Lisa Shearin

The last book in the fantasy series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Eileen Stevens
Running Time: 9 hrs and 19 minutes

The previous book ended in a big cliffhanger when a goblin thief stole the soul sucking magical rock called the Saghred. The goblin king and his insane, powerful sorcerer Sarad Nukpana are going to use the rock to invade the elven lands and kill lots and lots of people. But before that happens, Nukpana has to feed souls to the rock. And because our heroine Raine Benares is bonded to the rock, she is going to feel excruciating pain every time a soul is fed to the Saghred. Eventually she’s going to go insane from the pain. Nukpana, the rock, and the goblin king are in the goblin kingdom capital, Regor, which is several days’ travel from Mid, where Raine is.

Fortunately, Raine has powerful friends who are going to help her. She also has the one magical artifact which is capable of destroying the Saghred. However, destroying the rock is going to release the souls already trapped in the rock which is going to lure in Reapers who guide the dead souls forward. Unfortunately, the Reapers are likely to take Raine’s soul, too. Fortunately, there’s one old mage in Regor who can control Reapers and help Raine. Also, even though Regor is far away from Mid, there’s a way to get there in time to stop the invasion: mirror magic. And the most powerful mirror mage in Mid is Raine’s other arch enemy Carnades Silvanus. Silvanus was caught in the previous book and in exchange for some mercy, he agrees to help Raine. Of course, Silvanus will be waiting for an opportunity to stab Raine in the back.

Raine, the exiled goblin king Chigaru, his spy master Imala Kalis, the leader of the most elite fighting force of Mid Mychael, a (former?) dark mage Tam, Carnades Silvanus, and a couple of other people are going to Mid where they will be the most hunted group of people in the whole kingdom. Oh, and Raine doesn’t have any magic.

This was a great ending to the series and stays true to the light spirit of the previous books. We get to meet Tam’s family and his former teacher and see more of the goblin country. One of my favorite literary troupes is enemies forced to work together so I enjoyed seeing Carnades with the group.

For a last book in the series, we’re introduced to a lot of new characters, including Tam’s brother and parents. My favorite was the crusty old mage who eats stinky cheeses.

I’ve really enjoyed the characters in the series and most of them are brought together here. The villains are villainous and the heroes have to overcome their own fears to save the day.

Some might find the ending a bit too convenient but considering the length of the series, I think that was appropriate.

Fifth book in the series.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Page count: 322
Publisher: Ace

Raine Benares is an elf seeker and a member of a very notorious criminal family. She got accidentally bonded to a very powerful magical rock, the Saghred, and since then pretty much everyone has wanted to use or manipulate her to their own ends. Now, she’s on the island of Mid for her own protection as well as others’ protection. The head of the Seat of Twelve, who rule Mid, wants to imprison Raine and use Saghred through her. But because the king of the goblins and a very powerful goblin sorcerer also want Raine, she’s marginally more safe on Mid.

Now, the goblin king’s exiled brother is coming to Mid and bringing his enemies with him. Unfortunately, those enemies don’t care how many other people their kill to get to Prince Chigaru. In addition to the goblin king’s assassins, someone has hired the best assassin in this world to kill the prince: Rache Kai, who just happens to be Raine’s former boyfriend. Raine fears that Rache will come after her or her current boyfriend.

However, Raine and her family are also trying to solve some of Raine’s problems. They know that the head of the Twelve, Carnades Silvanus, and his cronies are corrupt; they just don’t have any proof. So, Raine’s banker cousin is coming to cut off Silvanus’ and his cronies money supply. Raine has also a part to play because she’s very good at glamoring herself and so she can pretend to be another banker.

Unfortunately, things rarely go according to plan and soon Raine is again on the run, as an outlaw.

If you’ve read the previous books in the series, I think you will like this one, too. Raine is again dodging enemies left and right. The love triangle was solved in the previous book, just in time for Raine’s ex-fiancé to pop up and make Raine really uncomfortable.

