Sunday, December 27, 2009

Seattle Times Review of Jayne Anne Krentz - Fired Up

"Fired Up:" Krentz' tale of an ancient curse, a powerful lamp and a psychic P.I.

Seattle author Jayne Ann Krentz, whose novels regularly ascend The New York Times' best-seller list, has been expanding her fictional universe over the past several years with books featuring a rich cast of psychic protagonists. Originally conceived as a romantic-suspense historical series, Krentz's "Arcane Society" novels have gradually moved into later centuries, where her characters deal with the legacy of old formulas and artifacts that have unleashed both good and evil into the world.

Now, in the series' latest development, Krentz has expanded the "Arcane Society" novels to span three eras, writing the three novels of the "Dreamlight Trilogy" under not only her own name (which she uses for contemporary settings), but also her two pseudonyms: Amanda Quick (historicals) and Jayne Castle (futuristic novels).

Don't be put off by the complicated-sounding plot premises in Krentz's fictional world of psychics and "sensitives." Though there is a bit of a learning curve to encounter when you first step into an "Arcane Society" book, this series (like all good romantic fiction) focuses on strong relationships, fiery attraction and deep loyalty. The icing on the cake is the firing of the reader's imagination: What if you could, for example, touch someone's handprint and realize that he had recently committed a murder?

The newest Krentz, "Fired Up: An Arcane Society Novel, Book One of the Dreamlight Trilogy" (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 368 pp., $25.95), is a Seattle-based contemporary story that's the first of the three "Dreamlight" books. Like certain epic poets, Krentz begins her saga in medias res; the next book will be set in Victorian London, and the final book in the future. These books focus on a unique artifact: a 17th-century lamp that looks like nothing special but possesses considerable power.

First created in the 17th century by the renegade psychic researcher Nicholas Winters, the lamp holds the key to the destiny of the researcher's male descendants. A metal vessel about 18 inches high with dark crystals embedded around the rim, the lamp can only be accessed and activated by a woman who is able to control the lamp's energy and call forth its light.

Krentz's protagonist, Jack Winters, is afflicted with an inherited curse that can only be lifted with the aid of the lamp. He needs to find not only that missing lamp, but also the woman who can activate the lamp — the psychic Chloe Harper, a private investigator. Her psychic sensitivity to "dreamlight" (the psychic traces left behind by dreams) also allows her to read fingerprints and other traces of those who once touched any object.

Chloe's talents make it relatively easy for her and Jack to find the 17th-century lamp Jack is seeking (it's in Las Vegas, of all places), and also for her to authenticate it. They aren't the only ones eager to acquire the lamp, however, and Krentz ramps up the suspense as they face several nasty antagonists. Only together can Chloe and Jack tap the full, terrifying power of the lamp and of their own senses — and, not surprisingly, the power of their increasing attraction for each other, which Krentz makes clear in some incendiary sexual encounters.

Lots of evocative Seattle descriptions and settings make "Fired Up" particularly fun for Northwest readers, who may start looking up and down our rainy streets in search of a little psychic energy.

By Melinda Bargreen

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