Amra Thetys, thief extraordinaire, is fresh off a series of near-lethal adventures, and currently settling into a well-deserved vacation. Her wizard best pal, Holgren, has a better idea for how she should spend her free time. A duke has put up a considerable reward in exchange for the location of the lost city of Thagoth.
The money would be great, but Holgren has another reason to located the legendary city. He has a serious problem with the afterlife. Decades before, Holgren made a not-so-metaphorical deal with the devil, and now faces an eternity of misery should he leave this mortal coil. In Thagoth lies a potential source of immortality and Holgren's means of saving his soul from eternal torment.
Amra reluctantly agrees. As it turns out, finding Thagoth isn't terribly difficult. Getting there and staying alive once there, is another matter. Things go very wrong, very soon, and Amra is left wandering the lost city, alone and starving, for months. Eventually, she escapes the city, but not before acquiring a magical necklace that entangles her and Holgren in an age-old conflict between gods and mages of legendary powers.
While I really enjoyed this novel's predecessor, Amra and Holgren's latest outing lacked...something. The early part of the story, as the duo prepare for the journey, had the sparkle of the previous novel, but once they arrived at Thagoth, and Amra "loses" Holgren, the narrative lost momentum. Amra's reaction to what is a monumental event felt cold, distant, and I didn't find her struggle to survive very compelling. Honestly? I was bored.
Her solitary interlude doesn't last long, and things get moving again soon, following an "out of the frying pan, into the fire" structure, but the story never reacquires the dynamics that I liked in the first novel.
One problem is that the plot was too linear for me, too much like a D&D session. Roll the dice, there's a lich. Roll again, and the lich is chatty. Chatty lich asks a question. But you answer wrong. Lich attacks. You defeat lich with level 42, fire-enhanced katana. But, wait, the battle awakens an angry gargoyle.
Something is always happening, but if feels rather random. It's just an endless quest.
Amra and Holgren's motivation evolves from merely staying alive to "save the world from ultimate Evil," but the events seem far removed from the rest of the world, and the stakes don't feel particularly high. Early conundrums, like Holgren's damned soul, are too conveniently fixed and forgotten.
I like these two characters, but their quest, grim and joyless, sucked away all the crackling energy between the two. Two point five stars, but rounding up because I think the series has potential.