by Deborah Chester
Cover Artist: Matt Stawicki
Review by Mel Jacob
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441015481
Date: 27 November 2007 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Beautiful and gentle Lea, the emperor's sister and beloved by many, struggles to maintain her balance among evil men and demons. The fate of the empire lies on her slender shoulders. When the Ulinian warlord Vordachai hires his brother Shadrael, a disgraced legion commander turned mercenary and bandit, to capture her, neither of them anticipates how their plans might go astray. Thus begins The Pearls, Deborah Chester's first novel in her new fantasy series The Pearls and the Crown.
Lea, sworn to light and living in harmony, wields the magic of the elemental spirits, and they offer her jewels as gifts. Others covet those precious stones. She can see into people's hearts. What she discovers in Shadrael frightens and confuses her.
Sworn to the shadow god Beloth, Shadrael lost his shadow and soul. He now possesses only a fraction of the shadow magic he once held. The Vindicants, once powerful wielders of that magic now outlawed and banished with the accession of the Emperor Caelan Light Bringer, scheme to overthrow him and regain power. They offer Shadrael a new soul if he gives them Lea. At first he refuses, but as events overtake him, he must break his vow to his brother.
Lea journeys on behalf of her brother to Trau, their former home. Once there, she plans to leave the tiresome and restrictive court life and rejoin the Choven, a sect with magic powers. However, decisions by her escorts to avoid a possible riot in a town on the Imperial road takes her entourage onto a little used road. Bogs and crumbling roadbeds delay them. Uneasy, her protector Thirbe fears an ambush.
Handsome Captain Hervan tries to woo Lea, but she rejects his suit. Surprised, the Captain retreats but vows to win the lady. An attack by Shadrael and his men leaves Hervan with injuries, half his men, and the loss of Lea. Vowing to avenge the deaths and to recover Lea, he risks madness and his soul in his foolhardy pursuit.
The title of the novel comes from Lea's tears which turn to pearls. Chester, an accomplished award-winning writer, creates a rich world with interesting diverse characters. This world contains elements of Roman and Eastern civilizations mixed with magic. She interweaves bits of past history into the narrative without dumping them on the reader. Continuing with some of the characters from The Ruby Throne trilogy, The Pearls is the first of a two-book series featuring Lea, sister to the Emperor Caelan Light Bringer, and her abduction by his political enemies. While reading of the earlier series may help, most readers will find sufficient background in the new series to understand the characters and their motives.
Many questions remain at the end of The Pearls and readers will expect them to be explored in the conclusion of the series, which should appear in 2008.