I love Cinda Chima's books. I've loved her Seven Realms series, and I loved her Heir Chronicles, though I thought she'd concluded that series with the Dragon Heir. Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when I found a new one at the library! Only, silly me, I somehow thought this was a companion novel to the other books--that is, a storyline that would largely wrap up in this book. My biggest complaint now is that since this book came out only recently (in October), I now have to wait to see how the cliff-hanger ending resolved.
I'm still processing the book, though, which adds an intriguing new dimension to the world of the Heir Chronicles. In fact, the story starts out largely outside of the traditional world of the magic guilds, with a commune in Brazil (Thorn Hill) where magic wielders have chosen to leave the guilds behind. Only then disaster happens (and one of the big mysteries of the book is what, exactly, did happen--was it an accident? Deliberate sabotage?) and all the adults at the commune are wiped out, poisoned, and many of the children die as well. Those who survive are deeply scarred, their magical gifts changed and sometimes distorted beyond all reason. Jonah Kinlock survives, but with a gift that is also a curse: he can kill with a touch.
Fast forward ten years or so: Jonah is busy fighting shades, undead creatures who are on a continual quest to find fresh host bodies to sustain them (and with painful links to the Thorn Hill massacre). Meanwhile, Emma Greenwood is happy playing the blues in Memphis and living with her luthier grandfather--until she finds him dead under strange circumstances. With only a few clues left by her grandfather, Emma goes to live with her father in Cincinnati (not coincidentally near Anchorage, where the survivors of Thorn Hill have taken refuge, and Trinity, the center of the new guild leadership from the other Heir novels).
While Jonah seeks to untangle the mysteries of Thorn Hill (which are linked to the increasingly powerful and organized shades), Emma tries to figure out her own past, and her own odd connection to Thorn Hill.
I liked both of the main characters--and of course, that key to good romantic suspense, their inability to get past their own obstacles in the relationship (the fact that Jonah could kill Emma if they ever kissed is naturally part of their chemistry). But I loved the way music threads through the story and I'm really curious to see where Chima goes with the driving mystery of Thorn Hill. I could have done without the cliff-hanger ending (dang it!), and there was a surprising amount of death in the novel (though it was fun to see certain villains from previous stories finally get what they deserved).