Saturday, April 18, 2009

Magic Lost, Trouble Found

I have discovered a new category of brain-dead fiction I enjoy. I've mentioned before that I read "recipe mysteries", those are the ones aimed at squeamish women, less violence, more recipes and similar homey touches. The new genre is romantic fantasy. The ones with less romance but a cute leading man (more often two) so while the heroine is being chased, magicked and otherwise moves the plot along, she can dream about which of the two interesting males she wants to spend time with. Most of them are laughable and not much else, though I was impressed with Dawn Cook's books.
I found myself comparing this one to two books I read a couple of months ago and never blogged about because I had mixed feeling and wasn't sure what I would say. But this book wanted to be The Lies of Locke Lamora sooooooo bad, but without all those icky bits. The Lies of Locke Lamora, and its sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies are lovable rogue books. The heroes are on the wrong side of the law, but they don't kill, unnecessarily, and mostly only rob rich people. This trope has been around since Robin Hood. I loved the book generally. The plot was rich and complex, the characters interesting and fresh, the dialogue witty and very funny, the language truly offensive. So when I finally decided that I didn't want the book around my house, I gave it to the library. They bought the sequel two weeks later. After starting several awful books in a row, I wanted something I knew I would like, so, feeling rather guilty about it, I read the next one. The language was better, though not anything I would recommend.
Magic Lost wants to be everything Locke Lamora is. It has the hero(ine) on a shaky footing with the law; thieves and pirates; heists and double-crosses; it even has the protagonist being singled out for unknown reasons and hunted across a city. (One of my favorite lines from Red Seas was "The entire economy of this city is now based on messing with us!" After a fourth assassination attempt.) The reason she did not accomplish it, though I do think Shearin writes very well, is that she shies away from the more unpleasant aspects of the underbelly of a city.
While I appreciate the lack of curse words and gore drenched fighting scenes, when you have an entire book worth of
He had my arms, so the action I was forced to take was entirely his fault. It was as direct as my previous action, but not nearly as polite. In the next instant the Guardian was on his knees trying to remember how to breathe.
That is a great description, but I felt like most of the action sequences in the book were like that, coy hinting of what really happened. So if violence bothers you, you can skip over what the people are really doing and focus on the dreamy Guardian who came to help the main character.
The bad guy wasn't clearly defined either. You get vague, undescribed hints about how bad he was, vague mentions of people going into his dungeons and never coming out, and that he feels evil and is a psycho, but no reason, no definition beyond evil scary guy. It seemed a shame because I thought there were some excellent ideas and plotting in the story and an interesting heroine. Perhaps she can stretch the boundaries of the romantic aspect of romantic fantasy and make the next one better.

Magic Lost, Trouble Found. Lisa Shearin. Ace Fantasy. 2007

The Lies of Locke Lamora & Red Seas Under Red Skies. Scott Lynch. Bantam. 2006 & 2008

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