This novella was a short but jolly ride with one of my favorite fantasy characters, Raine Benares, an honest red-headed elf and a magical seeker from a family of thieves and pirates. It’s a prequel to the author’s series about Raine, although the novella was published only recently, after all the other books in the series.
The beginning is innocuous: Raine’s client asks her to find a missing ring. The client’s husband stole it for his gambling debts. Unfortunately, complications arise as soon as Raine starts looking, and her search leads her to the uncovering of a terrible crime. There are stolen children souls involved. Raine has to get them back before their little bodies die.
Along the way, Raine first meets the dark goblin mage Tam, who becomes her friend and sometimes sexual partner later in the series. Together, they… well. Alas, I can’t say they solve the ring problem. Rather they find the evil culprits, face a certain death, and then – bang – some mysterious friends of Tam come along, solve their problem for them with a spectacular display of magic, and disappear quietly.
This is a pet peeve of mine, the deus ex machina literary device, when an author drops her characters into an untenable situation, pumps up the tension, and then introduces some new and obscure force to extract them from it. I hate such plot twists, even though ancient Greeks used them frequently. I like it when the heroes solve their problems themselves. In this case, despite the charming characters, the excellent writing, and the quick pace of the tale, the deus ex machina spoiled my joy (somewhat) in the otherwise delightful fantasy romp.
It would've been 5 stars otherwise.