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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Flesh and Spirit

***** Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg. Fantasy.

Valen is a recondeur. In the Aurellian empire, there's not much worse than a pureblood who's renounced his heritage. And Valen has been on the run, out from under pureblood control, for twelve years. The purebloods are the magic wielders, and while they're powerful, they're also restricted, both for public safety and to ensure pure bloodlines to keep the magic trait strong. So a recondeur is considered a traitor to his race and his country, and also someone who's dangerous and uncontrolled.

Most recondeurs are caught fairly quickly because they can't resist the temptation to use magic. But Valen avoids using his, except for those times when a recurring illness (it made me think of malaria) forces him to use the highly addictive doulon spell to recover.

His luck appears to be running out when he's injured and his companion robs him and leaves him alongside the road near an abbey. But he was able to save a book of maps, and when the monks rescue him and offer him sanctuary, the book convinces them to allow him to take vows and relax at the abbey for a while.

Who'd have thought an abbey would be such a dangerous place? Valen discovers himself caught up in a scheme to save the world's knowledge from a predicted dark age, and in danger from the Harrowers, a quasi-religious group bent on returning the world to its natural state. And even in the abbey, he can't trust anyone.

In typical Carol Berg fashion, Flesh and Spirit is intense and emotional and dark. Valen is a truly tortured hero--abused and hated by his parents from early childhood, he was the favorite of his insane grandfather, who trained him and made promises to free him--promises which were never kept. He's unable to read (sounds like dyslexia), and he's not particularly proficient in magic.

While there is action in Flesh and Spirit, it's a slow-moving book. Which is not remotely the same thing as dull or boring. It's the kind of book you can sink into, and I found myself reading way past my bedtime, reluctant to put it down.

I hadn't realized initially that Flesh and Spirit was just part one, to be continued in Breath and Bone, but to tell you the truth, by the time I got to the end, I was ecstatic to find that there was another book, because I did not want to leave this story.

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