Review: Revelation (Rai-Kirah, #2)

 Revelation by Carol Berg.

At the end of Transformation, I knew the story was far from done. Seyonne and Aleksander had defeated a demon and prevented a war, but still had to deal with the repercussions. Their victory had been, in part, a private one. The incidents leading up to Aleksander’s possession left a very real mark, and Seyonne had many more battles to fight. 

Seyonne has more than demons to battle, however. His every move is scrutinised by the Ezzarians, many of whom still consider him to be unclean, or unworthy. But as they have no other Warden to fight their battles, he is grudgingly accepted. Funny how that works, eh?

The thorn in Seyonne’s side is Fiona. With his wife pregnant, Fiona acts as his ‘Aife’ or guide in the demonic planes. She is also his assigned watch dog and she’s a pitbull. When his wife apparently ‘loses’ their child–the boy is born possessed and apparently left out to die–Seyonne begins to question everything he once believed in.

Revelation is aptly named. The war against the demons is not what it seems, and as Seyonne pieces together the truncated history of his people, he will discover the truth about his son, himself and the Ezzarians. Doing so will brand him a traitor to Ezzaria. Still, as discovered in Transformation, Seyonne does not shy from the impossible. He is willing to sacrifice himself, again.

And, again, Carol Berg stuns with her characterisation and prose. She writes Seyonne, Fiona, Aleksander and Blaise (the leader of a band of outlaws), with all the dogged determination evident in each. Under her talented pen, the world comes alive with fantastic description and the plot weaves inexorably forward, but folded so that the pattern is only hinted at until the proper time.

I did get weary four fifths of the way through. I understood why Seyonne’s sojourn in the demon plane had to be so long; there were a lot of plot points to discover and the changes wrought within Seyonne definitely required the passage of time. It was at about this point I cursed Carol Berg for being such a fantastic writer. Every word has to be read; just about every word is essential to the character and the story, so I couldn’t just skip the slow parts. The ending definitely delivers a reward to the tenacious reader, however.

Adversity brings out the best in Seyonne. Though I missed the relationship between Seyonne and Aleksander, the prince is replaced, in part, by the ever watchful Fiona. Watching their partnership grow and change was as painful as it was delightful. I look forward to seeing more of them and Aleksander (and Blaise?) in the final book of the trilogy, which is already on my shelf.

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Reading Challenge Review

Revelation is the first book from my 2014 TBR Pile Challenge.

Review: Transformation

Transformation, by Carol Berg
(Roc, August 2000. Paperback, 448 pages)

ImageI could not put this book down and I had tears in my eyes before I had turned the hundredth page—that’s how compelling the characters were, right from the outset.

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.