fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Carol Berg Flesh and SpiritFlesh and Spirit by Carol Berg

With the second book of The Lighthouse Duet, Breath and Bone, now out, I decided to refresh my memory, as it’s been a full year since I last read this one. I can remember being distinctly disappointed with it. Yet after some of what I’ve read this year (some of it being absolutely awful) I’d have to say my mind has changed somewhat.

This year my poor eyes have suffered so much awkward prose and poorly placed punctuation that Carol Berg’s elegant, beautifully crafted work was a real breath of fresh air. Poetic without being overwrought, her prose is just amazing. Even when her characters sound archaic it fits together seamlessly, without being tiresome or trite, because Berg’s world and words are built so consistently. She never just sticks in Ye Olde English to show off her mad literary skillz (if you’ll pardon that), but actually makes it a logical part of the world. It all makes sense.

As to what disappointed me…Well, the main character, Valen, is supposed to have an addiction problem. What let me down here was that he a) only needs his drug of choice about once a month and b) is able to win free of it (so far at least) with surprising ease. Because of this he doesn’t go nearly to the lengths that true addicts do to get his fix. I’ve known enough of them to know that. On this second reading I put more pieces of the puzzle together and I think I understand better now why Valen’s addiction is the way it is. It makes a lot of sense. Even so, that doesn’t fully soothe my disappointment. Carol Berg has a talent for writing the gritty darkness of the human soul — and its redemption — and I would have loved to see her go for it, as I know she’s perfectly capable of it.

I was also a little disappointed with Valen. He’s just not quite as good as some of her characters have been and I suppose this is just me being a bit spoiled, since I’ve come to expect a lot of Berg. It seems like she couldn’t quite settle in to who Valen is and so sometimes his character feels inconsistent. I have hope for him though, especially after this second reading.

Of course, aside from her usual intriguing plots, Berg’s ability to write a shocking betrayal is back with a vengeance. You’ve got quite a mind on you if you’re able to see that one coming.

One thing that always amazes me about Berg’s work is that even when I’m disappointed with it, it’s still far better than most of what I read. Even being somewhat archaic and often very somber and serious (I usually prefer at least a little humor), I’m always amazed by her. In the end, Flesh and Spirit is no exception. Four stars.

The Lighthouse Duet — (2007-2008) Publisher: A stolen book of maps plunges a renegade sorcerer into a world of secret societies, doomsayers, fanatics, princes, and madmen.  Yet only in the twilight of myth does he discover the truth of the coming dark age and the glorious, terrible price of the land’s redemption… and his own.

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  • Beth Johnson Sonderby (guest)

    BETH JOHNSON, one of our guest reviewers, discovered fantasy books at age nine, when a love of horses spurred her to pick up Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns. Beth lives in Sweden with her husband. She writes short stories and has been working on a novel.

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