Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Reviews

Book Review: Flesh and Spirit

By Sandy Amazeen May 14, 2007, 6:35 GMT

Born a pureblood, twenty-seven year old Valen lived in hiding for more then twelve years. In the land of Navronne, purebloods were closely regulated as they had the inborn gift of sorcery. From age seven, Valen knew such a life was not what he wanted for himself, especially as his mother divined that he was to meet his doom facedown in water, blood and ice. When abandoned severely wounded at the gates of a monastery with little but the clothes on his back it appeared the prophesy was right but as luck would have it, the monks of Gillarine Abbey took him in with an offer of sanctuary when they discovered he possessed an extremely rare book. Created by his grandfather, Maps of the Known World contained powerful magic that Valen must learn how to use when his family discovers his whereabouts.

With the death of the king, several contenders for the throne began an ongoing bloody battle for power that decimated the population as it poisoned the landscape. Valen is unsure who can be trusted at Gillarine, a point driven home when he learns of the gruesome death of an initiate and feels the unmistakable taint of a powerful, unwholesome magic in the heart of the abbey. When war comes to Gillarineís gates, Valen is forced to deal with his heritage while he attempts to unravel what is going on beneath the quiet surface of abbey life and protect a young man whom he suspects will be the next target of evil.

Berg has created an engrossing and complex tale of good and evil with the additional elements of strictly enforced class society in this rather dark fantasy where heroes are in short supply and everyone appears to have a secret agenda. Woven throughout the larger story is Valenís struggle with something called doulon sickness which hits him at inconvenient times and can best be likened to a drug addiction. The pacing is a bit jerky but the tension is even, the characters are finely developed and the settings are such that one can feel the mud sucking at their boots as the cold wind bites through layers of inadequate clothing.

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