Posted on October 6, 2008 by alanajoli
Written by Lisa Shearin
You may remember that in my review of Shearin’s Magic Lost, Trouble Found, I expressed some confusion about reading a novel that felt like urban fantasy but was set in an elves-and-goblins style world. Armed and Magical follows the further adventures of Raine Benares as she tries to get rid of the Saghred, the evil stone that has claimed her as its link to the world, and has very much the same style as the first book. In reading the sequel, however, I finally made the connection that I missed in Raine’s first adventure: Raine is a seeker, which is roughly the equivalent of a private investigator for her world. What Shearin is writing isn’t a hybrid of urban fantasy and low fantasy–it’s hard boiled fantasy noir.
When we left Raine at the end of Magic Lost, Trouble Found, she was traveling with sexy paladin Mychael to the Isle of Mid, home of the world’s most powerful sorcerers, in hopes of getting her old life back. As much as she wants the Saghred gone, she has to acknowledge that the power-up it gave her comes in handy when she single-handedly foils an assassination attempt that targets Mychael and the leader of Mid, using some flashy, high powered magic. Despite not drawing on the Saghred directly, the evil rock lets her know just how much more powerful she would be if she did use its strength. The performance earns her further trouble when she is unable to stop the would-be assassin, who escapes with a captive human (or elven, in this case) shield. Raine, feeling the kidnapping is her fault, is determined to find the girl and see that she’s rescued–it’s a seeker’s job, after all–but the game of hide-and-seek gets progressively more complicated as more people, all of them spellsingers, disappear. Add to that the possibility of being stalked by a thousand-year-old goblin shaman, or detained by the goblin embassy as they try to press a law suit for Raine’s actions in Magic Lost, Trouble Found, or held in custody by her own elven embassy, and Raine finds herself once again the most popular girl in town. But of the people that want her, the one by far most appealing is bad boy Tam, night club owner and former dark mage. The connection between them throws more sparks than usual when the Saghred tries to get in on the action, giving Raine one more reason why the goblin should be a forbidden love interest.
Like in Magic Lost, Trouble Found, Raine shows little of the narrative vulnerability that makes her stated fears believable. But given my realization that Raine is a hard-boiled mage, the lack of vulnerability makes sense. Humphrey Bogart never expected the world to throw him a bone, and Raine Benares fills her narration with the same kind of cynicism and flip remark that you’d expect from a film-noir voice over. I still wish she’d be a little more concerned about the two men she’s stringing along–or at least acknowledge the conflict of having two love interests–but I guess Bogie wouldn’t have worried about that much, either. Overall, there’s a lot to enjoy about Raine’s adventures, and while the hybrid isn’t as successful as, say, Kiln People by David Brin (possibly the best hard-boiled science fiction written), the result is still a darn good story. Raine’s adventures look to have no end in sight, and I’ll certainly be picking up Shearin’s next book when it comes out.
Review by Alana Abbott
Look for more modern fantasy tales at DriveThruFantasy.com.