Glenraven (Glenraven Series #1)by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Holly Lisle
Glenraven seems to be an Alpine principality somewhere in the neighborhood of northern Italy--according to the unique guidebook advertising Glenraven's charms, and obscure, almost non-traverse Alpine passages that constitute the only way in. But in reality it is a magic kingdom. And what the people of Glenraven want are a few heroes to free them from a ruler who is literally a monster in human guise. What the people get is JayJay and Sophie. They could have done worse.
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...What they got were Sophie, a woman who stopped living when her daughter died, and Jayjay, a woman who just left her third husband. The Machnan had poured all of their magic into creating an artifact that would call to someone who would be able to free them from Aidris Akalan, the evil Watchmistress who ate the magic of other people to stay eternally youthful and immortal. The artifact took the unlikely guise of a guidebook in a bookstore. When Jayjay picked it up, she thought it would be the perfect place to get away/hide until she could face the fact that she would be getting divorced for the third time by the time she was thirty-five years old. Sophie unexpectedly found herself wanting to go along too. But when they arrive at Glenraven, nothing is at it seems. Can they trust their tour guide or is he setting a trap so he can rob them? In trying to evade their "pursuers" they walk right into their enemies and stumble across a hidden revolution among the Alfkindir, the long-lived race that Aidris Akalan comes from. Matthiall is the leader of the revolution, but he is betrayed by one of the warrags, a wolf/dog hybrid that is unlike anything Jayjay and Sophie have seen before. As they flee Aidris' palace with Matthiall, they run into the other monsters, including the Watchers, the demons that Aidris Akalan has called forth out of the Rift to keep her immortal. When the ancient race of the Aregen get involved, things become even more complicated... This is not really deep fantasy, but it is a very good light fantasy. The characters are well-drawn and the reader can empathize with them as they struggle to accomplish something that they didn't even know that they were supposed to accomplish. None of the creatures/people in the book are what they seem and this makes for some interesting plot twists as unexpected events are always happening. The idea of a Glenraven was quite fun as it is portrayed as another small European country that has gone overlooked for hundreds of years. Everything is still in a medieval setting and they are very insulated. This is just a fun, quick read that has a nice, happy ending. A great break from some of the heavier fantasy that is out there right now.