Rating: 5 out of 5
I’m continuing the Livi Talbot series by Skyla Dawn Cameron with book three: Emperor’s Tomb (Livi Talbot volume 3). (Note you should read Ashford’s Ghost, a novella, between books two and three.) Livi Talbot is an ex-beauty queen, disowned debutante, single mother, and badass treasure hunter. She’s still dealing with the death of her estranged father and the aftermath of being assaulted by a tabloid journalist, and is in a sort of semi-flirtatious “thing” with borderline sociopath Dale West. Said journalist has published scandalous images from Livi’s hedonistic teenage past, and Em’s just old enough that she’s getting bullied about it at school. It’s the perfect excuse for a group trip to Japan! Dale wants Livi to go with him to find an artifact, and he’s happy to arrange for Em and Pru to come along and do some sight-seeing. When he gets unexpectedly called back to work, his agent Thomas comes to Livi behind his back. Thomas is an ex-cat burglar and is part-Djinn. He’s being blackmailed into stealing an artifact in Australia, and he needs Livi’s help to do it. When the heist inevitably goes wrong, Livi finds out there’s a rival thief in town, and she gets blackmailed into helping to find the rumored elixir of immortality, which is supposed to be found on a legendary island off of the shores of China.
Dale wants Livi to start trusting him and to realize she can ask him for help when she needs it, but it’s awfully difficult for her. She has been screwed over on a number of occasions, and even Dale won’t deny that he’s a charismatic, manipulative quasi-sociopath who doesn’t seem like a smart person to trust. This is one of the few times I’ve seen this dynamic where it doesn’t come across as forced. She has good reason to not trust despite the quasi-relationship they seem to be developing. It’s absolutely understandable that it isn’t easy for her, and I love that he’s trying to give her the space to do things in her own time. (It’s been multiple books and a novella and they have yet to kiss, but I’m still rooting for them!)
Pru’s MS is handled really well. She has to balance wanting to do things (trip to Japan on someone else’s dime!) with needing to rest and not push herself too far. It’s an important and genuine part of her life, not a gimmick. We also get to know Thomas better, and Laurel and Dawson make appearances as well as Denny.
I love the fact that the urban fantasy part of things is not as overwhelming as in some books. It’s such that there are still people who are “Pulse deniers,” who refuse to believe in magic because they don’t typically see magical being used in public. There’s plenty of magic, but it’s still somewhat in hiding.
The characters do some tomb exploration in this one, leading to a whole lot of very tense adventure material! There are puzzles to solve, traps to disarm (or just set off), creatures to battle, and more. It’s clever and wild and so much fun to read.
We also get into Livi’s treasure-hunting ethics. There’s a reporter who wants to talk to her about the subject, and we find out that Martin, Livi’s do-gooder archaeologist brother, is against repatriation of artifacts–making him not quite so righteous as he seemed. It spurs Livi to start thinking about the ethics of what she does, and what she wants to do.
All in all this was a wonderful book, and I can’t wait for more!
“Head shots, people. This is what Call of Duty has been training us for.”