Laura Anne Gilman


The fourth book in the Retrievers series.
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Publication year: 2007
Page count: 384
Format: ebook
Publisher: Luna

Wren Valere is a witch and a lonejack, who by definition don’t want to get involved and don’t want to be part of any organization. However, things are now so bad that she is involved with organizing the other lonejacks together. Someone is killing the non-human fatae and Wren can’t just stand by.

Wren and her friend P. B. (who’s a demon, a non-human race apparently created by human magic users) come across a brutally murdered fatae, an angeli. They are notoriously hard to kill but it seems that a group of humans have managed to do just that. The fatae are outraged and scared. They don’t know who to trust anymore.

In response, the local lonejacks and fatae have formed a loose council which is suppose to organize patrols to keep any more fatae from being hurt. However, it’s very hard to keep the independent people working together.

Wren is a Retriever; she returns objects which have been misplaces. She’s also an excellent cat burglar and her main power keeps her from being noticed by anyone else. Sergei is her partner; he deals with the clients and makes the deals. He also presents potential deals to Wren so that she can choose which ones to take. Sergei also owns an art gallery. Their partnership has worked well because they both can do what they most want. As a Talent, a magic user, Wren’s power is to control the Current which is basically electricity. She’s a loner by nature, has a quick temper, but she’s also very loyal to her friends. Sergei is more of a diplomat but he’s also a former spy for a secret organization called the Silence.

The book focuses on political dealings: Wren and a few others are trying keep together the fragile peace between various magic using (loose) organizations, the leader of the powerful Mage Council is plotting her own thing, and the Silence is full of various plotters. Unfortunately, some of the political dealings are fruitless but require a lot of page time, so it feels that nothing much is happening. I find the Silence fascinating; it’s a secret organization which tries to do good in the world. Unfortunately, some have decided that doing good means getting rid of all magic users. Silence is powerful with lots of operatives and information at its fingertips, and so its agents are capable of doing either lots of good or evil. Meanwhile, the members of the Cosa are so distrustful of each other that it’s pretty frustrating to the reader.

The book also focuses on Wren and Sergei’s relationship. Wren and Sergei had been business partners for ten years before they started a romantic relationship, so they know each other well. I really enjoyed that. However, Sergei is keeping important information a secret from Wren. Specifically, he’s become addicted to Current. Sometimes during sex Wren loses her control over the electricity and gives Sergei small jolts. Unfortunately, even though Sergei downplays that, his body is starting to break down because of it. Keeping secrets also hurts their relationship which is based on trust.

Many of the secondary characters we’ve seen in previous books return. P. B. gives hints about what demons actually do and that they live a very long time.

Burning Bridges felt to me like a bridging book, introducing plot points which will play in the two books to come, but not terribly exciting by itself.

The third book in the Retrievers series.

Publication year: 2006
Page count: 416
Publisher: Luna
Format: ebook

Wren Valere is a Retriever who gets back items others have lost or misplaced. Some might call her a thief, too. She’s also a Talent; a person who can use the magical force of the Current. Her business partner is Sergei Didier who manages the financial side of things and hunts for the clients.

Ever since they became lovers, in the previous book, Wren has been restless. This story starts when she takes a client all by herself, behind Sergei’s back. The job was supposed to be easy: a rich young woman wants Wren to steal a necklace. The necklace had belonged to her deceased father and is now in the hands of her step-mother. However, in the middle of Wren’s negotiations a psi-bomb explodes in her building. So, she hastily concludes the deal. She suspects that the Mage Council sent the bomb but she has no evidence. But many of the other lonejacks, Talents who aren’t with the Council, think also that the Council is attacking them. In recent months, several powerful lonejacks have gone missing and no-one has been able to track them. That suggest that they are either dead or held in so tight a confinement that only the Council could arrange it. Despite their innate selfishness and need to do their own thing some of the lonejacks are willing to organize – against the Council. Wren doesn’t want a full out mage war on her hands and she’s trying to keep the lonejacks from violence. However, she really doesn’t want to be in any kind of leadership position.

Meanwhile, Sergei is also keeping things from Wren. He’s been contacted by Andre from Silence, the spy organization Sergei used to work for. It seems that some one inside the organization is mucking things up. Silence is Wren’s occasional employee, but the last, and the first, time she worked for them, the job turned out to be a lot more dangerous and difficult than she was led to believe. So, Wren doesn’t like them at all. However, Andre was also Sergei’s friend and mentor, and so Sergei agrees to help him behind Wren’s back.

