Saturday, April 23, 2011

Danger, danger, danger.... A Review of Con & Conjure by Lisa Shearin

Caveat: I seldom review books. When I do go public with a review, it will be favorable. 
"Raine Benares is a seeker who finds lost things and people. Ever since the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone that's given her unlimited power, has bonded to her, the goblin king and the elves have wanted to possess its magic themselves. Which means a goblin thief and her ex-fiancé-an elven assassin-are after her. To survive, she'll need the help of her notorious criminal family."
(Official blurb)

It's been about ten days since I read CON & CONJURE by Lisa Shearin. I wanted to see how my impressions mellowed, and which potential title for my review would stand the test (for me) of a short time.

"Danger, danger, danger!"
"Of Glamour and Small Manhood."
"End This Series!"
"Where's The Con?"

Danger comes on thick and fast. Raine Benares and her tall, dark, handsome and charmingly corrupt cousin Mago had a most intriguing con on the front burner. I should have liked to see that con play out.

Unfortunately, their cover was blown, if not blown up. Goblin Prince Chigaru sailed into port a few days early, and he is an assassin-magnet. He's also in love (but not with Raine) and in a committed relationship which I found strangely disappointing... maybe because his name means "hound" in Egyptian. If Tam is off the table as the dark point of a love triangle, a Mal'Salin prince might have made things even more interesting.

The Mal'Salin royal family is mentally unstable, which is convenient, because the Prince isn't utterly consistent in his behavior and in his reactions to Raine. No matter. Here's an example of what I love about Lisa Shearin's world-building and style, snagged from Lisa's website.
".....Goblins thought differently from elves. Hell, goblins thought differently than any other race. To them a threat of murder was simply overprotective and harmless. And if Chigaru’s guards had succeeded in offing me, the prince would have referred to it as an unfortunate misunderstanding. A misunderstanding for him that would be unfortunately permanent for me. As Imala said, murder and intrigue were merely another way to pass the time at the goblin court; neither was met with much if any concern.
And now, Prince Chigaru was pissed at me, or at least regally annoyed. I saved his life and he blamed me for interfering with his plans.
“Did your plan involve getting yourself shot, poisoned, and blown into fish food?” I asked mildly."

Raine spends a goodly portion of CON & CONJURE saving Prince Chigaru's royal backside and other parts from himself, and from others. High elves, even higher and mightier goblins, and low commoners for hire are all doing their best to kill the prince, with no regard for collateral damage.

It's the collateral damage that concerns Raine most. There is also the proverb, which she does not quote, "My enemies' enemy is my friend." Raine's enemies want Prince Chigaru dead. Raine's enemies, of the mortal and also immortal kind, want Raine dead in the worst way.

A death sentence and lawful beheading "for her own protection" is the kindest cut facing her if she  is seen to use the Saghred's powers. Old goblin enemies plot to kill her in unspeakable ways. A gang of elven mages give darker meaning to "bondage" with their plan to share her and her Saghred-given powers.

Raine Benares is in more danger than ever before. Con & Conjure is a page-turning, heart-pounding, absorbing read, with the stakes ever higher --especially around the dangerous goblin embassy,--the long and short-- knives out, and Raine cannot depend upon anyone being who and what they appear to be.

Tamnais Nathrach was my favorite character in the previous books in the series. I knew that I wouldn't see much of him in CON & CONJURE. In fact, knowing that, I seriously considered not buying this episode, but I am glad I did buy the book, even though Tam did very little of his trademark hissing something short and deadly in Old Goblin and killing villains with a black magic word.

Another favorite from the earlier books was the suave and flamboyant Captain Phaelan Benares. His accident-prone role in this book reminded me a little bit of Merry in Lord Of The Rings. He's still good, but his big brother Mago is better, and wittier.

On the other hand, I did not miss the teenage spellsingers in the least. They were mostly motivation, and Raine has other innocents and not-exactly-innocents to protect as the villains up the ante. You wouldn't think it possible to up the ante after Hell opened and man-eating demons invaded Mid in THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS, but Lisa Shearin achieved it, IMHO. (Not forgetting BEWITCHED AND BETRAYED came between.)

I don't want this series to end. And I do. With a story this good, I want to know how it ends, and waiting for a year or more between books without knowing when the series will end is... well... a drag.

As for the small penis jokes, no matter how good or important they might have been, basing a review on that precious aspect of the book would inevitably have been a spoiler, so I won't go down there... except as a segué to the bottom line.

Bottom line. I recommend that you buy the paperback. Buy all the paperbacks, if you haven't already, and read the series from start to date. If you don't do that, then read every word because everything the new reader needs to know is covered, but economically and only once. Each book does stand alone, but the sum is greater than the parts.

I have one pet peeve, and it is nothing to do with author Lisa Shearin. It's the cover art for the series. Could the art department use the same model for each book? And could each model please have the correct hair color? Raine is consistently described as a redhead. Why, then, is the girl on the cover sometimes blonde?

All the best,
Rowena Cherry



  1. Rowena,

    Thank you so much for the wonderful and insightful review!


  2. Lisa,
    You are very welcome. I thoroughly enjoy your books. When will you give up your day job, and write a book every 6 weeks?

    Too much to ask?