Fast Forward Book Review for March 2006
A Rumor of Gems
New York: TOR, 2005
by Colleen R. Cahill
There are not many books that I have read all the way through if I didn#39;t like the main character. The anti-hero is just not appealing to me, but in the case of the atmospheric fantasy novel, A Rumor of Gems by Ellen Steiber, I found I just had to keep going. The embittered female lead started out whiny and annoying, but there were so many attractive features to the work, from the city of Arcato with its mix of Italian Renaissance and modern metropolis, to the gems that are mysteriously appearing everywhere to a wonderful green dragon named Jade, I just could not put this one aside.
Arcato is known for its gods, which are from every region and time in the world, and new temples and shrines appear daily in the city. It is ironic that Lucinda lives here because she was "born out of favor" and all gods are deaf to her prayers Working as an assistant and model for Tyrone, a clothing designer who still mourns the death of his young son, Lucinda fills her life parties, fun and a series of lovers she doesn#39;t love. Despite her free and wild life Lucinda is unhappy, unsure of where she is going, but not really looking for a path. This aimless existence changes when Lucinda finds what she thinks is a small carving of a green dragon. That dragon is alive and soon connects her with Alasdair, a man who can read the heart of gems, understanding their purpose. He is also the source of the gems that are found all over Arcato and there is nothing he can do to prevent it. Lucinda also meets and is wooed by Sebastian, a charming antique dealer who will uses charisma, trickery and even the gods to try to make her his own. Behind all this are dark forces, some human and some divine, forces which are forming a storm that centers on Lucinda, Sebastian and Alasdair.
This is a lush book: lush in its background and lush in its contrasts. Arcato is a city of opposites, with fairs and carnivals along side poverty and crime. Gods from all times and cultures hold sway here, from an East Indian god of love to an Inca weather god to a Greek goddess of the night. Alasdair finds himself trying to protect a young boy from the influence of the night goddess, a boy who is in jail for murder. Even through the influences of gods are powerful, Alasdair knows that humans can still choose their own destiny and turn from destructive paths.
Steiber has crafted a beautiful book, bringing a vast knowledge of gemstones and their lore into a world of color cities, strange mountain peoples, and a multitude of dieties and powers. She has created some very memorable characters, from Lucinda, who I eventually come to like, to Alasdair with his gentle soul that can be as fierce as a panther, to the my favorite, Jade, the small dragon who expresses so much with just a wink of an eye and flutter of wing. A Rumor of Gems is intriguing, it is fun and it is well worth reading.