Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin

December 24, 2008 at 2:05 am (fantasy, fiction, novels)

You should never ever want to put a good book down. If you’re anything like me you become irritated whenever life requires you to tear yourself away from one, in order to, say, go to work or take a phone call. A not-so-good book does not elicit the same response. Not-so-good books can be placed on your bedside table and left to collect dust for a couple of weeks without producing any sense of urgency to return to it. Lisa Shearin’s Magic Lost, Trouble Found is more likely to engender feelings of the latter rather than the former.

The main character of this fantasy offering is Raine Benares, an elf, and sorceress of marginal ability with the power to locate lost people and objects. When a powerful magical amulet comes into Raine’s possession she finds herself at the center of a web of political intrigue. Everyone from the goblin king’s insane right-hand shaman, to the king’s exiled brother, to the magical community’s chief law enforcement official, want to get their hands on the amulet. With the help of her friends, Raine must figure out who to trust and how to keep the amulet out of the wrong hands.

What kept me from really warming up to this book was the sense that I’d read it before. There is very little to distinguish it from the many other fantasy novels out there.  Raine is spunky, independent, resourceful, and her first person narrative is whip-smart and sarcastic…just like every other fantasy heroine sharing shelf space with her at the local Barnes & Noble. She comes with a band of side kicks, including a wise mentor, a sexy goblin, and a noble magician, who are all just as banal.

I found Shearin’s writing distracting. Raine’s street-smart narration doesn’t sound natural. Full of clunky turns of phrase and bizarre syntax, Shearin sounds like she’s trying way too hard to sound clever. Furthermore, attempts to pack too much information into dialogue leaves conversations sounding just as forced as the narrative.

The speed at which the action unfolds is also frustrating. Though the novel opens with an action sequence, the space between pages 38 and 147 is filled with nothing more exciting than Raine walking around asking her menagerie of friends and allies for information. This slows the story to a pace that would make a tortoise chuckle, and doesn’t exactly make you want to continue reading.

When it comes to the first book in a series or trilogy, even if the story doesn’t dazzle me I may very well read the rest of the series. Though the main character may not grab me, one of the secondary characters might and I’ll continue on to the next book so that I can find out what happens to him or her. Or the premise may be so interesting that I’ll want to see how the author goes on to develop it. After finishing Magic Lost, Trouble Found I felt no such pull to move on to the second Raine Benares book. Fantasy is all about magic, and Shearin never locates the magic required to keep her readers spellbound.

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