The fatae are the non-humans of this world. Usually they and the humans coexist in uncomfortable peace. However, lately humans have started to attack the fatae. Wren has a few fatae friends and she’s trying to help them, too.

Wren and Sergei have a nice supporting cast: P.B., the demon who looks like four foot polar bear, Wren’s mother who doesn’t know about Talent and disapproves of Sergei, Andre the mysterious middle manager at Silence, and KimAnne the de-facto leader of the Council and tough as nails businesswoman. Andre has a far smaller part in this book than the previous one and KimAnn is scheming with her underlings. P.B. is still Wren’s staunch friend and he even tries to organize co-operation between the fatae and the lonejacks. It’s also revealed that he’s over a thousand years also.

There are a lot of new people in the book although most of them are only in one scene. Wren takes part in lonejack meetings and we get to see lonejack leaders from various parts of the US. We also see a few of Wren’s contacts: one of them is another Talent from Oz with whom Wren talks online, and another is a human artist. Then there’s Shig, a lizard-like fatae from Japan. He’s P.B.’s friend and he quickly becomes a part of the inner circle. He’s also a Talent although we didn’t see him using magic. I really like the cast but I like the way it’s expanding, too.

Wren is mostly her stubborn self although she’s more concerned for her friends than before. She’s also more willing to put herself on the line to protect her friends. However, she’s also moody and distracted because she’s starting to realize that she can’t be as independent as she was when she was single. That scares her.

I really like the way that Wren’s most notable magical ability, being unseen by others, worked against her. Usually, in fantasy books people don’t have much flaws at all. Here, even Wren’s talents are a flaw. When she has address a large crowd, such as a gathering of angry lonejacks, she has to use magic so that they even notice her and can pay attention to what she’s saying.

Wren is the major point-of-view character but we brief glimpses of Sergei and P.B. There are also short scenes from others, such as the supposed villains of Mage Council.

I have to admit that it weirded me out that the lonejacks are already so organized that they have “area representatives”, the local leaders, but I guess when they have a lot of magical talent, they have to be at least somewhat careful not to step on each others toes. Still, you’d think that there would be more complete lonejacks than just Wren. I also don’t really care for the rift between Wren and Sergei. I really hope that it will bring them closer instead of driving them apart (and to angsting).

The side plots are left wide open and this is a clearly a middle of the series book.

There are some references to the previous book and I recommend starting with the first one: Staying Dead.

The second book in the Retrievers series.
Some spoilers for the first book, Staying Dead.

Page count: 432
Publication year: 2005
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Luna

Wren is a Talented, or magic-using, Retriever whose job is to retriever stolen or lost objects. Sergei is her partner who usually does the desk jobs; finding work, doing the paper work, and making sure they are paid. They’ve been in business together for ten years but have recently started having feelings for each other.

New York is suffering from a very hot summer which is getting on everyone’s nerves. Added to that is Wren’s and Sergei’s romantic relationship which is, at best, uncertain. They talked about their feelings near the end of the previous job but they’re hesitant to change their existing professional relationship and friendship to a romantic one.

Also, during their previous job they managed to anger the Mage Council who is now making sure that the duo aren’t getting any work. However, in the previous book they agreed to be on retainer for a secret organization called Silence and now Silence has given them a job. Someone has stolen an old, and possibly powerful, manuscript. Unfortunately, the theft happened in Italy and Wren has a phobia about flying. As a Talent Wren controls electricity. However, when she’s afraid she tends to short circuit electronic stuff, such as metal detectors, which makes it difficult for her and Sergei to leave the country.

But they manage to get to Italy where they investigate the site of the theft which is an old monastery. However, Wren notices that the monastery has been built in such a way that it blocks Talent and electricity. Wren and Sergei become convinced that they haven’t been told much about the job at all. Sergei is a former Silence agent and he’s very angry that they’ve been kept in the dark.

The third point-of-view character is Andre Felhim who works for Silence. I got the feeling that he’s a middle manager; he has both underlings and bosses. He’s trying his best to do the job which turns out to be very difficult. He’s also Sergei’s former boss.

In addition to their more immediate job, something else is brewing. Fatae, who are creatures that don’t look like humans, are being attacked and discriminated against. Humans have apparently never gotten really along with the fatae but the tensions are now escalating to violence. Also, some loner magic users are getting fed up with the way that the Council is trying to police them and they are trying to organize the others to rise against the Council.

