The Bridge of D’Arnath by Carol Berg
Carol Berg has been one of my favorite authors for years now, ever since I picked up Son of Avonar, having been intrigued by both the title and the cover. She’s an author who can handle first person point of view with skill (no, it’s not easier, trust me), weaves some truly fascinating plots with excellent twists, and creates interesting worlds peopled by races that feel unique in a genre full of elves, dwarves, and the like. Though she has her occasional disappointments, the quality of her writing is still above and beyond a lot of what can be found on the shelves next to her.
Son of Avonar is the first book in The Bridge of D’Arnath quartet. It introduces Seriana, and her twin journeys: Through the world she inhabits, yes, but also through memories of her past. Accompanying her are an enigmatic prince and his servant, Baglos (who is one of Berg’s charming and intriguing Dulce race). As the story behind Seri’s past unfolds, the plot begins to open up, showing hints of its mystery to the reader. Though Seriana isn’t my favorite of Berg’s characters by far, like the others she writes, she’s easy to sympathize with, smart and gutsy but far from being one of the be-all do-all heroines becoming popular in modern fantasy. The book is intricately detailed, too. There’s a twist of events at the end that you likely won’t see coming until it hits you right between the eyes.
Guardians of the Keep picks up not long after Son of Avonar ends. Seri travels to Comigor, her birthplace, to help care for the keep and for her nephew, Gerick. Then Gerick is kidnapped and the book ends up in another world — literally. Here the reader learns more about the mysterious prince, who becomes Seri’s ally in her quest to rescue her nephew, and the world from which he comes. The plot is ever twisting about itself, drawing on events from the previous book to make you go “Oh!” whenever you realize what’s going on. Berg also moves to telling the story from more than one point of view, which is well-handled; you’ll never be left wondering who the heck is telling the story now. It works well for the plot and for the characters: Who is Gerick, anyway, that people from another world would want to kidnap him? I will say that he’s one of Berg’s most interesting characters and probably my favorite.
The Soul Weaver is where things get a bit sticky. Though intriguing in its own right, the pieces don’t quite fit in properly with the rest of the story. You follow Gerick — and a few others — while he tries to piece together a mystery: He’s being accused of things that he can’t remember ever doing. This brings to light a strange world called the Bounded and the truly bizarre people living there, but where on earth does this fit in with what’s gone before? I don’t know. Though some parts of the mystery come together, the ending is still a bit disappointing, including a shockingly obvious betrayal so at odds with the ability Berg has shown to write betrayals that are simply shocking. While The Soul Weaver is still a well-written piece in many ways, it would have been an unfortunate end to the series. Thank goodness she wrote Daughter of Ancients.
Now, as for Daughter of Ancients… What does one say about a book this good? Weaving together threads from the previous books (mostly the first two) Berg creates a story with a wonderful plot and delightful characters. Gerick is back, along with some familiar faces, all of them showing the scars and shadows of the events that have come before. New characters, too, suffer similar issues, including D’Sanya, a young woman who is apparently D’Arnath’s daughter and therefore about a thousand years old, and Jen’Larie, who has an important connection with someone from a previous book. The characters are really the best part of the book. Watching them interact, seeing their very human personalities and struggles, is quite enjoyable. That the plot is well done is simply really good icing on a delicious cake.