has a damning secret, and when Raine discovers who and what he was—and may still be—she is smart enough to heed his warnings. Or try to.
As with MLTF, there are many who might qualify as “villain material,” but two stand out in their special charming, slithery way. Sarad Nukpana is back in all his evil glory, and Rudra Muralin, a goblin with a dark past (or make that an even darker past than most goblins) presents a new force for Raine to contend with. There is also large and well-drawn contingent of minor characters, including incorrigible kin, loyal Guardians, corrupt officials, seedy minions, and an overbearing, malevolent librarian that reigns over his turf like a dark thundercloud.
It is a rare case where a sequel bests the original in brilliant style. MLTF was a delight. ARMED AND MAGICAL is even better. The lightning pace makes for a quick, engrossing read, but real-life ingredients like politics and legal matters add rich complexity and twists to the story. The element of surprise is always present. You just never know what…or who…might pop up next. Magic is used in imaginative and surprising ways and in at least one scene had me ROFL at the irony when Raine takes on a very convincing disguise and suffers the consequences. Paybacks are hell, huh, Raine?
If you love an imaginative Fantasy romp with a winning blend of laugh-out-loud humor and chilling suspense, this novel is a “Must Read.” Look for it in April 2008.
This is a condensed version of a review I posted on the the Toasted Scimitar Fantasy Pub. http://www.toasted-scimitar.blogspot.com/