on August 08, 2000
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Seyonne is a man waiting to die. He has been a slave for sixteen years, almost half his life, and has lost everything of meaning to him: his dignity, the people and homeland he loves, and the Warden's power he used to defend an unsuspecting world from the ravages of demons. Seyonne has made peace with his fate. With strict self-discipline he forces himself to exist only in the present moment and to avoid the pain of hope or caring about anyone. But from the moment he is sold to the arrogant, careless Prince Aleksander, the heir to the Derzhi Empire, Seyonne's uneasy peace begins to crumble. And when he discovers a demon lurking in the Derzhi court, he must find hope and strength in a most unlikely place...
I’m posting a single review for all three books in the Rai-Kirah series, and I’m using the cover from the second book because if I used the cover for the first book, I doubt any would bother to read the review. The first cover is horrible, in all honesty. This series, however, is remarkable.
I’m a character reader, which means I’m not bother by detailed worlds or all the intricacies of plot and subplot or lack thereof. I want a character that intrigues me, and everything else is secondary. For this series, I was blessed with a wonderful character and a developed world and an engaging plot. So even for non-character readers, this should satiate all your desires.
Our main character is Seyonne, a slave, and the second important character is Aleksander, heir to the emperor. The empire is ruthless in its quest to rule all, and those countries it conquers usually end up as slaves or are mistreated. It’s an ugly affair, and our poor main character receives the brutalists of treatments by his owners. The world has its gods, religions, customs, and details that make for a filling story. The plot flows along quite nicely for me, and the pace of the first book was amazing. I loved it! The second book had a few slow spots, times when I wished we’d hurry things along, and the final book was a whirlwind of pain and hope. Throughout the series, the plot is revealed with expertise, and the world becomes richer with each chapter. I love how it unfolded with ease, making me neither confused nor bored.
Now, Seyonne was once a Warden before being captured and made a slave. A warden is a warrior that fights demons. Demons—or one could call them spirits or entities—take control over a person’s soul, and it is a Warden’s job to vanquish said invader from the host via a battle waged within the victims very soul. Think of it as teleporting to a soul, where the landscape is shaped by an Aife, which aids the Warden. I’m not doing justice explaining it, but it is ancient in its customs and pretty much unknown to the rest of the world save for Seyonne’s race. Throughout the series, we learn more of this secret war, of demons, of history, and it unfolds brilliantly making for a rich, fulfilling story.
Seyonne is a complicated, brilliant character. He has a harrowing life, and yet he endures all his heartache with grace and strength. That’s not to say Berg didn’t show us the horrors of slavery. She delivers these with such impactful sections that I was aching for Seyonne within the first half of the book. By the end of this series, I was begging her to cut the poor guy a break. I kept wondering how much more the world could tear down Seyonne, and Berg showed me over and over. This is not a happy book. This is quite heavy at times. Seyonne, while wonderful, is not perfect. And he makes decisions that he thinks are best, that present the least amount of evil, and I feel for him. As a reader, you can see some of his decisions probably aren’t going to go well, and you might even have a few other ideas on what he could do, but even then, I never doubted his choices. Berg justifies them to my satisfaction. I can’t get into a lot of detail without ruining it or giving away hints best learned while reading, but I will say Seyonne has made it into my top ten favorite characters.
The other characters are all done nicely, and while this series is in the first person from Seyonne, I felt the other characters were developed to their need, and Aleksander more so than the others, as he should. He is a pivotal player in Seyonne’s life, and a complicated man himself.
All that being said, I beg you to look beyond the cover of the first book and give this series a try. The prose is smooth, the characters amazing, the world developed, and the plot and pacing engaging. I cannot recommend this series enough!