Author: Carol Berg
Series: Rai-Kirah #2
The former slave Seyonne, is busy fighting demons in the mental landscapes where they possess the living, just as his people always have–until the day when he meets a demon who is not a ravening beast, but an urbane charming being who knows altogether too much about Seyonne. To the pursuit of an explanation, and a new justice based on that knowledge, Seyonne is prepared to sacrifice everything he has–including his friendship with the Imperial Prince Aleksander and his marriage to his own queen Ysanne. As with Transformation, Berg creates in Revelation powerfully sensuous landscapes both realistic and uncanny; her characterisation of Seyonne, a man whose self-doubt is not the least of his virtues, is admirable, as is that of Fiona, the bodyguard/assassin set to watch him for signs of corruption and who comes to be his truest ally. Berg makes the pursuit of personal honour attractively the unchanging core of an adventure where everything else we know is unreliable.
As had happened each time I thought I had discovered the true depth of despair, I turned another corner and found the way still pointed downwards.
It’s rare that a single quote encapsulates a book so perfectly but this one tells you everything you need to know about Seyonne. He quickly reaches a point that makes the events of the first book look harmless – already an achievement – and then things still continue to get worse. As a result, the book slides quite close to the Dark, Edgy and Miserable(TM) territory (something Berg managed to avoid in her other books, despite their protagonists always being really unlucky). So especially during the middle part, it dragged a lot and I managed only one or two chapters per day. It wasn’t because it was boring; I just couldn’t cope with that much misery at once. Seyonne just couldn’t catch a break.
At the same time, the overarching plot is fascinating. It goes in a completely different direction than I would have expected after the first book. While Transformation had a pretty standard (but incredibly well done) fantasy plot of ‘We have to fight the demons’, Revelation now asks ‘Why do we have to fight the demons?’ and the answers to that are hard to stomach. And these parts remind me again why I love Carol Berg’s books so much. It starts off with typical fantasy tropes and then digs really deep into it. She doesn’t subvert them in some high-and-mighty ‘actually fantasy is crap and if this was reality everything would be horrible so I’ll write about how horrible everybody is’-way. It’s rather about ‘We’ve always done it like this and we can’t suddenly change our ways is a really bad reason for doing something’. Especially, if, like in this case, you really don’t know anymore why you’re doing something.
But also, after having enjoyed the great relationship between Seyonne and Aleksander in the first book, none of those in this one could match it. Aleksander himself is absent for most parts and while there are other interesting characters they all only stay with him for a short while and so the relationships with them lack the depths and simply weren’t as fun to read.
This is also part of my 16 Tasks of the Festive Season reading:
Book themes for Las Posadas: Read a book where the main character is stranded without a place to stay, or find themselves in a ‘no room at the Inn’ situation.
Seyonne is very much stranded. His own people exile him and then he does find a place to stay in the sense of a room with a bed but he isn’t really welcome there.