Transformation, by Carol Berg
(Roc, August 2000. Paperback, 448 pages)
Simply, Transformation is the story of two men separated by about a decade, age-wise, and a much greater gap in experience. Seyonne is a slave and Zander is his lord. Seyonne has been a slave for sixteen years, his people captured by Zander’s. He is worn by time and experience, but is still himself—to a degree. Beneath his apparent resignation, he has a core of strength one can only admire. Seyonne is also intelligent and canny, which isn’t all unusual for a character in his role, but the reader gains the sense he was destined for greater things, even if he believes otherwise. The question is: will he go on to achieve a greater purpose, or remain a slave? Zander is Seyonne’s opposite in every way. Prince and only heir to the emperor, he is young, spoilt, arrogant and cruel. He is smart, however, almost frighteningly so, and even without the clues given in the blurb, the reader quickly realizes there is more to him than a title and future crown. Zander has enormous depth and substance.
Once introduced to Seyonne and Zander, this story could have taken me anywhere and I would have followed avidly. Both characters were so well drawn; more than caricatures of good and evil or ‘opposites’. When it became obvious their fates were entwined, I cheered for them both—for Zander to discover himself, for Seyonne to rediscover himself.
Less simply, Transformation is the story of a world at war with demons. Layered above and below the tale of Seyonne and Zander is one of political intrigue, ambition and the classic themes of good versus evil, might against right.
Transformation does not read like a first novel. Carol Berg’s writing is clear and the characters’ voices well formed. I did not once frown at a description or scene. There is a great deal of emotion packed into the story, explored through varied and complicated relationships. As mentioned earlier, I came to care for the central characters—even Zander—rather quickly and they, themselves, kept me turning the pages. The plotting works from end to end and the pacing just right. All in all, this book was as close to perfect as I have read in a long time. Another aspect that pleased me greatly was the fact the story felt complete at the end. Transformation is the first novel of a trilogy, but though I am interested in continuing to follow the story of Seyonne and Zander and their world, I am content with the end of the first chapter. I hope the other books feel as complete.
That being said, I have already ordered Revelation (Rai-Kirah, book two) and look forward to reading it.