Armed and Magical is book 2 of the Raine Benares series. I'm glad I picked up the series now because book 3 The Trouble with Demons is coming soon in April.
Armed and Magical picks up soon after Magic Lost, Trouble Found left off so skip this review if you don't want to be mildly spoiled about book 1. I reviewed book 1 over here (I enjoyed it).
Raine is in the Isle of Mid with her landlady's grandson Piaras (who she thinks of as a little brother). Mid is the location where magic users flock to because of the prestigious sorcery school there, and it's also where the Conclave, the magic governing body is. Piaras is there to audition with the best spellsinging teacher available, and Raine is there for help regarding the magical stone, The Saghred. The evil thing seems to be bonded to her now but Raine just wants to sever the connection. Meanwhile baddies from all sides (goblins, elves, mages, what have you), are eager to get to Raine and Piaras, both for the same reason – the power they would wield as magical weapon. On top of that, young college students are disappearing one by one and Raine feels compelled to use her abilities to help find them.
Overall: Almost as enjoyable as the first book – plenty of action and Raine's usual humor to keep the book going nicely. As in book 1, the voice is light and more urban fantasy than straight fantasy, and a lot of surprisingly modern words are used in this world. That's refreshing for some, maybe not so for others.
I did have a couple of nits however. One was on page 108 (yes, I did write it down!). There was a paragraph describing Raine's relationship with Tam that I swear was word for word exactly the same as the first book. I wouldn't have noticed if I didn't read these books almost back to back, but it really threw me out of the story. After that I started noticing vaguely familiar sentences, though nothing like the same word for word paragraph. It was weird. Another thing is that I still didn't quite understand in the end why the songspell students where kidnapped by who originally kidnapped them. I either missed something, or Raine did and it will be revealed in book 3. Who set that up and why? Just money? I am not sure. Raine seemed to not think much about it, but it felt like a glaring omission to me. In the end I had the feeling like the book wasn't complete. I hope the third book resolves some of the mystery.
Piaras continues to be a likable character, as is Raine's cousin Phaelan. Plus there are a few interesting new ones (archmagus Justinius, pirate Tanik Ozal, spellsinger Talon Tandu). There was a funny bit with one of Raine's new abilities that I can't go into but I enjoyed reading the whole scenario and other character's reactions. The love triangle – still there. Though Mychael seems to be spending more time with Raine than Tam, there are scenes with each that hint it could go either way. I have my suspicion on who she will end up with (if she does at all? Maybe she won't!). Tam's dark past brings a twist into this book, and Mychael's job may potentially become a bigger conflict. We shall see.
Looking forward to book 3. Raine is amassing an awful lot of enemies in this one – book 3 will likely be teeming with people wanting her blood! There's also the promise of meeting more of her famous Benares family to look forward to. Mychael will have his hands full.