I thought the first half of this book was four-star material. I was interested in it, I liked the characters, and I found myself thinking about the story when I wasn’t reading it and speculating what might happen next. Somewhere around the halfway point, fortunately during the weekend, this turned into a five-star book and I couldn’t put it down.
This fantasy story is told completely from the first-person perspective of Valen, a twenty-seven year old man who’s on the run for a variety of reasons. When the book begins, Valen is gravely wounded and his traveling companion abandons him penniless on the road, incapable of walking. He’s found by monks from a nearby abbey who take him in. The abbey seems like a convenient place to hide, but he soon finds that there are mysteries and dangers there as well. Meanwhile, the entire land is embroiled in a long-lasting war between the sons of their deceased king.
The story was interesting from the beginning, but it grew more intricate as it went and I really enjoyed that. The reader is given many questions, and at first I thought I could probably guess most of the answers, but some of my guesses were wrong and some of the questions turned out to be more complex than they originally seemed. There was a twist near the end that completely caught me by surprise, although in retrospect I think I should have seen it coming. There were plenty of hints.
The main character really grew on me as the story progressed. He often has a kind of sardonic way of describing things, and he has a kind of honor with certain lines he won’t cross, but his main concerns are for his own safety and he can be pretty roguish. At first I found some of his decisions exasperating, but I understood him better as the story progressed and his character also grew quite a bit throughout the book.
I look forward to reading the sequel. I don’t see people talk about Carol Berg’s work very often, but I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve read from her so far. I read her Rai-Kirah trilogy (starting with Transformation) several years ago and I really enjoyed it. It helped me recover from the funk Robin Hobb’s Tawny Man trilogy left me in. I’ve wanted to try more of her books, but this is the first time I’ve gotten around to doing so. I’ll have to fit her books into my reading plans more frequently going forward.