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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Divine by Choice

****½ Divine by Choice by P. C. Cast. Fantasy.

This is a sequel to Goddess by Mistake (#20), which has been reprinted as Divine by Mistake. Although it stands alone, it's much more effective emotionally if you read them in order.

In the first book, Oklahoma schoolteacher Shannon ends up switching places with her double Rhiannon, becoming a goddess incarnate in the alternate reality land of Partholon, and marrying ClanFintan, a (shapeshifting) centaur. She's in love, and happy in her new life.

Now, a spell takes her back to Oklahoma, where Rhiannon is wreaking havoc. She's able to see her father and best friend again, though it ends up putting them in danger. Most importantly, her only true ally, who both believes and understands what's going on, and who has the ability to be of real help, is ClanFintan's double, a shaman named Clint.

Clint, however, is also a source of emotional distress. He's very much ClanFintan's double, and no matter how much Shannon reminds herself that Clint is not her husband, she finds herself drawn to him. Particularly when it looks as if she may not be able to return to Partholon.

A good number of readers will object (about a third, if Amazon reviews are any indication) to Shannon's attraction to and involvement with Clint, but it made a lot of sense, and added a lot more emotional impact to Shannon's choice of whether to stay in Oklahoma or risk her life trying to return to Partholon. It also made me think about the natures of love and identity--a nice little plus.

So often in fantasy stories when a character is whisked to another world, their old world ends up forgotten--and understandably so: the character doesn't know what's happening in their old world, and they have to put it behind them to get on with their new lives. But as a reader, I'm often curious to find out what happened in their absence. For that chance alone, I'd have enjoyed this book.

But there was plenty more to enjoy as well. Engaging characters, edge-of-your-seat suspense, interesting magic. I also appreciated learning more about Rhiannon, who turns out to be intriguingly three-dimensional, and not just the powerful spoiled goddess who wanted out of her proscribed lifestyle.

I can't discuss this book without discussing the ending, but I don't want to give it away, either. It was surprising, inevitable, and powerful. I sobbed. Really. It takes a lot to make me do that and still say I loved the book.

The next book in this series, Divine by Blood, is in my TBR pile. I'm looking forward to it.

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Hi Darla,
Thank you for the lovely review! And, thank you especially for "getting" what happened between Clint and Shannon. By the way, I sobbed at the end, too.
No, thank you for writing such an entertaining and emotional book! :)
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