Title: Magic Lost, Trouble Found and Armed & Magical
Author: Lisa Shearin
Stand Alone or Series: Books 1 and 2 of the Raine Benares series
Summary: (from Amazon.com)
MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND
A girl with attitude. An all-powerful amulet. This could only mean trouble.
“My name is Raine Benares. I’m a seeker. The people who hire me are usually happy when I find things. But some things are better left unfound…”
Raine is a sorceress of moderate powers, from an extended family of smugglers and thieves. With a mix of street smarts and magic spells, she can usually take care of herself. But when her friend Quentin, a not-quite-reformed thief, steals an amulet from the home of a powerful necromancer, Raine finds herself wrapped up in more trouble than she cares for. She likes attention as much as the next girl, but having an army of militant goblins hunting her down is not her idea of a good time. The amulet they’re after holds limitless power, derived from an ancient, soul-stealing stone. And when Raine takes possession of the item, it takes possession of her.
Now her moderate powers are increasing beyond anything she could imagine—but is the resumé enhancement worth her soul?
ARMED & MAGICAL
Ordinary sorceress. Extraordinary power. Suddenly she’s the most popular girl in town.
“My name is Raine Benares. Until last week I was a seeker—a finder of things lost and people missing. Now I’m psychic roommates with the Saghred, an ancient stone with cataclysmic powers. Just me, the stone, and all the souls it’s ingested over the centuries. Crowded doesn’t even begin to describe it…”
All Raine wants is her life back—which means getting rid of the stone and the power it possesses. To sort things out, she heads for the Isle of Mid, home to the most prestigious sorcery school, as well as the Conclave, the governing body for all magic users. It’s also home to power-grubbing mages who want Raine dead and goblins who see her as a thief. As if that’s not enough, Mid’s best student spellsingers are disappearing left and right, and Raine’s expected to find them.
Lives are at stake, goblins are threatening to sue, mages are getting greedier, and the stone’s power is getting stronger by the hour. This could get ugly.
Why did I read the books: Recently, book 2, Armed & Magical, hit bookstores. I had Magic Lost, Trouble Found sitting on my TBR for an embarrassingly long period of time, so the new release finally gave me the kick in the pants I needed to start this series.
MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND (book 1)
Magic Lost, Trouble Found introduces us to the world of Raine Benares–a sorceress of mild to average talent, but one who is damn good at her job as a Seeker (that is, someone who ‘seeks’ lost things, be they precious objects or people–which has more to do with Raine’s smarts than magical abilities). Raine is also a member of one of the most notorious families of pirates in all of the Isles, and happens to be an Elf. The book opens with Raine following one of her part-time…er…contractors, named Quentin, who can’t quite seem to kick his side business of petty theft. Raine, suspecting the worst, shadows Quentin while he breaks into a high ranking necromancer’s home and steals something VERY important. So important, in fact, that as soon as he has his hands on the goods, a number of deadly Khrynsani Goblins materialize out of thin air to relieve Quentin of his valuable merchandise. Raine leaps to action, and with her pirate cousin Phaelan, the three of them manage to stave off the Goblins. Naturally, Raine is peeved–not only did she have to save Quentin’s hide, but now they must deal with the very hot stolen merc, which turns out to be a strange amulet. To keep Quentin out of more trouble, Raine takes the amulet and slips it over her head…and finds herself in a whole world of trouble. Though it seems innocuous, the amulet actually is a keyed link to the Saghred–a rock of immense power, affectionately nicknamed by history “Soul Stealer”. And Raine can’t take the dratted thing off. From a seeker of minor talents, Raine finds her magical skills growing exponentially. Not to mention, a herd of really bad nasties are now hot on her trail, from Goblin usurpers and the evil Khrysani (and uber Goblin villain Sarad Nukpana), to the Elven Guardians who police the Isles. Needless to say, Raine is in it big time, and must find a way to avoid being enslaved and killed, keeping her loved ones out of harm’s way, and simultaneously try to deal with getting rid of the dratted all-powerful amulet.
Magic Lost, Trouble Found is a wonderful fantasy debut from Ms. Shearin. The book is fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining, and manages to maintain a light, playful tone despite the darker odds Raine finds herself facing. So often after reading fantasy, I finish a book feeling almost weighed down–both in terms of the length of the book, and due to many of the darker, oppressive content. Magic Lost, Trouble Found is a welcome departure from this norm as the book moves briskly without any unnecessary meandering side plots or verbiage, and manages to keep the overall mood light and snappy through the first person narration of the quick, humorous heroine.
Raine Benares is a wonderful heroine. I loved that Ms. Shearin made the choice to keep Raine’s natural magical talents very limited, and even when Raine is bestowed with the ALL-POWERFUL-AMULET!, she would much rather use her head, with magic as a last resort. As a narrator, Raine’s voice is sarcastic (but not jaded), playful, but most importantly, Raine is completely competent. She might not be the most powerful sorceress on the block or the best fighter, but she knows her strengths and uses them to her advantage.
