First: Over a year ago, author Lisa Shearin ran a "name the bordello" contest on her blog, which I entered and won. That's why I'm listed in the Acknowledgments section of the book (which is totally awesome), and while I don't think that's influenced my review, I thought I'd better be transparent about it. Also I just wanted to brag.
It's certainly no secret that I love this series. It starts with Magic Lost, Trouble Found, where elf Raine Benares, a seeker of modest magical abilities, has her life turned upside-down when she puts on a stolen amulet. It bonds her with the Saghred, an ancient, soul-stealing rock once used to level armies and bring entire nations to their knees. Raine doesn't want anything to do with the Saghred--but she can't take the amulet off.
Now, in Bewitched & Betrayed, the fourth book in the series, Raine's free of the amulet but definitely not free of the Saghred. The book jumps right into the action with a chase through a bordello* and never lets up. What starts out as an attempt to recapture a handful of corrupt, disembodied souls that escaped from the Saghred in the third book turns into a race to outwit an evil goblin mage. The mage wants the Saghred--and Raine--and he literally will stop at nothing to get both.
Raine is a thoroughly likable character. She's tough and refuses to let anyone fight her battles for her, but she's got a softer side too. Her relationships with the people around her--friend and foe--are well developed and have major impacts on the plot.
There are signs that the series is nearing its natural close. For one thing, I'm not sure Shearin can up the stakes or the action much more without giving all her readers heart attacks. For another, Raine's relationship with one of the two important men in her life takes a serious turn in this book, with a well-written (and to my mind, long overdue!) love scene.
The book is tightly plotted and action-packed--there are explosions, magical fights, swordfights, chases, life or death decisions--but the pacing never feels frenetic. The book visits some dark places, but its tone is light and it's often funny. If you haven't tried the series yet, I highly recommend you pick up all four books and settle in for a marvelous week of reading, with the knowledge that each book is even better than the last.
*which I named