Stealing the Elf-King's Roses is a delectable treat from acclaimed science-fiction/fantasy author Diane Duane, one of my favorites in the business. Published in 2002 by Warner Books, Mrs. Duane relates to the reader a provocative tale of political intrigue and murder mystery set in a unique framework. Readers definitely get their $6.99 (US) with this new addition to the genre.
The setting is actually what drew me to this book in the first place. Mrs. Duane, using an interesting mix of both science fiction and fantasy, manages to successfully weave together traditional fantasy figures, such as Elves, and traditional sci-fi images, such as alternate universes and advanced technology. This mix, always difficult to achieve, provides for interesting reading. After all, who ever heard of a wolf who can telepathically communicate with his human partner and thereby be a co-council in their successful law firm? Add to this elves with inferiority complexes, magical roses, and the accompanying political intrigue, and you've got yourself a pretty interesting setting and background.
Diane Duane, using these unique characteristics as a springboard, doesn't disappoint. Her main character, Lee Ensfield, a successful forensic and telepathic freelance investigator and lawyer, leads the reader through several worlds in her investigation of a series of connected murders throughout the six universes. Hired by the LAPD to investigate the murder of an elf working for a multi-universal corporation (Mrs. Duane is nothing if not inventive), she quickly discovers that this seemingly random murder is not so random after all; it is connected to a greater web of conspiracy tied to the control of the valuable fairy gold. Fairy gold, which makes inter-universal travel possible, is the lifeblood of the inter-universal community and therefore its greatest weakness; whomever controls the fairy gold controls the universes.
Lee's investigations lead her and Gelert to the heart of Alheim, the world of the Elves and the source of fairy gold. Instead of finding answers, Lee only finds more puzzles, as it becomes obvious that certain factions of the Alven government would rather see her die than discover their schemes. Finally, after several harrowing encounters, Lee finally comes to the crux of the intrigue surrounding her. It involves a plan to unseat the Laurin, or fairy-king. However, the Laurin has his own plans, dark and dangerous plans which, in the end, could either spell the salvation of Alfheim, or its doom and with it, the other universes as well.
This book, with its familiar Diane Duane themes such as salvation and mortality is a worthwhile read. While not her best, I would reserve that for Doctor's Orders, it is still a notable addition to her repertoire. It combines a unique setting and situation to an interesting plot combined with the thought-provoking themes that I've come to expect from her.