Melke is a wraith, which means she has the ability to walk unseen. After being forced to steal a necklace, she is hunted down by the victim of the crime, Bastian sal Vere. He explains that the necklace was strung with tears, and that without it, Bastian cannot break the curse that is destroying his family. He orders Melke to regain the necklace, in exchange for her brother to be healed. But she had given the necklace to the salamanders, the fire breathing creatures that live underground. She must risk her own life. Meanwhile, Bastian becomes involved in solving a brutal murder of a young pregnant girl in the town of Theirry.
This wasn't at all the book that I was expecting it to be. That isn't to say it isn't good; it is. However, I picked it up after having my heart broken by The Girl at the Lion D'Or, expecting some light relief and, I'll admit, a little fantasy frivolity.
The plot was fairly simple but it worked. There weren't any huge surprises so, for me, this was all about the characters and how they interact.
I loved all of the different species in this novel - there was something almost mythical about it and it was fairly unique in that regard. One of the predominant themes of the book, in fact, was inter-species harmony and how the different creatures interact; in particular, the wraiths are spurned by society because they have the ability to become invisible. In typical fashion, the people of Theirry are frightened of the unknown and assume that wraiths will only use their abilities to steal, assassinate and generally do bad things. The ironic part of it all was that Melke was desperate to prove to the Sal Vere family that she was worth more that she's more than a 'thieving wraith', all while trying to make up for having stolen from them...Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will...
The concept of family is a particularly strong one in this book which was good and well used to incorporate some moral questions along the 'what would you do to save a family member?' lines. Romantic love is less well used and almost seems a bit contrived towards the end (perhaps I'm becoming unromantic in old age...). Bravery and what it means to have courage and pride were major features too so thematically, this book is very strong.
While I always love the study of characters and the societies in which they live, it was a shame that more wasn't made of the fantasy aspects of this book. The mentions of the fantastical creatures were there but partially glossed over and really only used as an object of fear (inflicting some fairly horrific 'punishments' along the way...).
As a minor health warning, there are absolutely some "adult themes" in this book and I certainly wouldn't be giving it to even a young teen...I'm 24 and found some of it a tad disturbing! (Ok, so I'm a wimp when it comes to horror but I'm not squeamish as a rule...)
Overall: I find myself unsure of this book - I think I would recommend it to fans of the genre because it is unique. I definitely wouldn't recommend it to someone new to fantasy fiction because it uses some of the more usual elements in some unusual ways that might be off-putting.