Saturday, 5 May 2012

Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg

Title: Flesh and Spirit

Author: Carol Berg

Date Read: 27.April.2012

On TBR for: 172 days

Format: Paperback

Source: Bought

Challenges: 2012 Outdo Yourself, Off the Shelf 2012

If I had any doubts that Carol Berg can write superb characters (see Rai-Kirah series), Flesh and Spirit completely erased those. In Flesh and Spirit, the main character Valen seems to be made of actual flesh and spirit (and breath and bone, following the name of book 2), and has become one of my favourite characters.

He is a pureblood, which would mean privilege and magic, but a recoudeur, which is the worse offence possible for a pureblood. A recoudeur is pureblood who does not answer to family and the Registry, and runs away and does as he pleases. Only they are hunted down ferociously, so a recoudeur isn't free for very long.

Not Valen, of course. He managed to stay away from the Registry's clutches for 10 years. He managed to do this by taking all sort of jobs, nothing being too lowly to him, by fighting wars and running away when luck turned sour. It is after such an event that we start the story of Flesh and Spirit. Valen and his “friend” have ditched the soldier life to ransack some villages. But Valen managed to get himself shot by an arrow, and his partner in crime is far more greedy than friendly, and as such robs him blind, except for a book that he thinks it's worthless, and leaves him near death to plea for help and sanctuary in a nearby monastery.

And so Valen cries and crawls in search of help, and help does come. Valen gets his wounds treated, a warm and soft bed, and food (glorious food!). Never being one to waste a good bed and meal, he pretends to be more sore than he actually is while he is healing, so that he may never lose the food and the comfort. When he can longer pretend, he decides to take vows and join the brotherhood.

His book, which was far from worthless as he well knew it, is also becoming very famous in the monastery. It is such a rarity, a real Cartamandua book! Cartamandua is a pureblood family whose magic bent is finding ways and making maps. Such a book is infused with magic, that can help anyone find any place, even if they are not on this world. So, basically, priceless.

Valen has no problem with the brothers reading and admiring his book, but he really doesn't want anything to do with it. Valen doesn't like books much, to him the best use they could ever have is as bricks to make walls. He has no use for them, as he can't read. And this isn't because he doesn't know how, but because letters unfocus when he looks at them, making it impossible for him to even learn how to read. But he really hates that Cartamandua book (even if he finds irony in the way it keeps coming back to him), because it reminds him of his family, his abused childhood, and the magic he never cared to learn.

In his time in the monastery Valen manages to get himself thrown in conspiracies of the line of succession and the war that rages throughout Navronne, and of the end of days. All the while, he tries to keep his ancestry unknown and well hidden, has a nasty addiction that is also a cure that must also be secret, and tries to also hide the fact that he can't read. So, not an easy life after all.

But Valen is happy at Gillarine Abbey.

Happiness doesn't last long. All the conspiracies and the war come to bite him in the ass, and he sees all his freedom taken away from him, falling as low as he could ever be.

I really, really liked this book! At first I was a bit lost with the all the names and the geography and the kings. I kind of wished there was a glossary that I could check. But after the first chapters were done, the ones with the infodump about the world, I was just so hooked.

Like I said at the start, Valen is an amazing character, that feels very real. I really liked the way he changes throughout the book, and how no matter how low he got he was never broken. There is a strength to him that was really inspiring.

There is a lot that happens in this book, and from the cliffhanger at the end, much that will happen in the second one, and it seems that more great characters are coming. I'm just waiting for the book to arrive so that I can read it!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Other Reviews: Bookworm Blues | Cherry Mischievous | Fantasy Cafe

Some great articles by Carol Berg: About writing differences @Bookworm Blues | About creating characters @Fantasy Cafe

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US

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