Lisa Shearin: All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6) (review – audiobook)

All-Spell-Breaks-Loose-final-cover-186x300I have reached the end of this series! And there was much rejoicing! Now, don’t get me wrong. It has been an allright experience but it hasn’t been more than that and the books feel very similar. Except for specific plot details, I feel like I should just quote my review of the fifth book in the series, Con & Conjure, because I’m not sure how much new I have to say about the series as a whole or the narration of the audio books.

So things have never looked more grim for Raine Benares, the spunky seeker. After having been bonded to the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone, since early in the first book in this series, things have been cumulatively going from bad to worse but now, things are really bad. Sarad Nukpana, psychopath par excellence, has finally succeeded in getting the Saghred and after a goblin attack on Mid, Raine, her boyfriend Mychael, her former umi’atso-bound friend Tam and others decides to head to the Goblin capital of Regor to get the Saghred back from Nukpana and put the renegade prince Chigaru Mal’Salin back on the throne as well as reunite him with his girlfriend who Nukpana intends to marry. But to get there, they have to rely on Raine’s arch enemy Sylvanus Carnades since he’s a mirror mage and the only one who can get them to Regor and back safely.

Only issue – or not really only – but one of the big issues is that Raine has lost her magic. The Saghred has shut her down. She tries to hide this and it is actually rather helpful for sneaking around in Regor, but of course she can’t hide it for long and that of course creates a whole new host of problems.

The trip to Regor gives Shearin the chance to let us meet more of Tam’s family as well as Nukpana’s mother, Tam’s former teacher Kesyn Badru and more. Several of these are quite interesting although not quite as interesting as cousin Mago or Nachtmagus Vidor Kalta, who’s probably my favorite character in the series – him or Imala Kalis, the head of goblin security.

I missed Vegard a bit in this book. The big guardian is left behind on Mid to be stand-in for Mychael and make sure that the student population is not killed by the goblins – together with Raine’s pirate family. It makes sense to the story line, but I still missed Vegard’s attempt at keeping Raine safe – including sitting on her – and her flamboyant cousin Phaelan.

So the Saghred is of course hugely important in this whole series. And I have some issues with that. This rock seems to have a consciousness – at least it bears a serious grudge against Raine. I’m not sure that the idea of consciousness in objects really works in this world and parts of the plot hinges on that. I know it’s minor issue if you’re just able to suspend disbelief, however, it did mean that the final showdown didn’t quite work for me, even though it was otherwise very well executed.

This novel marks the end of the story arch that has been developed through all six books in the series. This doesn’t mean that this series is necessarily over. Lisa Shearin does leave room to take the characters up again and write some new adventures for Raine and Mychael on Mid so for people really enjoying this series, there’s hope. I’m not sure I will read another Raine Benares novel but I might read another Lisa Shearin novel. I think there’s a lot of potential in her writing.

  • Title: All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 20112
  • Pages: 303 pages
  • Time: 9 hours 19 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

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September 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up

Yes yes, I know, we’re already halfway through October and I’m late with the monthly wrap up post. I just think we have to agree that my schedule is … well, a couple of weeks after everybody else’s and just go with it. I’ve been postponing and postponing posting this post – and maybe procrastinating a little bit – because I wanted to include links to reviews of all the books I read in October. I’ve finally realized that that’s not going to happen so here, 2,5 weeks late, is the monthly wrap up post for September…!

I picked up the pace a bit more in September. 4 books read. This is actually strange, since I started work this month. Luckily, only 30 hours a week and – even better – I commute by train so each day I have one hour to read on the train. I love traveling and commuting by train! Even one Friday, when the train was late because four cows were talking a walk on the tracks and I was sitting close to some guys going to the October Festival in Munich – and they were preparing by drinking beer and shouting ‘prost!’ a lot, making it rather hard to concentrate on Clarissa… Still, the train ride gives me time to read, I get to say hallo to my brother-in-law almost every morning when he gets on the train as I get off and it’s just a nice way to start and end the working day.

So 4 books this month. That’s okay. 2240 pages. That’s fine too. But I’m still 2 books behind on my goal to read 52 books. Still, I think I’ll make it … (ignoring the fact that I still have to read some really big novels this year like The Kindly Ones and Les Misérables). 

  1. Christine Feldthaus: Feldthaus skruer ned. A Danish television celebrity takes on a challenge to become more environmentally friendly, use less electricity and hot water. An okay book that gives some nice perspectives on the environmental debate. 3 stars.
  2. Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Mists of Avalon. Great novel about the women of Arthur’s court and the intrigues surrounding them and it. And of course Avalon and the Lady of the Lake. And Lancelot. 4 stars.
  3. Stephen King: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)
  4. Jean M. Auel: Folket i Klippehulerne (The Shelters of Stone) (Jordens Børn #5). After taking a long break from these books, I returned. Jondalar and Ayla has returned to Jondalar’s people and this book details how they get used to living in one place again, Ayla’s pregnancy and their mating ceremony. Very repetitive. 3 stars.

I also listened to one audio book this month:

  1. Lisa Shearin: Con & Conjure (Raine Benares #5). Fast-paced light fantasy read. Entertaining, nothing more. 3 stars.

So I have three months left to finish my challenges this year. I need to read some Neil Gaiman – and I’m looking forward to that. I need to finish Clarissa – I’m really looking forward to having finished that! And I need to read 8 books for my private challenge (including American Gods by Gaiman, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Don Delillo Underworld and the last book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel). Last month I signed up for The Epic Dark Tower read-a-long and therefore, I need to read Dark Tower #2: The Drawing of the Three. I need to read 16 books more this year, having read 36 out of 52 so far. I think September again will focus on finishing challenges. Halloween is not a big thing in Denmark so I don’t plan on reading anything particularly scary this month – well, maybe Underworld, that one really scares me!

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Lisa Shearin: Con & Conjure (Raine Benares #5) (review – audiobook)

It’s actually really hard to write reviews of this series since they all just seem to blur together. Yes, I know I start listening to the next one as soon as I finish one but they are all so similar that it’s difficult to separate them.

This of course is the Raine Benares series. It consists of six books, taking place over a rather short amount of time. In the first book, Raine helps a friend steal a necklace with a stone. She puts it on – and is instantly bonded with the rock which turns out to be the Saghred, a soul stealing nasty thing that can destroy whole kingdoms and normally, turns it’s wearer, it’s bond-servant, insane. However, Raine is able to wear the rock without getting insane and the rest of the series is spend with Raine trying to get rid of the stone and find a way to destroy it as well as trying to avoid the psychopath Sarad Nukpana who wants both her and the rock. Luckily, Raine has help from not only her friends but also from new friends like Paladin Mychael Ellisor and archmagus Justinius Justinius Valerian.

As per usual, this one starts off with a bang. The conflict between the goblins and elves is slowly escalating and when the Goblin prince Chigaru Mal’Salin arrives to Mid, things gets moving. The prince is wanted dead by almost everyone so before he even sets food on Mid, several assassins try to kill him. Luckily, Raine is there to save him – even though not all the goblins see it that way.

While the elves – or at least some of them, led by Sylvanus Carnades – is trying to get their hands on Raine, having a specially prepared cell ready for her with magic-reducing manacles in the cellars of the elven embassy, the Goblin king and Sarad Nukpana is preparing to attack the elves – and just being nasty as usual.

It seems to me that the new characters being introduced in these last books in the series, are rather more interesting than some of the ones who have been in all the books. In this one, we’re introduced to Raine’s cousin Mago, a banker, who’s of course still in the family business of sneaking, stealing and other sorts of criminal activity. He’s the prince’s banker and is of course in an excellent position to help Raine. Also, we have Raine’s ex-boyfriend and former fiancé who is a most skilled assassin who’s of course after the prince. And maybe others? Someone at least is taking shots at Mychael.

So when you listen to a whole series, it’s hard to come up with something new to say about the narrator for each book. However, when you have listened to a whole series and the narrator suddenly starts saying something in a different way, it does distract from the listening experience. For some reason, in this book Eileen Stevens has started saying ‘the Saghred’ in a different way.The Saghred is mentioned a lot and every time, she says the word in this new way, I start wondering why she has changed it and it takes me out of the listening experience and ruins the flow of the story for me.

