The Shimmering Flame
by Jeanne Barrack, fantasy (2008)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-417-9


The Shimmering Flame is Jeanne Barrack's contribution to the Terran Realm line. See the cover? There are two guys and a woman there. You think you know what this means, don't you? It isn't, though. This isn't your typical ménage à trois story.

First, we have Ethan Clark. He's an archeologist who is in Carrigclarseach, Ireland, to lead the dig that eventually unearthed twelve mummified corpses in a cove. He's also a "Terran Singer" and "Air Keeper". That means he's a Terran, one of the folks who have powers to do their Captain Planet gig, and he uses magic related to the domain of air. But then again, he uses his magic harp to do his worst, so to me that seems like his powers aren't air-based as much as they are sound-based. Oh well, we're in Ireland, where every other supernatural creature is prone to unearthly shrieks, so he may as well join the bandwagon.

Then we have the married couple of Gabe and Brigid Kawsantower. On the surface, they seem like a typical American couple staying at Thorn Cottage, but he's also a Protector. This means he's the bodyguard that does all the grunt work while the Keepers stand back and do their magic. Actually, Gabe is the lawyer of KOTE - no, not a brand of tampon, in case of you're wondering, but an acronym for Keepers of the Environment. I know, KOTE sounds way cooler when one doesn't know what the letters stand for. And then there is Brigid. She doesn't know that she has special powers and some family codicil of her grandmother insists that Brigid is kept ignorant of her powers until she's 27. It's time so Gabe brings her back to Ireland under false pretenses so that the poor wife will be shocked into realizing that she's one step away from being an X-Man. Gabe knows that his wife is a Keeper in more ways than one. Okay, that's a bad one, I apologize. Where Ethan plays with air, she plays with water and fire.

The discovery of the mummified corpses will trigger a chain of events that result in the piling up of dead bodies left and right and Brigid being captured by two men who may or may not have accidentally traveled through time while on a quest to kill Brigid's parents. Poor Brigid is going to get a crash course on her family history and her super powers no matter what she has to say about things. As Gabe tries to locate her, she meets up with Ethan when she discovers who she really is and makes her grand escape from her captors.

The threesome thing is pretty interesting in that the three people never really get down to business here. There are some dream threesome sequences, but while Brigid wants the cake and eat it too where both men are concerned, Gabe isn't ready yet to share his wife with another man. There are some loose ends by the time the story ends in a "Will they or won't they?" manner which I find add a more realistic element to the build-up of the relationship between these three people. The "magic/past/destiny" thing driving the relationship is pretty clichéd but the build-up of the relationship between these three is easily the most realistic aspect of the story.

I'm just not sure about the plot. It's a mix of pretty cartoonish villains, skanky sex scenes and violence from these villains, and some spotty pacing. There are some sex scenes taking place between Brigid and Gabe in places that seem rather obvious in an "Inserted gratuitously just to titillate you!" manner as well. I don't mind reading the story, but the plot isn't the most sophisticated one I've come across.

The prose could be better as well. The dialogs in the story can feel stilted and unnatural at times, while there can also be an occasional archaic-sounding purple phrase popping up here and there to jar me from the reading. Oh, and while I can't claim to be an English language guru, I really don't think we should allow paragraphs like the following to get past the editing process.

Her grandmother had never spoken much about the town; there was an odd reluctance to even mention its name. When she was little she'd badgered her for tales of the old country, but she’d purse her lips and shoo her away. Then she died, leaving her alone until Gabe came into her life.

I like how Ms Barrack tries to handle the relationship between the three main characters in a credible manner without resorting to ménage à trois clichés, but on the whole, The Shimmering Flame feels too much like some uncut gem of indeterminate quality. It could have been good, I suppose, but somehow it finds its way to me when it could use a few more rounds of polishing up first.

Rating: 72


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