REVIEW: Armed and Magical by Lisa Shearin
Dear Ms. Shearin:
This may have been a case of mismatched expectations. The cover quotes and inside the book endorsements said that it was “fall out-of-your-chair funny” and that you had “mastered writing with humor.” I confess my reading experience was quite different. This is not to say that I didn’t find the narration pleasant, but I didn’t find the humor referenced and lauded. Given that humor is quite subjective, I suspect everyone’s response to this would be quite different.
Raine Benares is an elf and a seeker with a tie to a big bad magical stone that can give her immense power but can also swallow her whole like it did to her daddy. She goes to the Isle of Mid, a place of sorcery training, to figure out how to excise the stone’s hold over her. She’s not quite a prisoner, not quite a guest. Mychael Eiliesor is paladin and commander of the Guardians who watch over Raine. Raine and Mychael are attracted to each other but her tie to the dark rock and his sense of duty to the Guardians prevent them from moving closer together. Complicating Raine’s life is the appearance of Tarnnais Nathrach. Tarn is a former criminal with shady alliances.
While Raine is staying on the Isle of Mid, spellsingers like her brother, are being kidnapped. She tries to find these individuals but in doing so taps the power of the bad rock, Saghred, and therefore must balance Saghred’s growing hunger and the lives of the missing spellsingers.
Armed and Magical does provide a fresh setting because it’s not a standard urban fantasy replete with shapeshifters and vampires. It’s urban fantasy feel is lent by the first person female narration. It’s more of a high fantasy story set in an alternative world featuring seafaring cultures. From a world building standpoint, the book is excellent. The magic seemed to be consistent and well thought out. For example, use of Raine’s extensive power source comes at great personal risk.
But I read books for the relationships and this where the book suffers. A love triangle is included, unnaturally, in my opinion as it is clear which couple has the greater chemistry. I don’t get the sense that Raine is torn at at all by her conflicted feelings between the two men. Instead, when she is with one, she gravitates toward him and rarely thinks of the other. So the triangle seems artificial. Further the character tropes are stereotypical. One is the lawman and the other is the reformed criminal. One blushes at the thought of Raine nude and the other smolders dark sensuality. Raine didn’t appear to be significantly moved by either men. Her focus was mostly on the rock and her family members. In fact, her relationship with her cousin had more chemistry and substantive feel to it than her relationship with Mychael or Tarn.
I think that readers who are looking for a different type of urban fantasy /fantasy with crossover potential, this may be a satisfactory read. I was disappointed in the tepidness of the relationships. C+