Other than that, this is just like the other books in the series. Plenty of action, very fast pace, some things are repeated over and over etc. If you’ve come this far in the series, you know exactly what you get. It’s decent light fantasy. It’s quite entertaining when you read it/listen to it but nothing more. I do admit that at a few points in this one, I really didn’t want to put it down but just to keep on listening but normally, I don’t think about it when not listening to it. I’m actually looking forward to finishing this series so I can try out other audiobooks and see if my lack of enthusiasm is because of the book or the medium I experience them through.

  • Title: Con & Conjure
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages: 323 pages
  • Time: 9 hours 19 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

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Lisa Shearin: Bewitched & Betrayed (Raine Benares #4) (review – audiobook)

This book starts a few weeks after the last one left out. Because of the demon queen’s attempt to rescue her husband, some souls escaped from the Saghred, this mighty rock our main protagonist Raine Benares is stuck with. Of course, her arch enemy and serious sadistic black mage Sarad Nukpana is one of the souls who escaped from the Saghred and of course, Raine has to try and  find him. Preferably before he finds her. Only trouble is – maybe Nukpana is even more dangerous than expected. Maybe he has found a creepy ritual that will enable him to bring him back to life or else he’s just being even more evil and creepy than usual. In either case, his idea of gifts – as in the sucked dried, leathery smelling husks of dead elven generals – really needs improving.

So Raine has to find a way to find Nukpana who is working on becoming corporeal again – with the help of his uncle, a very dark and cruel nachtmagus, a man who toys with the dead and their souls for fun. Nukpana’s plan is to suck the life, soul and memories out of enough people to make himself corporeal again – and with each kiss of death, he becomes even more powerful. And more difficult to stop.

A couple of new characters really stepped up to the plate this time around and greatly enhanced the reading experience. Imala Kalis, the head of goblin security – as well as the cutest little thing with dimples. She knows Tam from his time at Goblin court and they pretty much rubbed each other the wrong way. So much in fact, that Imala stabbed him at one point. However, she’s back and she’s great! I hope she will be a huge part in the remaining two books – and since the inevitable war between elves and goblins seem to be getting closer and closer, I think she will be a huge part in the attempt to avoid this war.

However, my favorite new character in this book is Nachtmagus Vidor Kalta. He is this seemingly creepy man who works with raising the dead – or so it seems. In reality, he is an extremely clever man who knows his business, has deep respect for the work he does – and isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in, which creates one of the best scenes in the book when he actually makes Silvanus the little man in a discussion. Priceless!

I also enjoyed that Mychael got out from his desk and really became part of the action this time around. We get to see Mychael in action, actually in ways we hadn’t expected of our knight in shining armor. Parts of his past is revealed and it’s not exactly the past we expected either. All these things mean that Mychael becomes a more well-rounded character – who even knows his way around a bordello… and isn’t afraid to go under-cover.

Also, we actually finally get the love triangle between Raine, Mychael and Tam resolved. Raine made the choice I had expected – although resulting in a rather bad sex scene that I could have lived without (and I’m a bit sad that it wasn’t better since I wrote in my review of the third book in the series that I genuinely enjoyed it when Lisa Shearin played the sexual innuendo game – maybe it just got too explicit and left no room for the humor that so far has been the best part of every sexually loaded situation). However, the bond between Raine, Mychael and Tam is also changed in this book – no longer a threesome. The way of fixing this was clever and rather unexpected – and this part of the plot gave me a bit of a surprise that I enjoyed and it created some great tensions and gut wrenching moments for Raine (as well as a excellent fundament for the further books in the series).

The issues I have with this book, are the same as I’ve had with every book in the series. There are a lot of recaps of what has happened before and it really gets too repetitive. Also, Raine still keeps mentioning that she’s a Benares and therefore, no good – although one should think that after all what she, her cousin and uncle has been doing to help the Guardians, it should no longer matter to her that some high elves might not like her name – especially since she doesn’t like them. So enough already. The Benares family has proven itself – no reason to keep pretending to believe yourself a lowlife. Also – what’s up with the teeth? Everyone smiling has to bare their teeth or fangs – and I think it has been mentioned in every book that a goblin’s fangs are not just for decorative use. Again – enough! Raine’s way of handling things, her sarcastic thoughts and replies to every situation, sometimes feel very off. Not every situation demands a snarky reply!

