As a long-time fan of Elizabeth Lowell, I’ve been looking forward to her latest novel Moving Target, which merges her medieval Disputed Lands trilogy with her more recent contemporary suspense work. Somehow she manages to include guest appearances by three Donovans and tie in her Blackthorn family of characters from her contemporary Western novels. If this seems like a lot, it is. It may in fact be too much. This book is full of extremely interesting storylines, but none of them get quite they attention they need and deserve.
That said, this a fun and enjoyable, and often intense novel of suspense, mystery, mysticism and romance. Set in the present day, it centers around modern weaver Serena Charters and Erik North, expert on illuminated Insular Celtic manuscripts for Rarities Ltd., a company that buys, sells, appraises and protects art and antiques. They meet after Serena’s grandmother is murdered, and Serena inherits leaflets from a legendary tome known as the Book of the Learned, penned in the 12th century by a man named Erik the Learned, which endlessly describes, denounces, and mourns the author’s relationship with a sorceress, Serena of the Silverfells Clan. The names are not coincidence; the modern day Erik and Serena feel as if they already know each other from the moment they lay eyes on each other, and soon each begins experiencing bits of flashback memories from their long-ago namesakes. Meanwhile, they each have to figure out whom to trust – including each other.
Ms. Lowell has a talent for creating wonderful, memorable characters, and this book is no exception. From the art-and-firepower team of Erik’s bosses Dana and Niall to the terminally geeky – and brilliant – team member known mainly as Factoid, this books teems with characters so real you can see, hear, and probably even smell them. Moving Target is the beginning of a new series centered around this cast, I find that I literally can’t wait for the next installment.
However, as I mentioned above, this book has its problems. The suspense aspect lacks some of the tightness readers have come to expect in Ms Lowell’s contemporary novels, and the love story lacks some of the punch. Even the sexual undertones aren’t quite what they usually are, although the experienced Lowell reader will realize that this means the characters feel only mortal attraction and ecstasy rather than the superhumanly perfect burning desire and divine bliss of her usual, extremely lucky couples. These difficulties, however, don’t spring from any lack of interesting source material; rather, they arise from the author’s attempt to cover a multitude of desperately intriguing and enthralling plotlines, and in the end doing true justice to none of them.
Given that, only an author of Ms. Lowell’s talent could “miss” and still put out a book this good. The many storylines are mesmerizing, and the true fault of this book is that there’s simply not enough of it to go around. This is must-read for any fan of Lowell’s Disputed Lands trilogy (who will no doubt recognize Erik and Serena from Enchanted), and a treat for other readers as well. The downside is that it’s a treat guaranteed to leave you hungry for more.