Caution: Do not read this review if you haven’t read the first novel in the series. Review full of spoilers from Book 1.
I picked up this book immediately after I finished the first one in the series. I liked it even more.
Previously, Raine had decided to accompany Mychael (the hot-hot dude in authority) and her (not by blood but equally dear) younger brother Piaras to the Isle of Mid where the Conclave resides. It could not be avoided because Raine is now connected to the soul-sucking evil rock Saghred. However, as soon as she steps on the isle of Mid, her guard needs to be up.
An unexpected and deadly event forces her to display her enhanced magical abilities in public, only to realise that she has unfortunately succeeded in attracting even more attention than that which can be handled. Armed and Magical shows Raine using her new-found extraordinary (for her) abilities. These had been enhanced due to her previously small contact with Saghred. But that’s not all. Many people, some of them from the Conclave and Isle of Mid, want Saghred’s power for themselves. They envy her and fear her connection with the Saghred and the power that she can wield with it. Many would prefer her dead and buried. For her protection, she is accommodated at the citadel, where the Saghred is kept under lock and key. Raine is surrounded by so many Guardians, she is almost like a prisoner herself. But that’s not all.
Students have been going missing. They have no connections with each other but the kidnappings do not seem random. After Piaras unintentionally paints a target on his back, Raine is forced to fight against impossible odds to unravel the mystery behind the kidnappings.
First of all, what genuinely surprised me was the time frame of the two novels. The first novel has a time span of few days, almost a week, if you include the journey to Isle of Mid. The second novel’s time frame is the week next to it. No gaps at all. The story is fast paced from the beginning to the end with adequate breathing moments.
I liked the addition of a few secondary characters (Vegard and Talon) but was slightly disappointed that a few of the characters from the previous novel were missing. I had hoped to read more about them. But again, the author didn’t seem to require them, so she disposed them off rather than making them hanger-ons. On the other hand, poor Piaras is repeatedly dragged into trouble alongside Raine. However, to me it seems that the author has made a team of Piaras and Raine. When trouble comes calling, somehow or the other, they end up together.
Raine has her own problems too. She wants to get rid of Saghred but cannot discover a way which will leave her alive in the interim, and adding to that is the pressure of Saghred’s evil hunger and manipulation.
***SPOILER ALERT (Book 1 & 2)***
Previously, when Sarad had blackmailed Raine, she had tricked Sarad into becoming a victim to Saghred’s hunger. Now, utilising Saghred’s connection to Raine, Sarad has been chatting from inside the Saghred with Raine. So Raine has to fight Sarad’s interruption even in her sleep. Needless to say, she is scared of losing her mind to either the rock or to Sarad, she believes either option equally unhealthy.
I admire the author’s skill. Even when things turn extremely serious , without any witty dialogues whatsoever, the author always succeeds in making you laugh. This series reminds me of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. Lisa Shearin’s writing style is very similar and almost as good.
The romantic angle has its own share of twists. Tam shows up but he has been keeping secrets. And though Raine is attracted to him, the Saghred is ready to side with Tam wholeheartedly. His black magic calls to Saghred and vice-versa. Meanwhile, Mychael and Raine continue to be drawn towards each other, and its a sexy and amusing evolution.
I shockingly liked the portrayal of the existing tension between these three. No angst, no heavy confusion. Raine has hardly any time to ponder over her love life and both Tam and Mychael are men of honour and behave in the same manner. It is a clean and short depiction which could have been messy but is handled marvelously well.
One small thing though, I still prefer Phaelan (Raine’s cousin) to the heroes. I used to avoid pirates but looking at his intelligence and loyalty, and his sense of humour, that dude had me much more interested in him than in Tam or Mychael.
Raine also encounterd some first class obnoxious a**holes ( like Conclave’s mage – Carnades). I found him amazingly short-sighted, selfish, a bigot and exceptionally stupid. I could go on and on, but that’s not the point . The point is that the story and the characters can stoke up the reader’s emotions pretty well. Raine has the power and skill to dispose them off, but she is a better person than that. Naturally, it comes back to bite her.
I really have to give credit to the author. Her depiction of evil is classic. From the very first novel, any time Sarad Nukpana enters the frame, it can make your hair stand on end. It is so neatly and so lethally done, it is beautiful.
Taken as a whole, the characterisation is well done, the narrative is delightful and easy enough to visualise, the snappy banter among the characters is amusing and the suspense is good enough to keep you on your toes, to say the least. It has a good ending, which makes it clear that more is to come but it is time to take a breath before you plunge into another Raine Benares adventure.