There is also a romantic subplot that begins in book 1, between Raine and two powerful, different men. The Paladin, Mychael Eiliesor, is the commander of the Elven Guardians. A powerful spellsinger, Mychael is the “good guy” in the love triangle formula. On the other side, there’s Tam–Goblin, scoundrel, and gabling/night club owner. If Mychael is the clean cut good guy, then Tam is the bad boy with a dark past, but who Raine believes has a heart of gold under the charmingly scandalous exterior. Sure, this is formulaic and nothing groundbreaking, but as a subplot, with three very likable characters, it’s a nice perk.
I loved the quick pacing of this book, the smart fantasy, as well as the strong heroine. After finishing the last page, I closed the book with a grin on my face while reaching for the next volume…
ARMED AND MAGICAL (book 2)
Armed and Magical picks up immediately where Magic Lost, Trouble Found leaves off. After thwarting the nefarious machinations of the Khrynsani and managing to trick Sarad Nukpana into an eternity of servitude trapped in the Saghred, Raine sets off for the Isle of Mid with her cousin Phaelan, her good friend (and younger brother figure) Piaras, and the enigmatic Paladin, Mychael Eiliesor. Book 2 opens with Raine sequestered in a comfortable, luxurious tower room–where she can’t cause any more trouble. Raine is fed up with her pretty prison (for this is how she sees her stay in the prestigious college)–but things don’t stay quiet for long.
Gazing down at the opening ceremonies for the school, Raine sees Banan Ryce–leader of the Nightshades, a band of mercenary elves–as he gives a signal to assassinate the Archmagus in the ceremony below. Using her new Saghred-enhanced powers, Raine is able to stop Banan before anyone is hurt, but he and his men escape with a kidnapped student. As it turns out, another student has already been kidnapped…and more are taken. Raine uses her new improved seeking skills to try and get to the bottom of the mystery, while thwarting assassination attempts on the Archmagus, trying not to get caught up in nasty Conclave politics, all the while desperately looking for some way to rid herself of the Saghred (unfortunately for Raine, Sarad Nukpana has figured out how to ‘talk’ to her through the stone, and he’s not a pleasant voice to have in one’s head).
The second volume’s adventures equal the magic of the first–Raine continues to be just as cool as ever, except this time the stakes are even higher. In this book (more so than the first) I loved Raine’s reluctance to use her new powers (just ‘cuz she has them doesn’t mean she has to like it). The relationship between Raine and the Saghred is explained in much more detail here, and the gravity of the situation becomes painfully clear to the reader. Similarly, Raine’s relationships with both Mychael and Tam progress a little more, with some interesting complications. Also, the pacing of book 2, is just as crisp and quick paced as the first novel. I have to applaud Ms. Shearin for her ability to write novels that are this jam-packed with action, and yet manage not to give up all the cards. I like that while each book wraps up nicely, there are still a LOT of dangling, tantalizing plot lines remaining. No simple happily ever afters here–just the way I like it!
So…if you couldn’t tell by now, I loved these books. I eagerly await the third and fourth!
Notable Quotes/Parts: Hmm. Here’s a short section that doesn’t spoil, but shows a bit of the wonderful character that is Raine Benares!
Mychael’s smile was more like a baring of teeth. “I just might take you up on that.” He looked down at Phaelan’s rapier and sighed. “I really hate to tell you this, but I can only allow Guardians to have swords in Sirens this evening.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Even now?”
“And especially considering who he is,” I shot back.
“Raine, I can’t make any exceptions.”
Phaelan shrugged, unbuckled his sword belt, and tossed it on my bed. “As a guest here, I humbly comply with my host’s wishes.”
Mychael just looked at him. “You’re bristling with daggers, aren’t you?”
” ‘Bristling’ is such a negative term, I prefer ‘amply armed.’ ” My cousin turned to me. “Speaking of ample, there’s no room in that bodice for anything other than you. You wearing a thigh sheath?”
I linked my arm through Mychael’s. “Now what would be the sense of wearing just one? I have two thighs.” I glanced up at Mychael. “Welcome to a night on the town with the Benares family.”
Additional Thoughts: I felt that this book gave me a better feel for Raine’s world, the kingdom of Brenir. Book 1 gave a feel for the city of Mermeia in all its dark underbelly splendour–but Book 2 shifts locations to the privileged, snooty, political Isle of Mid. Social separations alluded to in the first novel became tangible here. One thing I do love in my fantasy novels are maps–and unfortunately there isn’t one in either book! Hmph. Regardless, I love the world that Ms. Shearin has created; I love the almost Venice-like feel to it; even the names of characters feel like an allusion to the Venetian nexus between the Eastern and Western world.
Author Lisa Shearin has a pretty cool website, and a great blog offering writing tips and valuable pearls of knowledge for any aspiring authors–stop by and give her a visit at lisashearin.com! Bonus–you can get signed copies of her books through her website. What a deal–I’m thinking about giving away my tattered copies and buying some autographed versions!
Verdict: An enchanting start to a new series! I highly recommend books 1 and 2; Raine Benares is a heroine well worth rooting for–plus, Goblins are sexy? Never heard that one before!
Magic Lost, Trouble Found – 8 Excellent
Armed and Magical – 7 Very Good
Magic Lost, Trouble Found gets a slightly higher grade because I felt completely taken unawares by the book–I fell in love with Raine, Piaras, Tam, Mychael, Tam…it’s hard to get better than a wonderful introduction, but I have the utmost confidence in Ms. Shearin’s work; I cannot wait to read The Trouble With Demons, coming 2009!
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