Fantasy whose contemporary setting mixes in various types of working magic, gods real and manifest, tricksters, dragons and what-all: Steiber’s first adult novel.
In the Mediterranean-flavored port city of Arcato, gemstone savant and do-gooder Alasdair—he can work magic by speaking to the stones—finds that he’s shedding gemstones wherever he goes. Other odd, disturbing things are happening: seemingly senseless break-ins, weird mischief, meddling gods, phantasms that gain a measure of corporeal reality. Of his ten lifestones, Alasdair’s moonstone (its chief aspect is tenderness) has departed his pouch and taken up residence with Lucinda de Francesco, party girl, serial consumer of men and assistant to talented fashion designer Tyrone. Alasdair’s occasional companion, a tiny dragon that’s sometimes a jade carving, took the moonstone and has also taken up residence with Lucinda. Lucinda, beguiled by magic-wielding shapeshifter and trickster Sebastian, needs the tiny dragon’s formidable powers, since the god Eros is assisting Sebastian’s attempts to seduce her. During Carnival, Tyrone dons the costume of a lightning-god, Ilyap’a, only for the offended god to blast him into a coma. Alasdair advises Lucinda that she should travel to his home in the lost towns to find someone who might intercede for her on Tyrone’s behalf. Alasdair, meanwhile, deals with Michael, 11, who killed another boy at the behest of a phantasm, visits a ruined temple where the stones’ memory has been suppressed by an evil force, then, with a venomous assist from the dragon, confronts Sebastian. All this, and the chief villain hasn’t emerged yet.
Pleasant and inventive but far from compelling, with too many meanderings and distractions.