Son of Avonar: Book One of the Bridge of D'Arnath
(Roc, US$6.99/Canada$9.99, paperback, 471 pages. ISBN: 0-451-45962-8.)
Seri has already lost everything in her life that she cared about.
Then she stumbles across something new: an opportunity to inconvenience
takes in an arrogant, incoherent stranger for no more reason than that.
Aeren proves a puzzle beyond her solving, though, as he remembers nothing
of his past. Others come hunting him, his allies and enemies alike.
Together, Seri and Aeren seek out an old friend of Seri's only to find
him murdered. As they begin to connect the clues, they learn that the
answers lie somewhere across the mysterious Bridge of D'Arnath...
This is an interesting bunch of characters; you wind up liking some
of the unlikable ones for no reason you can put your finger on, and
the most likable one turns out to be a traitor. Seri has the kind of
bitter strength unique to someone with nothing left to lose. Aeren's
edgy belligerence is backlit by glimmers of a far gentler nature. They
and their friends get into some rather astonishing ethical and political
debates, too, mostly over whether sorcery is evil and whether killing
sorcerers is good.
Worth mentioning is the structure. It works tolerably well, but I'm
not a fan of hop-and-skip novels in which half the crucial action takes
place in flashbacks. I think it would have read better if told from
beginning to middle to end, like a normal story.
This novel is not for the faint of heart. Carol Berg does fantasy
like Le Noir does chocolate: dark and strong, with an unexpected
sweet aftertaste. It goes somewhere very special, but along the way
you'll see self-mutilation, characters burned alive, genocide, magically
induced insanity, infanticide, and the kind of court intrigue that makes
even American politics look civilized. If you're tired of cotton-candy
fantasy full of cute little unicorns and fairies, this is the book for
you. There is much in it of mystery and puzzles, with a sprinkle of
romance. Highly recommended.
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