When listening to these books, I often get a sense of something not being right. Something happens and I think ‘wait a minute – how can that happen?’ It seems to me that this world and it’s magic as well as the various creatures living in it, are not quite consistent. That small changes are made to both the characters and the laws of magic as it suits the plot. Some of the mages also seem extremely powerful – and there seem to be no drawback to using magic. You can just go on and on, throwing out one powerful spell after another and you don’t get drained. You do when you heal people – but not when using spells. I would have liked to see a more developed magical system (that’s one thing I love about the DragonLance series for instance – that mages constantly have to commit spells to memory to be able to use them).

Also, it does feel like Raine, Mychael and Tam – with the support of Archmagus Justinius – should be making progress with at least some of their enemies, specifically the high elf Silvanus who has been after Raine from when she arrived on Mid. We all know that he’s power hungry, we know he wants to rid himself of both Raine, Tam and Mychael and we know that Justinius knows this as well. With Silvanus’ abilities to lock people up as he sees fit, shouldn’t the other side be able to do something about him too? Like maybe just lock him up for slandering, lying and being deceitful? With the combined resources of Raine, Mychael, Tam and Justinius, they ought to have had time to spend 5 minutes tossing about ideas about how to get rid of him – and then just do it. It’s not believable that these very capable people can’t fix at least him. I get that he may be needed for the plot – but if it isn’t believable that he stays free and in power, Shearin has to find another way to move her plot forward.

We did get rid of one of the main bads – and even though that was solved off-camera, so to speak, it was a nice way to end that part of the plot and it made sense. The plot in this book was moved forward and we’re left with a plan for how to proceed.

I haven’t got anything new to say about the narration.Eileen Stevens does her job well, her voice is the voice of Raine to me, and she adds little touches here and there that adds to the listening experience. I still think some of her male voices sound a bit too alike but overall, it works well.

Now, if you haven’t already read/listened to this book, you might want to stop reading now. There’s going to be a bit of spoilers, I think. One thing I don’t quite get is why can’t they just cut open the Saghred and release the souls and diminish it’s power that way? The bloody rock is the cause of all Raine’s problems and with Nukpana now having a bit of link to it as well – or at least Saghred-enhanced powers like Raine – I see no reason to not just cut up the stone, release the souls – and just make sure there’s Reapers around to eat them. Wouldn’t it make it easier for everyone if the stone was dried out – or am I missing something here? Also, I thought the way the umi’atso bond issue was solved was excellent – however, I can’t stop wondering if the Saghred who created the bond in the first place, can’t just do so again…

If you’ve made it this far, I will end by saying, that overall, I do enjoy these books. They are light and fun fantasy romps which suffers a bit from a not completely developed world and a at times too high-paced plot. However, they are enjoyable and at times hard to put down and works great as light entertainment.

  • Title: Bewitched & Betrayed
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2010
  • Pages:  366 pages
  • Time:  13 hours  25 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3  stars out of 5

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Lisa Shearin: The Trouble With Demons (Raine Benares #3) (review – audiobook)

True to form, this third volume in the Raine Benares series starts with a bang. Or rather – The Isle of Mit gets invaded by demons coming in through a Hellgate and of course, Raine is right in the middle of it. Luckily, Raine is able to save the day yet again, with a little help from Tam. Since the Saghred has made sure that Raine and Tam are bonded together to try and make Tam feed it when Raine steadily refuses, Raine is now able to use some of Tam’s magic and power and boost her Saghred enhanced skills even more.

So why are all these demons doing on Mid? Turns out, one of the souls trapped in the Saghred is the demon king and of course, the demon queen wants him back. With a Hellgate raised somewhere on Mid, demons come pouring out. Rudra, the Saghred’s former bond servant, is also on the loose, enjoying himself immensely, trying to wreck as much havoc as possible while getting back in control of the Saghred.

A bad situation gets even worse when Raine finds out that not only can the Saghred be opened and souls released from it, the demon queen wants her to find the dagger forged to do this. A dagger that can be found by a virgin. On a college island. Where students soon discover that to get laid is actually a way of protecting yourself. Of course, Raine succeeds – and of course we all know who the virgin is.

