Thief of Light
by Denise Rossetti†
(Berkley Trade, $15.00, R) ISBN 978-0-425-23130-2†
Erik Thorensen had a lung disease at age 17 that nearly killed him, but the Goddess intervened, giving him the gift of a voice that would elevate his singing above all others and enabling him to compel anyone to do anything. For Erik, this seeming blessing turned out as more a curse when he coerced a girl to his bed who loved another. Later, the girl drowned herself, and Erik has never forgiven himself. He keeps himself at a distance from people but craves love. And then he dares to take a chance on Prue McGuire.†

But Prue McGuire fell in love once while still quite young, and the man left her and her infant daughter to survive in the poorest part of Caracole. Caracole, the world of this second novel of Denise Rossettiís Pentacle series, is built on a gargantuan plant. Different sections are on different leaves and canals sweep between them. Most people travel by skiffs through the waterways to get from place to place. Prue managed to do well for herself and now is the business manager and silent partner in The Garden of Nocturnal Delights, a company of the most beautiful courtesans the city has to offer. And, best news of all for Erik, Prue seems to be immune to the voice, so perhaps the two could find love, but first they have to fight the treachery of the necromancer.†

The Necromancer covets the magic of the Air Witch and will do anything to get it. Erik has an idea that a plot is afoot when sea animals from legend called the Seelies show him the nobility leaf is rotten to the core. Then Prue is kidnapped, so Erik must harness the air magic he just learned he had to try to get her back and put the Necromancer out of business for good.†

Denise Rossetti has a gift for language, and the prose in this novel flows well. Some paragraphs merit a second reading out loud just to hear how well the words work together. But as a follow-up the tension-filled and adventure-heavy The Flame and The Shadow, it doesnít measure up. Prue and Erik donít have the emotional pull of Gray and Cenda, and I had a hard time caring deeply for either of them. The Necromancer, with his greed for power, adds a necessary dark component to the story. I especially liked that we donít know his identity until much later in the story. †

Prue has average looks and an average personality in this readerís mind, so I also didnít understand the attraction between the two. The explicit sex scenes add some spice, but even those didnít always ring true. I will definitely read the third book in the series in hopes that Rossetti will give us complex characters and a plot to match the intensity and depth of The Flame and The Shadow.

--Katherine Petersen

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