I’ll be perfectly honest, though I liked the first Raine Benares book, Magic Lost, Trouble Found I wasn’t 100% in love with it. Luckily I liked it enough to get the second book, Armed and Magical, which picks up just days after the first book ends. Raine Benares, daughter of the criminally active Benares clan, is a small-time sorceress, a seeker, who has just, in the last book, become magically twinned with the Saghred, a soul-sucking Goblin stone of unimaginable dark power. She’s either its guardian or its servant. Which one of them will come out on top is by no means clear.
She’s come to the Isle of Mid, where the Conclave of Mages rules, in order to find a mage wily enough to unhook her from the stone. All she wants is her life back, but the stone has other ideas, and so do the factions that want to use it through her. The Goblins, sexy dark and dangerous, think it’s theirs. The Elves, gorgeous, light and equally dangerous want to keep it out of the Goblins’ hands and since Raine is an Elf they think she’s theirs. The Mages and their Conclave Guardians (think: magical police force) want to keep it locked away where it can’t do any damage. Rival mages just want to see Raine dead because they think she’s as dangerous as the stone. And its previous owner, nutty as a really poisonous fruit cake and supposedly dead a thousand years ago, wants it back and he doesn’t care how many souls he has to sacrifice to get it.
On Raine’s side is her dashing, piratical cousin Phaelan, her young spellsinger friend Piaras, now a student at the magic college, and (probably) the archmagus himself, plus Mychael, head of the Conclave Guardians, a hunky, spellsinging elf who is obviously head over heels in love with Raine, but that won’t strand in the way of his duty. If the Conclave says lock her up, he’ll do it.
This has a simple but twisty get-out-of-this-if-you-can theme. Raine has to avoid all attempts to gain control over her and the Saghred while keeping Piaras safe, protecting her own hide and thwarting the plans of at least four different factions. There’s a slow-burning romance, almost unacknowledged, between Mychael and Raine and a passionate attraction between Raine and her old friend/adversary Tam, a reformed Dark Mage – or is he… reformed that is.
By the time I’d read this I was totally hooked on the series. There are seven books in the main series with (so far) another two set in the same world featuring the handsome goblin Tam Nathratch, and Raine’s pirate relative, the criminally gifted Phelan Benares. Though these read like standard fantasy the flavour or much more contemporary and upbeat, more akin to urban fantasy, fast paced and exciting.