So besides demons being on the loose all over Mid, not much has changed. Raine is still caught between Tam and Mychael, she is still being pursued by Nukpana and in this book, by Rudra especially. She still has lots of spunky replies to everything, no matter what situation she finds herself in and she still rushes headfirst into trouble, without stopping to think. While this is light, action-packed fantasy, it would be nice if once in a while, she did take a breather, listened to advice and acted accordingly. That said, these books take place over a very short amount of time and so, she of course isn’t given much time to ponder her actions – or her love life. But since I think Lisa Shearin has a lot of humor in her writing when the action slows down, I would like to see more of that. Towards the end of this novel, there’s some very amusing scenes between Mychael and Raine and since Shearin has set this three-way between Tam, Mychael and Raine up, there’s plenty of room for sexual innuendo – like the finding of a virgin to help her find a dagger or Mychael having to heal by being naked in bed with Rane… I actually find Shearin at her best when she writes these scenes with lots of humor and lots of sexual tension.

I did like that we got to see more of Justinius, the archmagus. He’s one cool old bugger – with a lot of power! I also think some of the other lesser characters – like the leader of the demon department – are rather entertaining. And, of course, Vegard. Big burly Vegard. The poor Guardian who has gotten the job of keeping Raine safe. Definitely not an easy gig. I like Vegard! He’s a big, dangerous, puppy dog!

My main issue with this book is the same as I had with the second volume. It gets too repetitive. Again, yes, we know you’re a Benares, yes, we know that the Benares are a family of thieves and pirates, and yes we know that Mychael is law abiding and that causes trouble and no decent persons will look your way – yes, yes, yes. We get it. You’ve been saying it for three books now. And why is that everyone smiling shows their fangs or teeth all the time? It makes sense in some cases that the goblins want to show their fangs to show their weapons, but everyone does it over and over. Stop mentioning it!

I’m hoping the 4th book in this series will flesh out Tam and Mychael more – so far, they are still just pure good and pure (reformed) evil and each other’s opposites and it would make the love triangle more interesting if you actually knew enough about these two to be able to root for one of them. I’m also hoping that Shearin will realize that if readers are reading the 4th book in a series, it’s their own fault if they haven’t read the first three and they should go do so – she doesn’t have to retell everything that has happened in the series once more! We got it. Let’s move on! And finally – no more showing of teeth and fangs, no more ‘I’m a Benares’ crap. And then we’ll have us a good book!

As this is an audiobook, I want to comment on the narrator. While Eileen Stevens has become the voice of Raine to me, and her way of reading is overall quite good, I do think there are a few issues with her making voices. To me, some of the male characters sound too much the same and sometimes, that’s a bit confusing. It’s not a huge thing, it’s just a small complaint. Overall, Eileen Stevens does a good enough job for me to enjoy listening to it.

All in all, this book didn’t progress the series’ story arch that much. There simply wasn’t time to investigate how to get rid of the Saghred and in the end, Raine is almost worse off than she was in the beginning. With that said, this book really sets up the next book(s) nicely, maybe hinting at what Raine needs to get rid of the Saghred but also setting the scene for even worse trouble than has been the cause so far. This feels like a typical middle book and hopefully, Shearin can cash in on the ideas she hints at.

  • Title: The Trouble With Demons
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2009
  • Pages: 370 pages
  • Time: 13 hours 41 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars:  3 stars out of 5

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May 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up

Oh, May, May, May. Where did you go? I don’t know what’s happening with my reading lately – I feel like I read a lot, but I’m just not getting anywhere or at least it takes me forever to finish books. And slowly I’m loosing the momentum I had build in the first three months of the year. I really have to do something to get my momentum back if I am to reach my goal this year. Only thing is, I’m not sure why I’m not finishing more books each month.

