Posted on March 9, 2008 by alanajoli
A sorceress with attitude manages to get her hands on a powerful artifact, which suddenly makes her the most popular (read: most hunted) girl in town. It sound like a great set up, right? That’s how Raine Benares begins her adventures in Magic Lost, Trouble Found, narrating the entire adventure with wry commentary and snarky remarks. For fans of contemporary fantasy, the narration style is a familiar one. Throw it into a high fantasy setting where the narrator is an elven seeker–a sorceress who finds things–and it makes for an odd combination.
There’s a lot to enjoy about the novel. The city of Mermia is well developed (though it’s described in sections that sometimes feel like info dumps). Raine’s family relationships are particularly well drawn: her relationship with her guardian is full of loving father-daughter interactions, and the young spellsinger she’s adopted as a younger brother feels like a teen coming into his own, despite Raine’s attempts to protect him from having to grow up. The plot of the story is engaging, and the pacing never lags.
If you’ve sensed a “but” coming here, it is. The first person narration that serves to heighten the stakes in urban fantasies undermines the urgency here. Though Raine spends the whole book being hunted by one of the scariest villains Mermia has ever seen, she rarely feels scared. She claims to be, but her wise cracks and wry narration make the fact that she’s connected to an artifact that feeds on souls appear as an inconvenience rather than a true crisis. The same is true for her true love interests: there’s plenty of physical attraction to both, but no inner crisis about who she actually cares about, or whether her actions with one will influence her potential relationship with the other. Mind you, she’s got more urgent things to think about, but her seeming lack of inner conflict the very little vulnerability she shows in her inner monologues makes the reader’s relationship to Raine stay very surface level. Her sardonic voice may be a self defense mechanism to push away her fear–but it also might push away her readers.
Despite these flaws, the lead in to the sequel has me intrigued, and I’ll probably pick it up. There’s a lot of potential in Magic Lost, Trouble Found that Shearin might realize in subsequent novels. I’m definitely willing to give her another shot to see if she comes through.
Review by Alana Abbott
Look for more fantasy fiction at the Flames Rising Amazon Shop.