You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Sorcerer's Treason

Sarah Zettel's A Sorcerer's Treason is in that class of fantasy novels where a lonely individual discovers a path to a faraway world of magic. Moreover, in that other world she is someone important, or at least has a crucial role to play in a royal melodrama.

Bridget Lederle is a lighthouse keeper in Wisconsin who has visions. One night she pulls a strange man out of the water. Kalami is a sorcerer in the service of the dowager empress of Isavalta. He convinces Bridget that she must travel with him to Isavalta to help the empire against a threat. Bridget has no connection to our world other than her lighthouse duties, since she is alienated from the community after an illicit liaison and the suspicious death of her infant daughter.

We also follow Ananda, the princess from a rival kingdom who has married the young emperor Mikkel to unite the royal families. Unfortunately Mikkel has been under an enchantment since his wedding day, and the half-mad dowager empress is certain that Ananda is the culprit. To make things interesting, Ananda fakes being a sorceress in order to protect herself from attack, but this very tactic draws suspicion on her as Mikkel's enchantress. This situation has potential for intrigue, but I was disconcerted to learn later in the book that the marriage had been years before. Somehow it is hard to buy this situation, with constant recriminations and arguing, could go on for longer than a couple of months. Surely, I hoped, someone would step in and find a solution to the problem of Mikkel's enchantment and the dowager's accusations against Ananda.

We have suspicions about Kalami before he brings Bridget to Isavalta (even without the title giving it away), but Bridget is allowed to gain a sense of the true situation when she is kidnapped by dwarf-crows as soon as she arrives. They take her to Sakra, Ananda's personal sorcerer who has been banned from the court with all the other sorcerers who aren't Kalami. Bridget manages to escape by weaving a spell with her newly found power, only to find herself in a fairy world with the Vixen, a fox deity.

Things get more complicated as the two sorcerers vie for power, trying to gain influence over Bridget and dealing with the half-mad dowager. Bridget turns out to be resourceful and independent, as these kinds of heroines often are. She learns about her own powers and the powers arrayed against her. Her visions help her more than anything, and it turns out to be an easy plot device. It's clear from the start that the dowager cannot hold on to power for long, the question is how will she fall and what will happen to the destructive power she has literally imprisoned for years.

I found the story a bit predictable but enjoyable. There's no big surprise, but the little turns along the way carry the story. The author works with the standard fantasy devices competently. I enjoyed the introduction of the Vixen as a force of nature and chaos. There is an interesting tension between the mother who should be caring for her son and the wife who truly does. Most of the characters outside Bridget, Kalami, and Ananda are pretty flat, serving simple purposes, and the scenes involving them are formulaic. I would liken this story to Lord of Snow and Shadows, but I think Zettel has a better style and sense of drama. She does a decent job with an old type of story. B

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