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Son of Avonar: Book One of the Bridge of D'Arnath

by Carol Berg

(Roc, US$6.99/Canada$9.99, paperback, 471 pages. ISBN: 0-451-45962-8.)

Review by Elizabeth Barrette

Four stars.

Seri has already lost everything in her life that she cared about. Then she stumbles across something new: an opportunity to inconvenience her enemies. cover scanShe 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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