Dunleavy Mallorough (Lee to her friends) is a Shield, trained from a young age to work with her chosen Source, protecting their planet from wild weather and earthquakes. The pairing of Source and Shield is unbreakable (if one dies, they both die), and not under anyone's control. Not surprisingly (for this, after all, is a standard fictional trope) Lee is paired with a Shield she despises: Lord Shintaro Karish, arrogant, handsome, notorious. They are sent off to protect High Scape, the second most important city in the realm, and in need of constant protection. Once they get there, they discover strange forces at work, and when Taro is abducted, Lee must work on her own to find the cause.
The cover makes this look like light comic fantasy: it's not. It's just a straightforward tale of two people forced to work together who come to recognise each others' good qualities. (It might not even be fantasy: the background is of an abandoned colony, where Shield and Source powers have evolved to combat natural disasters. But it's written as fantasy.)
Anyhow, Lee is an interesting character: over-judgemental, reserved (except when the music plays), and a bit dense at times plot-wise (maybe that's because she doesn't realise that she is surrounded by so many standard fictional tropes). But there is enough originality in the set-up to make it pleasant enough mind candy.
Shield Lee and Source Taro are now reconciled to working with each other. But there are new problems: Taro's new powers are causing unwelcome interest, his mother wants him to reclaim his title, and some weird cult want to sacrifice him to their god.
Not as much action as the previous volume, with less actual Shielding, and more not very effective sleuthing. The exploration of the strange weather effects seems rather desultory. Also, this time, Lee's sensitivity to music is no longer needed to form part of the plot climax, and so is rather underused. However, it still rattles along at a decent pace, and the scene between the reserved Lee and her mother with their mutually incomprehensible attitudes is rather affecting.
Shield Lee and Source Taro are given a task by their Empress: go to the southern island of Flatwell, and search for her lost sister's relatives. They feel uniquely unsuited to the task, even more so when they get to Flatwell, and discover that not only is it baking hot, but no one there acknowledges the Empire's laws, including the law that Shields and Sources are to be given anything they need. They are forced to join a travelling circus and earn their keep as they hunt for the missing family in secret.
More fun as Lee and Taro struggle to cope in a totally alien environment. There's not so much use of their Shield and Source abilities, as these don't seem to be needed in Flatwell. But they make various voyages of self-discovery. The identity of the missing family member, once found, is no big surprise, but it's the fish-out-of-water tale that's central, not the detective work.
Shield Lee and Source Taro are back in High Scape after their adventures in Flatwell. But things have changed: their new relationship, a surprising lack of incidents in the previous active High Scape, and the locals' strange obsession with the ashes of the dead.
This feels rather bitty. The plot moves along, but Lee and Taro spend too much time squabbling for silly reasons rather than investigating the problems. Weird things happen, and they just ignore them for the most part. People react in seemingly inconsistent ways needed for the plot. Lee is as dense as ever. And when they do finally engage in some detection, nothing comes of it. This feels like a set-up book, as it manoeuvres the characters from the end of their previous adventure, to a massive cliffhanger ready for their next.