We’re told more about the magic system in this book which also means that the system gets even more complicated. This slowed the pace somewhat. I didn’t mind; on the contrary I like complex magic systems. We’re also told more about the training of Talents. Each youngster is trained by a teacher who is willing to take him or her as a student. There are no other qualifying terms for the teacher so they can have very individual styles and they don’t teach about everything.

Sergei’s and Wren’s relationship changes somewhat here. They are both used to being independent and doing things their own way, which means that the romance isn’t going to be an easy one. Sergei is the neat and tidy one who drinks tea, while Wren doesn’t care if she has a set of china or individual mugs, and she’s a coffee drinker. I really like this. It makes the relationship realistic.

While the start of the book is set in Italy, the duo soon returns to New York. Wren turned out to be a hero to the Italian lonejacks and I was very amused by the youngsters who tried to impress her.

Because of the several plot lines, the story feels a bit fragmented at places.

The people here aren’t black or white, and there aren’t clear good guys and bad guys.

This is the first book in the Retrievers UF series.
I was inspired to get this book because of SciFiGuy’s recommendation.

Genevieve “Wren” Valere is a witch. Her specialty is tracking things and staying unremarkable. Her business partner is Sergei Didier who seems to be a mild-mannered, if eccentric, gallery owner. Together they are Retrievers. They find things that have gone missing and bring them back without asking any questions from their clients. Wren traces the things, magically or not, and retrieves them while Sergei gets them clients and handles the money. They have been in business together for ten years.

This time, they’ve been hired to find a magical cornerstone which was stolen right out a building in the middle of New York. Wren scouts the place but can’t directly trace the thief. So, she and Sergei have to do it the old fashioned way. But the more they know about the case, the more difficult it gets.

When I ordered this book, I had no idea it was a Luna imprint which is a Romance SF line. I noticed the logo only when I had book in my hands. I don’t mind romance as a sub-plot but I don’t really care for it as the main plot and so I was a bit worried. However, the romance between Wren and Sergei is really low-key. They’ve recently started to be attracted to each other and they angst about it a bit, but don’t manage to do anything about it.

Both Wren and Sergei are loners and have trouble trusting other people. They both hold secrets from the other. Wren is happy to befriend non-humans while Sergei don’t like them at all. Also, Wren is a magic user and Sergei is not. They complement each other nicely.

The world is full of non-humans called the fatae. However, they seem to be created by magic-using humans rather than being natural creatures. They have clans such as piskies, demons, and angels. The ones that are shown in the book don’t look like humans. For example, P.B. is a demon who looks like a polar bear complete with fangs and claws.

The humans who can use magic are a tiny minority but have still managed to fracture into squabbling factions (ah, humanity!). The most mages are ruled by the Council who is made up of three men and one woman who have both magical power and mundane power. Freejacks are mages who don’t want to be ruled by the Council’s iron fist. Often enough, they have to still obey the Council’s demands. Wren is a Freejack. Then there are the wizzards who have gone insane from using magic and are a danger to everyone else.

The fatae and the Freejacks have a social network called the Cosa Nostradamus where they exchange information and gossip.

Unfortunately, the world-building had some inconsistencies. This is world where magic is supposed to be a secret and most people don’t believe in magic. Unfortunately, that’s a very difficult conspiracy to maintain when 1, magic is showy (people levitating, teleporting, moving objects without touching them, attacking with energy balls coming from their hands etc.), 2, non-humans are part of the society (P.B. is a messenger walking around on the streets of New York, the girl with hoofs instead of feet works in an ice cream shop), and 3, magic-users offer their services to ordinary humans. If the humans don’t know that they’re good at their magical jobs, why would they hire them?

Also, because people don’t supposedly believe in magic, government doesn’t either and there’s no secret government branch putting their noses into the magic community. Unfortunately, that’s the opposite of how people in power operate.

Thirdly, Wren make an off-hand comment that people aren’t interested in ghosts and by extension the possibility of an afterlife. That just doesn’t sound like the human race I know.

Some reviewers said that the book is slow. Yes, the pace is leisurely most of the time but it fits the writing style. This is a book where the main characters have the time to eat, shower, and sleep.

The book is written in the third person. The main point-of-view character is Wren and the major secondary POV is Sergei. There are also short chapters from the POV of the bad guys.

Entertaining and readable.

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