I’ve been looking forward to writing this about this novel because Carol Berg is one of my favourite fantasy authors, and I don’t think she gets nearly enough credit for the fantastic stories and characters she creates. I emphasise the characters, because that is the strength of Carol Berg’s writing, her characters – and as far as I am concerned, that is the secret of good writing.
Carol Berg’s main character in this novel is Seyonne, a slave in the employ of Prince Aleksander, a ruler of a feudal regime that presides over an Empire that has been swallowing up neighbouring states, including Seyonne’s own sixteen years before. The past sixteen years of slavery hangs heavily on Seyonne, as he had once been a leader of his people, and now he finds himself enforced to work for Prince Aleksander as his personal secretary. The two characters couldn’t be more contrasting. Seyonne, is thoughtful, deliberate, and his moral compass remains intact despite the years of demeaning and degrading service he’d undertaken as a slave to the Empire. The Prince however, is spoilt, short-tempered, violent, and vain…but also intelligent, funny (at least to me), and has hidden depths of character. The story hinges around the relationship between these two men, which starts off fraught as the angry Prince is not shy from beating his slave, or treating him cruelly. At first the story revolves round how Seyonne deals with his erratic master, but then when the demons of Seyonnes past (literary in this case) come back to haunt him, he has no choice but to warn his Prince and protect him from them – something that Seyonne is uniquely equipped to do as the skills from his past life re-emerge.
The contrast between the two characters is a delight and as the relationship between the two men changes, and they become allies against a terrible foe, the story becomes further enriched. We delve into Seyonne’s past, whilst also explore the Prince’s insecurities, and also surprisingly find his softer side.
I can’t really recommend this story enough, however I do have one gripe…I never liked the cover much – apologies to the artist who designed it! I saw this book in a bookstore once, and never bought it. I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but we all have at some point, intentionally or not. Fortunately for me, a friend or my sister (I forget which) gave me a copy of this novel and I read it, and I am so glad I did as I so nearly missed out on such a fantastic tale. So don’t make the same mistake I did, look past this novels cover and discover how brilliant a writer Carol Berg is.
You can buy this novel on Amazon here.