Friday, March 28, 2008

An honorable thief

Shamera lives in Purgatory, the worst part of Southwood - although, as daughter of the former captain of the guard, she was raised in the castle. That was before the invasion that killed both her parents and saw the "old man" - her mentor, the king's mage adviser, imprisoned, blinded, and bereft of his magic. Shamera managed to save him - he is the only thing she has left from those earlier happier days, and she supports them with the gains from her thefts from the houses of the conquerors (and if her choices happen to be men who were involved in the maiming of her mentor, and if she casts bad-luck runes to get back at them, the old man doesn't really need to know about that).

But when Shamera returns from one such excursion to find the old man under attack by an invisible enemy and fails to save him, Sham is determined to avenge his death. Lord Kerim, the Reeve of Southwood (the new regime's ruler), is also on the lookout for the killer. But the Cybellian conquerors do not really believe in magic, despite their fear of it. When Sham agrees to come to the castle to hunt down the killer, disguised as the Reeve's mistress, the last thing she expects is to actually like the man. But it seems the enemy likes him, too, and he is its next target. She has a sneaking suspicion their enemy is a demon, but what Cybellian would ever believe something as "far fetched" as that? Sham enters into a world of political intrigue, rivalries and forbidden magic as she searches for a way to defeat an invisible foe.

Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series has become one of my favorite series, so I thought I'd check out her previously published work. This book is actually the third book in the Sainim series - but it's a standalone novel, the only one in the series my library has right now. The cover of the book pictured above is the new, updated cover for a re-release of these older books, so I'm hopeful my library will be getting the others as they are republished.

While this novel had many almost stereotypical trappings of the high fantasy novel (the thief with a good heart, the woman who can disguise herself as a boy yet is ravishing when she dons a dress, etc.), I never felt as though I were reading a rehash of overused material. Sham always shone through as a believable character, and the book was never in danger of becoming clich├ęd or predictable. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading the rest of Briggs' earlier novels.

This is my first read for the Once Upon a Time II Challenge, hosted by Karl at Stainless Steel Droppings. You can check out the reviews of the many other book bloggers who are participating in the challenge here.

Books in the Sianim series:

1. Masques
2. Wolfsbane
3. Steal the Dragon 
When Demons Walk by Patricia Briggs (Ace reissue edition, 1998)

Other blog reviews:
The Liorn's Den


  1. I knew that Patricia Briggs had written a series (or two) before writing the Mercy series, but I'd never really thought about looking them up. Based on your review though, I'm going to see if my library has this book too.

  2. I have been thinking about trying to track down some of her older novels for a little while now but hadn't seen any reviews so thanks for this :) It sounds like a standard storyline like you say, but that her writing style wins out and makes you want to continue with it. I think it's because she is such a great character writer.

  3. Hayden - thanks for stopping by! I hope your library has it - if not, maybe they'll get the new reprints soon. My copy was a really old paperback from 1998 that was almost falling apart.

    Rhinoa - you are absolutely right - the characters are done so well. And I really enjoyed the dialog in this book - it developed the relationships between the characters, and also made me laugh a lot!

  4. I know that some people really get bent out of shape when books use familiar settings, characters, etc. Personally, if the writer can create a good story it doesn't matter to me at all that the character types have been used or overused before. It is all about a good story. Glad you enjoyed this, especially since it was earlier work than you had previously read.

  5. Carl - I completely agree with you. In fact, I think I almost enjoy it more when an author manages to take something familiar and "typical" and make an atypical, well-told story from it! I love going back to see the progression of writers' work - it's fun to see how things change an develop.

  6. I've only read her Mercy series but this sounds good.

  7. I do love the Mercy series the most, but this was really enjoyable, too.

  8. Thanks for reviewing this book, Darla :D I bought it, but once I realized it was part of a series, I put it aside... and I've been too lazy to research to see if it could stand alone. Now, I can read it this week-end :D Hopefully, the other books will be re-issued too.

  9. My pleasure, Nath - I hope you enjoy it. I was glad to find that out, too, since I haven't located the earlier ones yet. Happy reading!

    Btw I love your avatar. Did you draw that? It's so cute!


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