Ellen Steiber,
A Rumor of Gems
(Tor, 2005)

In the city of Arcato, where magic flows and gods walk freely, anything is likely to happen. This is where Lucinda de Francesco was born -- but in a city overpopulated by gods, she was born favored by none. This is where young Michael Fortunato was beset by ghosts and darker powers and found a knife in his hand. This is where Sebastian Keane sells antiques that he acquired by not necessarily legal means. And this is where Alasdair, a worker with gems, has been staying, shedding gemstones in his wake like falling leaves.

Lucinda, who refuses to stay with any one man for more than a night or two, finds herself inexplicably drawn to Sebastian. She also finds that she detests mysterious, almost rude Alasdair; though she tries to avoid him, their paths continue to cross. Alasdair, meanwhile, has appointed himself as a sort of guardian for haunted young Michael, whether Michael wants his help or not.

When strange things begin to happen in a city known for strangeness, it is up to Lucinda to make a journey over the mountains to bring back help, while Alasdair makes his own journey back to the home that he had abandoned years before.

Although she has written numerous short stories and young adult books, A Rumor of Gems is Steiber's first fantasy novel for adults. And it's a winner. The characters are believable, especially unhappy Lucinda, the setting is very vivid -- the city of Arcato is almost a character itself -- and the story is fascinatingly original. Steiber's use of gem lore to further the story is inspired and obviously painstakingly researched.

A Rumor of Gems is a gorgeous book and I can't wait for the sequel, which according to Steiber's website is currently in progress.

by Laurie Thayer
7 January 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.