Sunday, January 16, 2022

Breath and Bone

Carol Berg
Completed 1/16/2022, Reviewed 1/16/2022
4 stars

This concluding volume of the Lighthouse Duet was much better than the first, Flesh and Spirit.  I think it’s because the first book was a lot of setup while this book was mostly action.  The plot moved along pretty rapidly, with the main character bouncing in and out of the fae realm.  I’m much more impressed with the author, particularly her imagination.  It wasn’t a traditional tale of faeries and the situations in which the characters found themselves was very different from many of the books I’ve read recently.  I now see why this duology won the 2009 Mythopoeic Award.  It’s creative, exciting, and very complex.  

Warning:  The plot summary has spoilers for the first volume.

The story picks up with Valen being sold into the service of the notorious Oriel, the Bastard Prince, potential heir to the throne.  Oriel is very much feared as a powerful sorcerer, delving into its evil side.  Valen discovers there’s more to Oriel than meets the eye and daresay, becomes his friend.  At about the same time, Valen discovers that he is part pureblood, part Danae, that is, faerie.  He enters the tutelage of this Danae uncle, Kol, to help him embrace and grow into that part of him.  There he learns of the mystery of why the world is on the brink of destruction and works in both realms to fight the evil that is trying to destroy everything.

Valen is still the narrator in this book.  He’s a terrific character, battling his addiction to the dangerous drug navet, while learning to be a decent person in both realms.  He’s intelligent and passionate.  He learns to put aside resentment and do the right things.  I really liked him in this book.  I also liked all the other characters.  That’s a big statement, but by the end of the book, I realized how much I empathized with almost all of them.  They really grew between the two books.  The exceptions were his abusive father and alcoholic mother.  The evil characters were also well developed.  They weren’t just one-dimensional baddies, they had depth to them.  I have to say that I’m really impressed with how Berg could juggle so many characters without making them flat.  

The world building continued to be terrific, particularly the land of the Danae and its relationship to the real world.  One plane overlays the other, but it’s not confusing.  The magic system is done really well.  I think it helped that Valen only had some magical ability and Oriel only used a bit of magic in the book, so it didn’t get too complicated.   

I give this book four stars out of five.  It was very close to being five stars, but I didn’t get as emotionally involved as I do other books of that rating.  Nonetheless, I was swept away by the grandeur of the story, reading most of the book in two days.  I definitely recommend this series.  It’s smart, funny, well-crafted, and well-written. 

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