The plot puts Raine’s glamoring ability to good use and that’s always fun: Raine disguises herself as a male banker and talks to one of Silvanus’ top cronies about their future plans. Unfortunately, Raine also makes a point to talk about how, er, badly endowed the poor banker is and that he might have turned to crime because of that.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed the book. The main plot is in full gear and going forward. The next book is the last in the series and so Con & Conjure ends with multiple cliffhangers.

As always I enjoyed the cast and the witty, if somewhat repetitive, writing style.

The fourth book in the Raine Benares fantasy series.

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Running time: 13 hours, 25 minutes
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Eileen Stevens

Raine and the Guardians are trying to sort out the mess that was left at the end of the previous book. Several souls managed to escape from the magical stone Saghred and are now possessing the people on the island of Mid. One of the escapees is Raine’s arch-nemesis Sarad Nukpana who promptly delivers an elven general’s corpse to Raine’s feet. It seems that Nukpana has found a ritual that makes it possible for him to suck the lifeforce and memories out of other people, and use them to make himself corporeal again. Also, the Reapers are after Raine big time. Reapers are the spirits who colled the souls of the dead and escort them to the afterlife. They are also after people who have lived longer than their natural lifespans. Many souls are imprisioned in the Sahgred and the Reapers try to use Raine to get them out.

It also seems that Raine’s previous employer, the head of Elven Intelligence, is after Raine and the rock, too. She has trusted him before, so now she feels pretty betrayed.

The plot is again fast-paced. The Guardians and Raine are running around the island trying to capture the runaway spirits and especially Nukpana. While the main plotline about the Saghread is still left open, a few other plots get a resolution.

The characters are again great, funny, and entertaining. Raine’s pirate cousin Phaelan is joined by Raine’s pirate uncle who is just are protective of Raine as Phaelan. We finally get to find out something about Mychael’s past (which intially seemed great but in the end I found really unsatifying). Piaras is again showing his impressive spell singing abilites. We also meet the head of the Goblin Secret Service who seems an interesting character and she has a lot of history with Tam.

Unfortunately, the book has some downsides as well. There’s a lot of repetition both about events in the previous books and when describing familiar characters. One of the prominent antagonists was killed – off screen and by another character. This was surprising and disappointing especially considering how much grief this antagonist has given to Raine and her friends. I was also a bit disappointed by one of the twists near the end. It promised a lot but failed to deliver in the end.

I’m also having problem swith some anachronistic references. For example, Shearin seems to be fond the phrase: ”welcome to my parlour”, said the spider to the fly. Unfortunately, it’s not an idiom or a saying. It’s from a poem by Mary Howitt. I have a hard time believing that her poem has made it to this fantasy world. There’s also a mention of the Devil even though it was established in the previous book that here Hell has a king and a queen, and the king has been imprisoned in Saghred for centuries.

But the end is still promising an interesting continuation, perhaps even away from the island of Mid. It might even be Tam’s tale if Shearin wants to go that way. I’m eagerly looking forward to Con & Conjure.

I like Eileen Stevens’ narration. Except for Raine, almost the whole rest of the cast is male but Stevens can make an admirable amount of different male voices. She also has a different voice for Raine’s dialog and the narration.

Shearin has sample chapters at her website for all of the Raine books.

The book third in the series.

Publication year: 2009
Format: Audio
Running time: 13 hours
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Eileen Stevens

Raine Benares was a Seeker with just minor magical abilities. Now she’s bonded to a very powerful, soul stealing magical artifact, the Saghred. The artifact boosts her powers but it also makes her a target; some powerful and evil people want it for themselves while the more scrupulous people want it and Raine locked up where they can’t do anything bad. Luckily, Raine has managed to convince the leader of the police force that she’s really a good gal. So, Paladin Mychael Ellisor, said chief, just appointed her some bodyguards and allows her to move otherwise freely on the Island of Mid.