I read 1613 pages this month which is still a lot less than in the good first three months in the beginning of the year where I read more than 2000 pages as well as e-books and Clarissa. I really don’t know why I’m not keeping up the more than 2000 pages a month routine. I feel that I’m reading as much as ever – but either I have gotten slower or else I’m just not reading as much as I think I do.
  1. China Miéville: The City & The City. A sort of detective novel but nothing like I’ve ever read before. Miéville has the most amazing setting for his story and he uses it so well, never letting it overpower the story but still, making it all so interesting and fascinating. 4 stars.
  2. Diana Gabaldon: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2). Jamie and Claire, two amazing characters, as well as intrigues at the royal French Court, a Scottish rebellion, traitors and heroes (sometimes the same thing). A great historical fiction/romance/sci fi novel… 4 stars.
  3. Peter Høeg: De måske egnede (Title in English: Borderliners). An attack on the Danish school system. Three children try to figure out what’s going on at their school, why certain students are allowed to go there. A slowly paced novel which delivers punches that leaves you staggering with surprise and shock. A great novel by one of the best living Danish authors. 4 stars.
Audiobooks finished:
  1. Lisa Shearin: Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares #1). Action from the first page. Easily accessible light fantasy about the seeker Raine Benares and her knack for getting herself into trouble. 4 stars.
  2. Lisa Shearin: Armed & Magical (Raine Benares #2). So this one continues right in the same style as the first one so if you enjoy one, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. Only thing is it does become a bit repetitive. 3 stars.
This was my first month listening to audio books and I really liked it. Still, for me, they don’t count quite as high as books I actually read for several reasons. It’s easier to space out and forget to listen and I feel like I’m missing out on parts of the novel when I don’t read how the author spells names, places, objects. It annoys me when listening, it annoys me when I’m writing about my thoughts afterwards.
Even though I haven’t read all that much this month, I did manage to finish The Chunkster Challenge. That’s right. I’ve read 6 books with a page count of more than 450 pages this year. Actually, I’ve read 10 books that fitted the chunkster status but only 6 of them counted towards the challenge.
I finished my Clarissa reading on time this month! Ahead of time, even. And what’s even better, I actually enjoyed reading it! So hopefully I can keep this positive feeling when I continue with Clarissa for the rest of the year.
I also did very well on the Mount TBR Reading Challenge – all three books I read, was bought before 2012 and now, I’ve read 16 out of 25 for that challenge.
I’ve mentioned before that I have a challenge going with my boyfriend and my best friend. We each choose books for ourselves and then we also choose one book for each of the other two. This year I chose that my boyfriend should read The Hunger Games trilogy and my friend should read Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Anyway, I am so far doing okay on this challenge – I’ve read 22 out of 52 books, I’ve read 9 out of the 25 specific books I’ve chosen and my to-read list is lower than it was when the year began. However, my boyfriend doesn’t believe that I will make it. He doesn’t think that I will finish this challenge so we have just made a bet – if I make it, he is to give me any book I choose and if I doesn’t finish, he gets to choose a book. So I need to get this done! Not only is there a book on the line – there’s something much more important: pride! So I think I will focus on this challenge in June too. If you want to follow my progress, check out my challenge page.
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Lisa Shearin: Armed & Magic (Raine Benares #2) (review – audiobook)

So no rest for the wicked. This book has barely begun before the action starts. And not just some nice and easy action, no this is full-blown all-out action. Raine Benares, our main protagonist, has arrived to the Island of Mid to get help to deal with the Saghred but also to be protected from the Goblins, she made so very angry in the first book in the series. Since she has bonded with the Saghred, the most powerful artifact, she can’t just give it up but need magical help for that so of course she turns to the Conclave and it’s Guardians to get the help she need. But she hasn’t been long on the island before an assassination attempt is made on the Paladin Mychael Eiliosior and the Archmagus Justinius Valerian, Raine saves the day – but in doing so, she shows the world what she is now capable of, after being in contact with the Saghred. And that was exactly what the notorious elven assassin, leader of the Nightshades, was counting on. He manages to escape – taking with him a young blonde woman.

