Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg (3/5 stars)

Flesh and Spirit is the first book in the LIghthouse Duet by Carol Berg. Previous to this book I had read Rai-Kirah series by Carol Berg. I liked that series initially, although I wasn't completely pleased with the final book in the series. Still when I saw this new series I was intrigued. The art-work on the front of the book helped too, it is beautifully done :-)

This book starts with Valen being robbed by his traveling companion and left to die in the road in the freezing cold. Valen drags himself towards a monastery where he is sighted by a monk that serves as the monastery's lookout. The monks nurse Valen back to health and wish for him to take vows to become an initiate there. As time progresses Valen begins to wonder if more is taking place at this monastery than simple worship and charity. During his recovery the land of Navronne continues to be torn apart as the three sons of the dead king who fight for ruler-ship. Valen has his own secrets though, and as the monks place more and more trust in him, his secrets come back for a visit dragging him into even more dire circumstances.

The writing of this book itself is well done. The pacing of the book is horrible. One review on the book states that "Berg describes the difficult dirty work of ordinary live as beatifully as she conveys...." This is very true. The first 200-250 pages of the book go through Valen's day to day life at the monastery in slow, mind-numbing detail. Interesting facts about Valen and the monastery itself are very very slowly revealed. At times I felt like I was having to painstackingly pull facts of interest from this book, akin to pulling teeth. I had a hard time getting through the first part of this book. I told myself that, since I already owned the 2nd book in this duet, I would read at least the first 150 pages before giving up. Luckily there were enough interesting mysteries to pique my curiousity and hold me for another 50 pages or so.

Around page 300 in the book, the pacing picks up dramatically. Things happen crazily and rapidly, non-stop action from page to page. After the deliberate beginning, the rapid descent into darkness that the remainder of the book takes is almost shocking. As the book draws to a close, you realize that suddenly the book is over and nothing is resolved. Making this a very poor stand alone book. The book literally ends in the middle of things; leaving you hanging with no satisfaction gained from struggling through it.

In summary I thought the pacing was poor, the beginning grueling the get through, and the ending unsatisfying. This is not a nice book, the book is dark in detail and had a thick sense of hopelessness about it. Definitely not a book to lift your spirits. Still the mystery involved and Valen as a character are enough to make me want to read the 2nd book.

If you decide to read this book, buy the 2nd one at the same time because this is not a self-contained book.

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