First published June 1998
ACE, Mass Market Paperback, 272 p.
DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME
Sham had spent most of her young life as a sorceress and thief, stealing from Southwood's nobility to survive. Now she must face the greatest test of her skills...
A killer has struck Southwood, claiming the lives of nobles. Lord Kerim, Reeve of Southwood, turns to Sham for help. Posing as his mistress, she delves behind castle walls to find the killer. But this murderer is not mortal - and Sham must use all of her magical wisdom to send the demon away. Because the city of Southwood has nowhere to hide - and no time to run...
I picked up this book after reading a Iron Kissed, and as much as I love the Mercy Thompson series I wasn't too sure about what to expect. It wasn't Urban Fantasy, there were no werewolves or shapeshifters, etc. Would I really like it? The answer was YES! I really did enjoy this book. The world Ms. Briggs has built for Sham is so well done that you don't really even think about it being a different world/realm, whatever. You just accept it as part of Sham's life.
Sham, or Shamera, is a wonderfully strong and driven character. I do like a sassy heroine, and Sham fits that to a tee. Living as a thief has given her the connections that see her moonlighting as the mistress of Kerim, aka The Leopard, as she tries to discover the identity of a killer. It's great to have a lead female that has knowledge, or abilities, that makes her self sufficient in a world where women still rely on the men in their lives. Now with a formidable heroine like Sham you'd assume that our hero would be muscled up the whazoo, but Kerim, comes into Sham's life in a physically compromised position. Despite this, he is a strong leader who keeps his feeling to himself, but Shamera has no problems reading him.
Our secondary characters, Dickon, Elsic and Talbot, are very much a part of the story. They each have a history of their own that helps to shape their responses to the action. Scorch is another character to keep an eye on, too ;-D. There are other notable characters, such as Shark and Lord Halvok and Lady Sky, but many of the others just drift out of your mind as soon as they leave the scene.
Potentially this is the start of a great series, but like Nightseer, it is likely that this will remain a one-off story. There are quite a few dangling threads that need to be tied up, but it looks like they will stay that way. Although not part of a series, it is a great book to read. If you liked Nightseer, Masques (Briggs), or the Chronicle of Elantra, then you'll enjoy this.