But this young woman is not the only one who is kidnapped. Young spellsingers start disappearing. Luckily, Raine is able to connect with them by using her seeker powers, enhanced by the Saghred (which reminds me – whatever happened to Quentin, the thief who officially stole the Saghred? We haven’t heard of him since early in the first book.). Trouble is, no one really believes her except Paladin Mychael Eiliesor and some of his men. She has powerful adversaries on the Council of Twelve. the council in control of sorcerers and sorcery. And of course, they’re not the only ones interested in Raine – and the Saghred. She attracts trouble wherever she is – and on top of the Elven assassinators, the Elven ambassador, the Goblin lawyers and (at least some of) the Council of Twelve, well, there’s of course the main villain from the first book, Nukpana who even though he is caught in the Saghred is able to talk to her – and manifest himself in front of her, enjoying himself rather too much when he does so while she’s taking a bath. And if that’s not enough trouble, there’s also the Saghred’s best friend…

I’m listening to these as audiobooks and I enjoy them a lot. They’re perfect for this medium. But the worst thing with listening to fantasy novels as audiobooks is, that you have no idea how to spell anything. All the names of people and places and things are of course spelled in certain ways – and since I don’t read the actual pages of the book, I have no idea how to do this. So to be able to write this review, I’ve had to google a lot to find the correct ways of spelling…

I also got a bit confused at one point. Shearin has pointed out over and over that to avoid being affected by spellsingers, you have to have some kind of shield to protect you. Either your own person shield or, if a spellsinger performs at a restaurant or a bar, the stage is shielded so the audience doesn’t get affected. The music rooms where the student spellsingers practice are also shielded – and when a vent isn’t covered probably, Piaras almost put the entire citadel to sleep, including the Saghred. Everyone who didn’t put up shields, were affected. But suddenly, Piaras can intend it for some present and not necessarily target all who hear it – how? And even in a battle situation, can’t people put up personal shields? Is this a consistency issue or did I miss something? Is he just that talented?

One thing that is a bit annoying in these book, is the repetitiveness. I can’t count the number of times Raine talks about her family and their bad reputation. She does so over and over and over again – both in the first and in this second volume. Yes, yes, yes, we know the Benares family are pirates, robbers and kidnappers – we know.  Yes, we get that that means they don’t like paying for things and they like their weapons. Now let’s move on with the story. Also, Shearin has a tendency to repeat herself by using the exact same phrases to describe the same thing. When you describe something in a very particular way, don’t repeat it.

I also think Raine lacks a bit of introspection – at least when it comes to the men in her life. She’s pretty much ready to be swept off her feet whenever Tam or Mychael offer. She is yet to have any thoughts about preferring the one to the other – she just seem to prefer the one who’s there. And while that is a valid choice, of course, and all this might just be me being prudish, I would like her to choose one. I don’t know if I prefer Mychael or Tam – but actually, we don’t know much about either one, except one is goblin, one is human, both are extremely good-looking, one is a bad boy, the other is one of the really good guys… All pretty standard for such books.

Still, in conclusion – despite the minor grievances listed above, I really have fun listening to these books. Even though the banter between Raine and her friends can be a bit too much, especially in battle situations, it’s still entertaining banter and if you enjoy light fantasy with non-stop action, humor and very fast pacing, these books are definitely recommendable.

  • Title: Armed & Magic (Raine Benares #2)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2008
  • Pages: 293 pages
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

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Lisa Shearin: Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares #1) (review – audio)

So I’ve had this fantasy trilogy on my to-read list for a while now. It’s written by Lisa Shearin and looked like a great series with lots of action, fighting and fun. A nice easy fantasy read. I decided it was perfect to try for my first audio books in several years. I started listening and after listening a bit to the first one, I checked out the author’s homepage – only to find out, this isn’t a trilogy. I don’t know why I think that fantasy books always come in trilogies (or, I do – I blame it on the way Lord of the Rings was published). Anyway, I just assume this. I did it with Adrian Tchaikovsky’s brilliant Shadows of the Apt series. I bought three volumes, excited about this fantasy bug trilogy – only to discover that it’s supposed to be in 10 volumes…! And now this Raine Benares series – not a trilogy, no, so far there’s published 5 books with the sixth installment being published later this month…

Anyways. Enough of me ranting. As I’ve written earlier, I decided to listen to this book because I needed something fun and interesting to distract me while gardening. And it certainly did live up to my expectations. So much that I didn’t only listen to it while gardening – I also listened to it while cleaning the oven. And … I actually want to be in my garden pulling up weeds, something that has never happened to me before. But I want to listen to the book and so, I pull up weeds.

