With All Spell Breaks Loose, Lisa Shearin brings the story of Elven Seeker Raine Benares to a satisfying conclusion. Sure, there could be more stories (the ending sets things up for it), but this marks the end of the six-book saga of the evil and intelligent stone called the Saghred. While this book didn't grab me as much as I would have liked, it wraps things up nicely in an exciting manner that keeps you riveted to the climax.
Goblin dark mages have stolen the Saghred. With the power of the stone, the dark mage will be able to take over the world and destroy the Elven race. One thing stands in his way: while Raine is alive, he can't access the stone's power. Solution? Make sure she's not alive. Raine and her friends may be making it easier for him as they undertake a covert mission to the Goblin homeland to destroy the Saghred once and for all. Or die trying.
Shearin manages to keep the tone of All Spell Breaks Loose fairly light, even with the apocalyptic possibilities that the plot presents. Part of that is because Raine is a bright and engaging narrator. The series is told in first person, and she brings all the sarcasm and "oh boy, not again" attitude toward the proceedings even as she's scared out of her wits. Having to invade the Goblin homeland when you have no power of your own (apparently the Saghred has cut her off from her abilities) would be enough to terrify the strongest mage.
Once again, Shearin’s characterization really makes the book sing. There's little of the romantic byplay that was so prominent in the previous books, mainly because Raine is pretty solidly with Mychael (the head of the Guardians at the magic school where most of the previous books have taken place), so there's no potential love triangle. However, that's made up for by the relationships with new Goblin characters, allies that they meet once they have reached the Goblin city.
We find out a lot more about Tam, a dark mage who walks the razor-thin line without allowing the darkness to take hold of him. We meet his family, rebels against the villain and his puppet ruler. We even see where he learned his magical talents: from his tutor Kesyn, who is a marvellous character. Old and just wanting to be left alone, Kesyn is drawn into the fight after seeing what's at stake. He's a curmudgeon and wonderful to read abour.
At times the plot drags, but those moments are few and far between and things usually pick up fairly quickly. A couple of times, I was in danger of losing interest and had to work to keep going, but then Raine would say something or there would be some interesting little twist and the book would pick up again. The last 100 pages are almost impossible to put down, though, as everything from the last five books culminates in an explosive conclusion.
All Spell Breaks Loose is a great finale to the series, and I can't wait to see what Shearin comes up with next. If that involves further adventures of Raine Benares, I won't complain.