Magic Lost, Trouble Found; Armed and Magical

Reviewer: John Carr

Author: Lisa Shearin

Published: 2007, 2008

Reviewed: 2009-08-10

Publisher: Ace


This series is a female take on the supernatural wisecracking
detective story, as told by Raine Benares, finder of lost things for
hire.

The dusting of little stars on the cover is a clue to the contents.
Stars. That, and the elf woman with the long, blonde hair and the big
sword. And the fact that the book comes recommended by "Romantic
Times."

Though set in a pre-Industrial Revolution Fantasyland, this is fantasy
for the modern woman. Raine talks like a modern American woman. No,
she talkes like a modern American TV character. She cracks jokes
about "one stop shopping", remarks to the powerful author of an
Ancient Tome of Evil that he needs a good editor, and uses other
modern phrasing like "gridlock" and "throw a curve." You wish you had
a mouth like hers.

The world, too, has modern touches. The lights are for all practical
purposes modern electric lights. Sure, the motive force is described
as "magic" rather than "electricity", but you switch them on and light
comes out of little balls. A jailbreak even triggers flashing lights
and siren.

Raine is tough. She's sexually liberated. Mercifully, we are spared
Anita Blake style vampire porn. It's innuendo and PG-13 style kissing
and play. Finding a pair of handcuffs she jokes to a would-be beau
about bondage without going through with it on stage. Of course,
she's no more obliged to limit herself to just one man than a male
detective would be. In this respect she reminds me of early Garrett
(Glen Cook). What she doesn't remind me of is a woman who fits in the
era on which Shearin's Fantasyland is modeled.

The effect is jarring, like the use of slang in Barbara Hambly's
historical mystery novel Search the Seven Hills (aka The Quirinal Hill
Affair). It kept taking me out of the setting and leaving me in the
modern world. I don't demand that fantasy use archaic language -- see
"From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" -- but I don't care for a peculiarly
modern dialect either.

She comes from a family of pirates. For some reason, pirates are
permitted to roam free. Maybe that's because they don't feel like
pirates. They are just people who occasionally mention doing nasty
things they act incapable of doing. In this respect they are like the
alleged villains in Villains By Necessity who bear the label "evil"
but can't put on a convincing performance.

Oh, there's a plot. Our Heroine meets up with an Artifact of Ancient
Evil. It likes her. This makes her very popular. She does stuff.
Stuff gets done to her. She gets to go to a masquerade ball with the
man of her dreams. I hate spoilers so I won't go into detail.
Despite the stock setting the plot is better than "farm boy wanders
tha Map on a quest to collect plot coupons redeemable for his true
role as the King of Fantasyland."

In all, it was a fun read some of the time but it left me thinking the
target audience was people who like Sex In the City.