This is the story of Raine Benares, a Sorceress and Seeker. When Quentin, one of her friends, takes on a job to rob a necromancer’s house, Raine decides to watch over him to make sure he gets through it alive – without him knowing. Raine’s cousin Phaelan tacks along and suddenly the three of them find themselves fighting goblin shamans appearing out of nowhere. The trio makes it out alive but when Quentin goes to deliver the retrieved object, he finds himself in trouble again. With more goblins.

For Quentin’s protection, Raine has taken over the object he stole. It turns out to be a very old silver medallion – with a mind of it’s own. It doesn’t want Raine to take it of, it enhances her powers – and it makes everyone look for her. And not everyone nice. See, this medallion isn’t just an ordinary medallion – but what it is, exactly, is hard to find out for Raine. And when she does find out, it’s from highly unlikely sources. How to get rid of it again, is even harder to figure out. In her attempt to rid herself of it, her loved ones are endangered more than once as she is herself. But her possession of the medallion also introduces her to new – and rather pleasant – acquaintances.

There is a bit of a love triangle that doesn’t improve much on the overall storyline, in this novel at least – maybe it will in the sequels. It doesn’t get in the way of the story though so it’s not a real irritation (it just seems that love triangles are all over the place, see  Twilight and Hunger Games).

This is a great fantasy ride. It’s got lots of action, not a lot of slow parts. It keeps a fast pace and really moves the story along. It does this in a great way and it makes it a perfect light fantasy read. What I really appreciate about this book, is the amount of humor in it. There is, though, a bit of repetitiveness in the way it’s written – she clutches things in her white-knuckled hands several times in a few pages. It feels like the author wanted to write a certain something and wasn’t quite sure where to write it – and then missed deleting these repetitive sentences while editing. Overall, the writing flows easily and gets the story told in a good way.

So with this being an audio book, I of course have to comment on Eileen Stevens, the narrator. For the most part, I enjoyed her. I liked her reading voice and the sound of her voice is the sound of Raine Benares to me. However, I didn’t feel she did the male voices very well – they all sounded a bit alike. That being said, I didn’t need her to do more than she did for me to enjoy this listen and to be able to distinguish between who was talking.

Overall, I highly recommend this book as a light, easy and very entertaining fantasy novel that works perfect for the audio way of ‘reading’. I had a really good time listening to it and I’m looking forward to listening to the next in the series, Armed & Magical.

  • Title: Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares #1)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2007
  • Pages: 352 pages
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars:  4 stars out of 5

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So how do we feel about audio books?

I have to confess that I’m somewhat of a book snob. I don’t (necessarily) mean with regard to the books I read. No, I’m thinking about the way I read them. See, I don’t consider listening to a book to be proper reading. I did a very informal poll on this by asking my boyfriend and another friend if they think it counts just as much to hear a book and to read it – and neither of them thought so either.

So here we are – three clever persons (!), neither of us think it is quite right to listen to a book instead of sitting down and having it in our hands, using our eyes to read it with – the good old traditional way. But why is that? It’s the same words – it’s just two different ways of taking them in. And in some situations, you can’t read in the traditional way – but you can listen.

Besides, when did listening get such a bad reputation? When we’re kids, our parents read to us if we’re lucky. We never wonder if they get less out of the book because it is read out loud to them. Why shouldn’t we as adults not get to enjoy the same luxury?

I’m not sure I’m wired in a way to be able to listen to complex books – at least not yet – but I do think that I can listen to some novels and enjoy them.

So what it all comes down to, is that I’ve decided to give audio books a chance. Mostly because I have to get out in the garden and start pulling weeds and making it look somewhat presentable – or at least so the kids don’t hurt themselves playing in it. And I hate garden work. So to sweeten the deal I’ve decided to listen to an audio book while doing it. And I’ve chosen Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares, book 1) by Lisa Shearin – pure fantasy, nothing intellectual, just plain action. And as a non-experienced audio book listener, I think that’s key. To have something to listen to that’s not too complicated but rather easily accessible. So that’s what I’m going for – pure lovely fluffy entertainment while I tackle those nasty stinging nettles.

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