I picked this up fairly randomly when it popped up in my recommendations - despite not much liking the cover.
I'm so glad that I did. It was a really great read - lovely characters, living in a well rendered world, with an interesting plot.
So what's the story? Raine Benares is an elf and a sorceress of limited powers who makes her living as a seeker - a finder of missing objects and people.
Looking out for one of her friends, who is not having much luck in turning his back on a life of crime, she ends up wearing a stolen amulet which it rapidly becomes clear is very powerful and transforms her magical talents in a rather alarming way. It is also a magnet for a number of interested parties, most of whom do not have Raine's best interests at heart.
The story follows Raine finding out more about the amulet and her past as she dodges her new found enemies.
Mermeia, the city that Raine lives in, is built on canals and with one of the set piece scenes taking place at a masked ball, there are definite echoes of Venice. The city is well realised and its position in a chain of islands and city states is sketched out sufficiently without needing to get bogged down in lots of background.
The city is home to a number of races and creatures, the main ones being humans, goblins and elves - with a lot of magic users of varying levels of capability. The goblins and elves are a bit different to the norm. The goblins are beautiful, seductive, dark-haired creatures of the night - think non-blood sucking vampires. We don't hear as much about the elves, Raine's own family are a bit atypical as they are pirates and thieves, but they don't seem to be immortal and are pretty down to earth.
The book is written in the first person from Raine's perspective. She's a likeable lead character with an amusingly wry tone. She is capable of taking care of herself, but that doesn't mean she doesn't get scared. She's actually a really enjoyable balance of capability without coming over as superwoman and of being unhappy with some of the situations she finds herself in without turning into to a whiny ball of angst. Not a trick that every author in this genre can manage.
There are a number of supporting characters, all of whom are nicely drawn and some are adorable.
There is Raine's surrogate family, particularly Garadin, a powerful retired mage and her godfather; and Piaras, a young, very powerful spellsinger who Raine regards as a little brother and who ends up doing a lot of growing up in the book. Their relationship and her protective instincts are an interesting feature.
There are two men in Raine's life. One is Tam, a goblin and former member of the goblin royal family. He and Raine have an ongoing association. His part in the book is fairly small, but Tam does make an impression - maybe something to do with being thrown against the mainmast for a passionate kiss.
Then there's Mychael Eliesor, another elf and Paladin of the Concalve Guardian's - a sort of police force come army based on a neighbouring island which is home to the magical schools of learning. Mychael is interested in Raine's amulet, but it becomes obvious he's also very interested in her. There are lots of lovely little moments between them and Mychael is clearly gorgeous and honourable (which doesn't hurt).
There is plenty of plotting and some very unpleasant bad guys.
The book comes to a neat finish and sets up the next stage of the action. So I'm really looking forward to book two!!