Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Keepers of the Flame by Robin D. Owens

Twin sisters Elizabeth and Brigid Drystan are both healers. But while Elizabeth struggled her way through medical school, Brigid went around the world, looking for ways to develop the healing powers the twins were born with normally.

Elizabeth has struggled with her healing powers... going through medical school because of her talent, but knowing that she can't allow anyone to know about her arcane powers because they will want to dissect her to figure out how they work. Now, she has gotten the clearest message of all of how "out there" her powers are: her fianceƩ, another doctor, caught her healing a patient with her inborn powers, and rejected her as a freak.

Brigid comforts her sister, and the two of them attend their parents anniversary party, after which their Mom and Dad are going to Hawaii for a second Honeymoon. But after the party, the two are drawn into Ladrana, and a terrible crisis: Ladrana is the victim of a plague, and their healing powers are needed to combat it.

Neither sister is very happy to be in Ladrana, thinking mostly of the effect on their parents to lose both daughters at once and not knowing where they are. They are partially soothed when the mages reveal they have a device that allows them to see Earth, and allow the sisters to look in on their parents and their apartment while they work to solve the problem of the darkness-borne plague.

Each of the sisters fall in love in Ladrana, Brigid with a townsman, and Elizabeth with a Marshall who is unnaturally attracted to Exotiques. As they work on the plague, Elizabeth finds that it is easiest for her to explain to others what they have learned and techniques for dealing with the alien disease, while Brigid falls victim to the plague itself and must seek to find a way to heal her own body before she falls victim to the same plague affecting Ladrana.

From time to time, action moves to another woman who has somehow ended up on Ladrana and is employed as a barmaid/kitchen worker in a small tavern near Ladrana's seashore. Unike most of the Exotiques drawn to Ladrana, she cannot travel far from the sea, and is horribly abused by her owner/employer, who has an unnatural distaste for Exotiques and takes it out on her physically every chance he gets.

Later on, her importance to Ladrana becomes apparent when she gets up the courage to finally leave, and is rescued by Elizabeth's former lover. Former? Well, yes. Stuff happens near the end, leading to a split decision on the part of Elizabeth and Brigid as to whether to stay on Ladrana or return home.

I honestly didn't like this volume of the series as much as the others. I felt the story of Raine, the bargirl/Exotique, somewhat diluted the story of the two sisters, as it took attention away from what was supposedly their story. While I could easily believe what happened to Raine, I felt that she really deserved a book of her own, and thought the way her story was presented with that of the twins squished both stories in a way neither deserved.

I was also a little less enthralled with the decision of Elizabeth, which seemed to come in the blink of an eye, storywise. It seemed to me that Robin Owens was denied the opportunity to write an entire book about Raine's story, and to make it fit into the series as it was going to be written, she had to try to shoehorn it in here, where, on the whole, it wasn't as successful and feels forced. I am still looking forward to the last book, which will apparently tell the tale of an Exotique destined to be the new Singer, but I really wish Raine had gotten her own book, rather than serving as an adjunct in this one.

I'll label this book, "eminently readable, but with a few cautions."

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