Guardians of the Keep: Book Two of the Bridge
(Roc, US$7.99/Canada$10.99, paperback, 544 pages, 2004. ISBN: 0-451-46000-6.)
If you haven't yet read the first book in this series, stop here and
go back to that one. Guardians of the Keep makes no sense whatsoever
if you haven't read Son of
Avonar first. The geography, timeline, and especially character
relationships are too complex to be nutshelled.
Seri is trying to pick up the scattered pieces of her life, after
her husband comes back from the dead -- more or less -- and travels
to another world to seek healing for his ravaged mind. So Seri returns
to her family home, Comigor, to deliver news of her brother's death.
(Don't miss "The History and Legends of Comigor Castle" at the beginning
of the novel; it's a delightful if spooky short-short in its own right.)
It proves difficult for Seri to connect with her sister-in-law and nephew,
who still consider her a witch. A brief meeting with her beloved Karon/Aeren/D'Natheil
is more frustrating than satisfying. And when her nephew Gerick is kidnapped,
Seri must upset the balance of worlds to pursue and rescue him.
As in Son of Avonar, it's the characterization that really
drives this story. The characters all do what they do because they are
who they are, and consequences be damned. They each have their own gifts
and flaws and loyalties. The charm lies in watching Seri struggle to
overcome her bitterness, Karon/Aeren/D'Natheil work on piecing together
his shattered identity, Gerick fumble his way toward adulthood.
Yet all of these individual quests twine together around the unifying
thread which is the still-enigmatic Bridge of D'Arnath, dividing --
or perhaps uniting -- two worlds. The action here is more straightforward
in time than was Son of Avonar, a definite improvement in my
mind; instead the skips are mainly from one person's perspective to
another. Carol Berg shows marked improvement in storytelling skill from
her previous books to Son of Avonar, and from that first book
in the series to Guardians of the Keep.
If you love dark, compelling fantasy full of adventure and intrigue,
this is it. You also won't find a better reminder that your own life
could suck a lot worse than it does. Guardians of the Keep will
keep you turning pages all the way to the end. Just ... don't read it
right before you go to bed.
Elsewhere in infinity plus: