- Series: Gemstone (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 464 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (June 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312858795
- ISBN-13: 978-0312858797
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,729,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Rumor of Gems (Gemstone) Hardcover – May 19, 2005
The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
The first adult novel by children's author Steiber is a somewhat prolix fantasy in a recognizably contemporary world, featuring an intriguing setting—the enchanted yet tawdry port city of Arcato, in which gods pose as mortals for unfathomable reasons and shape-shifters veer between human and animal forms. Different eras coexist, and residents reach hidden towns through underground passages. The one constant is the jewelry, exquisite gems that possess subtly sentient powers. Most notable is a piece of jade fashioned into a miniature dragon with a mind of its own. Alas, the human characters aren't nearly as interesting. Lucinda de Francesco, whose quest for true love drives the murky plot, tries the reader's patience with her vapid ruminations on life. Still, blurbs from such eminent fantasy writers as R.L. Stine, Jacqueline Carey and Gregory Frost should ensure a strong start for this ambitious tale of magic and romance.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A prolific writer of young adult and children's fantasy successfully essays adult fantasy in a character-centered story of daily life and occasional crisis in Arcato, a city ruled by the magic residing in gems that are not mere, passive instruments but volitional entities. Eleven-year-old Michael Fortunato may have blood on his hands as a result of the gems' influence. Lucinda de Francesco wants nothing to do with magic, gems, or gods, but can she avoid them? Alasdair the shaman, on the other hand, actively seeks out the gems to draw on their powers, sometimes with more zeal than caution. Antique dealer Sebastian Keane is actively seeking Lucinda and is willing to take all the help he can get from wherever he can get it. The results of these characters' interactions are complex, probably overly long, but told in superior prose. Steiber quite possibly inaugurates a series but, in any event, adds respectably to the fantasy shelves. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Meanwhile, there's Alasdair, who has such an affinity for gemstones that they follow him around and are always falling out of his pockets, etc. He's there because something evil is loose in the world and he's trying to stop it. It's already affected the young boy Michael, and Alasdair is trying to rescue him.
Oh, yes. In addition to gemstone magic, gods, and shapeshifters, there's also a bit of time travel.
I'd complain about stuffing so many disparate fantasy elements into one story, but I've seen it done elsewhere to good effect, and I was intrigued by the various concepts, though I'd really have liked there to be some sort of connection between them. The gemstones had nothing to do with the gods, which had nothing to do with shapeshifters, which had nothing to do with time travel. It was almost like a few separate stories mashed together.
Unfortunately, and this is a problem with a lot of fantasy novels, the worldbuilding took the form of long discourses, mostly in this case about the properties of various gemstones. I got the disconcerting feeling that I was in a gemstone infomercial, because every time I'd start getting involved in the story, it would stop and I'd get another lecture on another gemstone.
Even the time period seemed confused. I know from the book jacket that it's supposed to be a contemporary fantasy, but the feel of the story is more like a swords-and-sorcery kind of fantasy, except that characters do have a few modern conveniences like telephones. They don't seem to have cars, though. And when Lucinda goes into the past, there's almost no difference at all. Certainly, nobody notices anything unusual about her.
But even that I could have tolerated if I'd liked the characters. Lucinda is distinctly unlikeable. She's a bitchy, promiscuous man-hater. Promiscuity I can handle, but not when it's as mean-spirited as it was with Lucinda. I read plenty of erotica and sex-scene-filled romances. But Lucinda was just crude.
Worst of all, though, was that there was no change. She learns some things, but nothing that changes her. She warms up to one or two individuals, but that's not even close to being the same thing as learning not to be so nasty in general.
And what really, really made me throw the book against the wall, especially because I kept reading until the end hoping it wasn't true, is the book's message of intolerance, bitterness, and never forgiving anyone.
People and place occupy centre stage, but plot is not given short shrift: the separate but linked stories of Lucinda and Alasdair are part of a larger story that moves steadily along in the background, though we see it primarily through its effects on the characters. And the ending is quite satisfactory, if a trifle bittersweet.
This is probably not a book for the action-oriented reader, perhaps not even for the plot-oriented reader, but it has much to offer the reader with a taste for the rich and strange.
I'm very chary of awarding a rating of 5, but I'll happily give this one 4.5. (But the jade dragon gets five stars!)