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The Laurentine Spy by Emily Gee

Thanks go to Ana of The Book Smugglers for recommending this lovely little book. It was her review that first brought it to my attention a couple months back and sparked my interest. I picked it up at the bookstore shortly after, brought it home, and then promptly set it on the nightstand stack to marinate for awhile. I looked at it speculatively from time to time but other books kept nosing in and getting in the way. Then when I suddenly needed something incredibly engrossing about characters who elicited my sympathy to pull me out of my post-The Actor and the Housewife funk, there it was. On top of the stack with its pretty cover and its hinting at a sort of irresistable blend of fantasy, intrigue, romance oh my!

Deep in the bowels of the Corhonase citadel, among catecombs and crypts and crumbling columns, three cloaked and hooded personages meet in secret. They utter their passwords to the mysterious Guardian and enter:
Her shoulders brushed rock on either side as she slipped through the narrow opening. The block of stone swung quietly back into place, shutting her in stale darkness.
She was no longer alone. She saw nothing, heard nothing--but she knew.
Saliel drew her knife. She gripped it tightly. "I saw three rings around the moon tonight."
"I saw none."
Saliel relaxed at the familiar voice. She sheathed her knife.
"You're late."
"Yes." She'd left the ball as early as she dared, but it had taken the maid long minutes to unlace the gown, to unpin her hair and replait it in a single long braid, to bring hot water to wash her face and warm honeyed milk to drink. "I apologize."
Known to each other only as One, Two, and Three, by day these three spies masquerade as nobles and servant in an enemy court, while by night they plot to steal top-secret code books on behalf of their homeland of Laurent. Different spies rotate through Corhona and there have always been a One and a Two. A noble and a servant. But now, for the first time, there is a Three. A woman. Saliel is Three and it is her job to stay close to the women of court, to the Prince's Consort, and feed her fellow spies and their Guardian any information she can glean about military movements, plots, and maneuvers. It is Saliel's dream to earn enough money to quit espionage and settle down in a solitary cottage by the sea and never have nightmares of her dark past or her danger-fraught present. Though they have no idea just who the other masquerades as during the day, One and Three develop a tenuous bond forged of mutual respect, curiosity, and a desire to protect the other from harm. But when the prince brings in a professional Spycatcher, that bond is stretched to the breaking point as Athan and Saliel are unwittingly pitted against one another, forced to tiptoe through their days, terrified of being caught, and uncertain as to whether or not they will ever escape Corhona alive.

I devoured The Laurentine Spy. It was precisely what I needed--a really emotionally involving, heart-thumpingly exciting yarn. Within three pages, Emily Gee had me completely committed to these two characters and their secret-shrouded mission. The entire premise is a recipe for success: two spies who have never seen each other's faces, who interact with each other daily without knowing it, and who spend whatever available mental energy they have worrying about the other. Worrying and wondering. The suspense is palpable throughout the novel and I found myself glued to the page, aching to find out what turn they would take next, which corridor they would follow, and who would be lying in wait around the corner. And, of course, I was on pins and needles waiting to see if they would ever meet in person, face to face, and utter aloud the thoughts they've had circling in their heads for months on end. My heart was in my throat for the majority of the story and I rooted very hard for Saliel and Athan as they played out their assigned roles, despite living in a near constant state of numb terror, despite having no one to whisper their fears to, and despite the knot of secrets threatening their lives. A cracking good read recommended for fans of Sharon Shinn, Susan Dexter, and Moira J. Moore. I will definitely be picking up Emily Gee's first novel--Thief With No Shadow.

Comments

  1. Great review! I'm running to Shelfari to add this to my list.

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  2. well, you sold me on this...just placed on order for it at the library

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  3. Glad you liked it! I'm intruiged by your list of authors who are similar. I don't know of this Susan Dexter? Any recs on what book of hers I should start with?

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  4. Yay! So glad you liked it!!

    and i second Janicu's request.

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  5. Juju, thanks! It's a very intense and exciting read and I think you would enjoy it.

    Rachel, *grins* awesome. Can't wait to hear what you think.

    Janice, why yes I do have recs for Susan Dexter. She's sadly out of print for the most part, although they're very inexpensive used. My favorites are her Warhorse of Esdragon trilogy. Reading order: THE PRINCE OF ILL-LUCK, THE WIND-WITCH, and THE TRUE KNIGHT. They are lovely high fantasy featuring strong female characters, adventure, subtle romance, and one unusually talented warhorse.

    Ana, I really did. Thanks so much for the rec. I think I'll review one of Dexter's books for an upcoming Retro Friday post. Then you'll get a better feel for what they're like.

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  6. Ohh sounds like fun. This will go on the TBR stack for sure.

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  7. Oh dear, I just checked and my library doesn't have this one!! You're review was so inticing, I'll just have to order it from Amazon! Sounds like a great premise for a story, can't wait to read it!

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  8. Great review!! I have forgotten about this book...I wanted to read it awhile ago:) It sounds so good!

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  9. Hee - I'm going to adopt the phrase 'let the book marinate on my nightstand for awhile'.

    This sounds VERY different from Ms. Gee's first book, which has a gorgeous cover and which I read some time ago. There were parts of that book I flat-out loved, and parts I...didn't. Because of that, I felt ambivalent about this second book, but perhaps I should just jump in and see what happens.

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  10. Hmm... maybe I'll give Emily Gee another try. I really didn't enjoy her novel Thief With No Shadow, but maybe I just wasn't in the right mood?

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  11. Michelle, it was fun. Very fun indeed.

    Kathy, yeah I think she hit on something great with the premise. Hope you enjoy as much as I did!

    Mandi, thanks! I'm glad I finally saved it from my toppling TBR stack.

    M., LOL. Seems like I'm always trying to give each book the chance it deserves by letting it wait till just the right time. Now I'm interested to see what the earlier book is like. We should compare notes when we've each read the other one! :)

    xalwaysdreamx, hm. That's not good. Can you tell me what bothered you without ruining the book? I think it really does depend on my mood sometimes. I know I was in the mood for just this sort of thing this time. We'll see about the 2nd one...

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  12. Oh, just ignore me and read it! (But, I did blog about what I didn't like about the novel on my own blog, except there are tons of spoilers!) =P

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  13. xalwaysdreamx, lol. I will not ignore you! I went and read your review (and the one you linked to) and I think I'll go ahead and read it but I'm much happier having read both opinions first. So thanks!

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