This debut novel sees a woman with a knack for trouble run afoul of a secret enclave of Elves.
Shona McLeod is attending a party at the Zurich villa of Ekbeth na Duibhne. He’s the enigmatic owner of a private bank and cousin to the roguish Lyrian Farrill, who possesses the jade Kadj’dur ring. Shona desperately wants the ring—and can steal it using her miraculous talent for phasing through solid objects—but she opts for some fun first. She seduces Ekbeth and pilfers irreplaceable jade stones from a safe in his quarters, intending to ransom them against the Kadj’dur. The stones, however, are the Annilis jewels, the millennia-old legacy of the As’mirin, a community of elves living in the Valley (the inert crater of a volcano). When Ekbeth catches up with Shona, they discuss the fact that she, too, is an As’mir, an Oyyad (outsider) from the Scottish McLean family. He tells her that the gems must return with him to the hidden city of Kse’Annilis. There, she eventually submits to a trial for her past transgressions by her ghostly ancestors, the Ke’As’mirin. Once in the Valley, Shona witnesses the reunion between the estranged McLeans and na Duibhnes, who have been feuding for 30 years. When Shona abruptly vanishes from the reunion, chaos and paranoia become the backdrop to her continued hunt for the Kadj’dur. In this first installment of an urban fantasy series, Haynes aims to redeem a protagonist who’s been through it all, including heroin addiction and suicidal tendencies. Even the Goddess Ara says, “Life has not been easy for you so far. You’ve survived, but at what price?” The extent of Shona’s tragic past, involving a family in Bhutan, may blindside many readers expecting a story typical of elves and teleportation powers. Yet Shona’s arc from wild child to reborn matriarch meanders, like a memoir, and the main theme remains revenge. Nevertheless, Haynes strives for a light tone early on, as when Shona tells Ekbeth: “I won’t bite, I promise! Or maybe just a little.” But overall, some readers may wish for a tighter focus on fewer characters.
A wandering, though cathartic, urban fantasy saga about a jewel thief.