Raine and her bodyguards are shopping when they see that a group of naked (but don’t worry, they don’t have any genitals) demons are attacking an elven mage. Before they can interfere, the mage is killed and the demons are wreaking havoc across the city. Worse, one of the demons shows respect to Raine whose reputation is pretty low already. It turns out that the Queen of Demons wants her hands on the Saghred and another magical item which can release the souls inside the rock. Raine is, of course, the main target and she’s also determined to protect all the other people on the island from demons.

The familiar cast from the previous books returns. Mychael is the white knight who would do anything to protect his island and do his job – except when it comes to Raine. He continues to put his job and even his life in danger in order to help Raine. We also don’t know much about him: his past, family, ex-girlfriends… I’m dying for Raine to meet one of his exes. Lets face it, if Mychael is really as handsome as Raine says, repeatedly, he most likely has at least a few exes.

Tam is Raine’s other romantic interest; a goblin dark mage who is attracted to both Raine and the Saghred. Still, he fights to be free of the magical rock’s corrupting influence and manages to turn up when least expected. Raine’s cousin Phaelan returns, too. He’s a wisecracking pirate captain and he’s also determined to protect Raine. The young spell singer Piaras is in trouble right from the start. He fights against demons with a power that he shouldn’t even have at his age. Raine is determined to protect him but Piaras wants to make his own choices; namely to become one of the Conclave Guardians who are the first line of defense against the worst threats to the island.

Except for the demons and their Queen, the villains are also familiar. The arrogant high elf who despises goblins and thinks that the Saghred has corrupted Raine, and is trying to arrest her. The Saghred’s former bond-servant Ruthra Merlin, who wants his power and rock back, thanks. Also, the souls jailed inside the rock can visit Raine in her dreams making them nightmares.

I really enjoy the cast. Most of them are funny and entertaining. This time we even got another capable adult woman into the cast, so Raine’s not the only one anymore. Soren Niabi (spelling?) is the new head of demonology. She seems to be level-headed under stress and she even had a girl-talk with Raine near the end.

The trope of magical (monogamous, heterosexual pair)bond reared up it’s ugly head for a while but fortunately it was quickly twisted in a way that made me giggle out loud. I’m now hoping faintly that the romantic side plot might resolve itself into a consensual triad. After all, Tam and Mychael have developed respect for each other, and they even have to trust and rely on each other in this book, so it’s not that far fetched. Of course, this is a mainstream fantasy novel where the only choice for any character is the above mentioned heterosexual, monogamous pair bond so in the end I’m not really expecting things to go that way, but I can hope for a while.

The demon plot is fast paced with small breathers here and there. Unfortunately, the Saghred plot line doesn’t really go forward. There are a few minor developments during the story but otherwise the rock is pretty much the same. However, there were interesting twists at the end and I’m very curious to see where those are going.

Even though I’ve written a lot about the romance side plot, it is really a side plot. Most of the time the characters are running around fighting demons, trying to find out where the gate to Hell is, and who might be responsible for summoning the demons. Oh, and foiling the Queens plans.

This continues to be a really entertaining series.

The second book in the Raine Benares fantasy series.

Raine Benares is a seeker who finds lost objects and people. However, in the previous book she was bonded with the soul eating stone Saghred which gives her a lot of magical abilities and enemies to go with it. Some want Raine and the stone as their own weapons, and others want to protect people from Raine. Neither is really a good deal for Raine herself.

Raine wants to get rid of the stone and in hopes of doing that she traveled to the Isle of Mid which is home for a lot of powerful wizards. She’s given her own bodyguards and the leader of the Guardians has also taken a special interest in her. When spellsinger students are kidnapped, Raine wants to help, too.

The plot moves along briskly and the narrative style is light and humorous. There’s also some politicking among the most powerful mages. We get to know more about the relations between the races, how the Saghred works, and how vulnerable pretty much everyone, who isn’t stinking rich, are in this world. Being a powerful mage seems to be an especially vulnerable position because the people with more money and political power will want to use him or her for their own benefit.

Most of the supporting cast from the first book returns. The young Piaras is auditioning for a place as a student. He also gets first hand experience of how the more politically powerful people treat a handsome and talented youngster. There’s some talk that training a mage costs a lot of money. Weirdly, nobody mentions money when Piaras’ training starts so he seems to be so talented that he’s an exception.

