Three years ago I picked up Treasure & Treason, the first half of what should have been one spin-off novel from Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares series. Finally, I got around to reading Ruins & Revenge, the sequel/conclusion. I find that most of my review from Treasure & Treason stands for this book (not surprising, given that they should have been one book!). Despite long singing the praises of Shearin and her fantasy series, both Raine Benares and the SPI Files, I don’t have much to say in praise of these two books.
Quite literally picking up where the last book left off (did I say that this should have been one book), Ruins & Revenge begins with Tam organizing a smaller party to find their way to the city of the Cha’Nidaar. He is having dreams featuring their queen, Baeseria, so he’s feeling pretty good they’ll encounter these long-lost goblin brethren at some point. That is, if they don’t get eaten by creatures or killed by Khrynsani or their lizard allies first.
Yes, I will give it to Shearin: lots of action, lots of threats in this book. For the first half, though, until we actually get to the ancient city, it feels dull. There’s a long flight, then a puzzle to get into a tunnel, and then some threatening dragon-like beasties. Throughout, we get a lot of exposition about why it’s so important for them to get to the Heart. Once we finally reach the city and meet the Cha’Nidaar, the action and plot both intensify. Nevertheless, for a book about finding something called the Heart, that is exactly what it lacks: heart.
There’s a scene kind of towards the end of the book between Tam and Talon that is supposed to be heartwarming, a real tearjerker of a bonding experience between father and son. But the book is so full of Tam telling us about his son, rather than us ever really seeing much of this bond, that the scene feels lukewarm at best. This is my issue with these two books. Whereas the Raine Benares novels felt rich in the world they portrayed, these books, despite literally taking us to a new continent, feel small. I feel trapped inside Tam’s head, having to listen to his commentary about everything, yet what they actually end up doing takes up so little of the book.
Moreover, the plot itself is … drab. Ok, so we have another stone of power—seriously, why are there so many of these lying around? And the Khrynsani want it—that’s kind of a given, sure, ok, we can work with that. The solution to prevent this from happening is fine, I guess. But I don’t really feel like it has many huge consequences, overall, for this series or this world? Like I come away from these two books feeling like I could skip it and just pick up the next Raine novel and hear about Tam’s adventures secondhand, and I would have been more satisfied.
Look, I really, really liked the original series (well, most of it anyway). And I’ve been enjoying the SPI Files. So I will happily keep reading Shearin’s novels. And maybe I’m just being too harsh, or maybe these would have been better for me if I were a massive Tam fangirl (and it’s fine if you are!). Alas, I didn’t enjoy these diversions into Tam’s point of view, and I am happy to leave them behind me where they belong.