fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDust and Light by Carol Berg fantasy book reviewsDust and Light by Carol Berg

Really, Carol Berg?

I bought Dust and Light, your latest fantasy novel, because you wrote it, and because I loved the COLLEGIA MAGICA series. I had no idea you were going to do this to me.

I knew I was going to love your rich prose. In the first few pages, though, with great economy, you provided us with the big picture; a dead king, princes warring for a nation, a group of pureblood families who wield magic and go to extreme lengths to protect their bloodlines; rumors of an ancient, possibly mythical race called the Danae; and our narrator Lucien, who has failed his family and lost nearly everyone he loves. I liked his rebellious young sister Juli. I liked the way you showed us a character already in jeopardy, and then piled on more jeopardies, hard and fast. Just when I thought things could not get worse for Lucien, they got worse.

I liked how elegantly you laid out his backstory, his transgression with a non-magical or “ordinary” woman, the savage retribution exacted by his beloved grandfather, who tried to excise half of Lucien’s magic. I was delighted by Lucien’s early reversal of fortune and the commedia dell’arte-style introduction of the necropolis where he now works, and the multi-layered characters who people it — people like Constance, with her ethereal white draperies, her working-class background and her trick of mangling words, leaving Lucien mystified, and how ultimately he realizes that the whole city of the dead functions because of her. I loved Lucien’s quest for justice for a murdered child, a quest that pits him against two major power structures, one political and one spiritual. And I was completely sucked into the bigger mystery, too.

Of course I loved the details and the descriptions, like the cloaks and masks the purebloods wear, like the way Lucien’s gift manifests, the art, the flames, the shadows and the grit of a city teetering on the brink of riot, in a country in the midst of a civil war. I especially loved the way, with a first person narrator, you gave us a cloistered, stiff-necked, hidebound character who is forced to open his mind and his heart as he comes to realize that the story of his life and his legacy is merely that; a story.

I had a few quibbles, too. I thought Lucien made the same choice over and over, and then dithered about it, but I was willing to live with that because, I mean really… it was so rich, so intriguing and so suspenseful.

But then — that ending.


I understand a cliffhanger ending. That wasn’t a cliffhanger. That was a catastrophic landslide, an 8.3-on-the-Richter-scale-earthquake, a TV-show-Dallas-reboot-let’s-burn-down-Southforks ending.

Did you really think I wouldn’t buy the next book? With such a broad canvas, with so many interesting themes playing out, so many questions unanswered, were you that unsure of yourself?


Well, I am going to read the next one, but only because, a) you’re a really good writer and b) until that ending, Dust and Light was great.

I’m glad we’ve had this little talk, but, seriously now; please don’t make me come back here again.

The Sanctuary Duet — (2014- 2015) Publisher: National bestselling author Carol Berg returns to the world of her award-winning Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone with an all-new tale of magic, mystery, and corruption…. How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her….After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries—beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets. But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad—and mad sorcerers are very dangerous….

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  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.