Raine’s cousin, the pirate captain Phaelan, is also on the island protecting Raine. Mychael is the leader of the Guardians so he’s on his home turf. He tries his best to protect Raine from all her enemies. He and Raine also flirt a lot. Tam is seen more briefly and he has as much secrets as before.

Unfortunately, the book contains one of my pet peeves: Raine is the only significant female character in the book and, even worse, she’s the only competent female character in the book. The few girls are all kidnap victims. No wonder all the eligible males are after Raine: she’s the only game in town.

I also couldn’t help but wonder why all the Guardians are male. Is there some specific duty that only male police officers can do? None of the other professions seem to be as sex segregated. There are human and elf Guardians so race is also not a limiting factor.

One of Raine’s previous enemies ended up in the Saghred but that doesn’t stop him from speaking directly into Raine’s mind and barging into her dreams. However, he is the only one of the imprisioned souls to make appearance. Specifically, I expected Raine’s father to show up, too, but he didn’t.

Overall, I did enjoy the book and will likely continue with the series.

This is the first book in Shearin’s fantasy series. It’s set in a city which is set in a secondary world with elves and goblins.

Raine Benares is a Seeker who finds lost items. She’s not especially powerful but she has connections and friends. While she’s an orphan and doesn’t even know who her father is, she’s very much a part of her mother’s family who are mostly pirates and thieves. She’s also in very good terms with her sorceress landlady and the landlady’s grandson is almost like a little brother to her.

Quentin Rand is a supposedly retired thief who Raine employs sometimes. He has a habit of getting into trouble and so Raine feels protective towards him. When she notices that Quentin is about to break into a necromancer’s home, Raine decides to follow him and make sure he doesn’t kill himself. Raine’s cousin, the handsome pirate captain Phaelan, comes along as her trusty sidekick.

Things go wrong, of course, and Raine finds herself in possession of a mysterious amulet. A lot of people want the amulet. Among them is the notorious goblin grand shaman and his crack troops who will murder and torture to get what they want. The supposed good guys are also after the amulet. The head of the order of Guardians (who is quite powerful, not to mention handsome, too) turns up with his men.

The plot is quite fast-paced and has a lot of people. Most of the time Raine has a sidekick with her; either Phaelan or her landlady’s grandson Piaras. This was quite amusing to me because I’m used to male characters who have female sidekicks (or less powerful male sidekicks) to protect and it worked well.

The world has at least three intelligent races, humans, goblins, and elves, which can apparently interbreed with each other and get along well enough to live in the same cities, although each in their own part of the city. They use rapiers instead of heavier swords and their ships have cannons. There was no mention of pistols or muskets, and if they exist, the Guardians would have probably used them. I was a bit uncomfortable with such modern concepts as diplomatic immunity and ordinary city watchmen giving tickets to nobles in a fantasy book. Oh, and goblins aren’t green skinned little uglies but look like humans except for a light gray skin. Some of them are even very handsome to elven eyes.

I also had a minor problem with the English names: a feared necromancer named Nigel? Really? Mychael is also not fantasy enough for me.

There’s some romance in the book as well and I’m afraid I didn’t much care for it. Now, Mychael is someone new and I can see why Raine would be attracted to him. But Tam? Tam is handsome, charming, and rich. He flirts with Raine every chance he gets. Raine’s knees go weak every time she sees him. Apparently they’ve known each for years. My question is: why haven’t they gotten together long time ago? The only reason I can come up with is that the writer wants unsatisfied sexual tension. Not good enough.

The city of Mermeia was interesting. It seems very cosmopolitan, especially for a technology-hampered fantasy land, and when the gondolas were mentioned, I realized that it felt like Venice. I adore Venice. The book also had a event which I love and don’t see enough: a masked ball. Alas, the ball wasn’t milked for everything possible but was fun nevertheless.

The book is lighthearted fun but it does have a lot of characters, factions, and politicking. I enjoyed that but it might get confusing to some.