Feb 5, 2013: The first chapter reads like a medieval courtly romance. There is a princess, her name is Light of Dawn, and she has visions of people from a world she knows nothing of. To these people, her world is seen as the heavens, from which she falls like an angel. The contrast between the ethereal and earthier worlds is interesting, and turns out to be quite a culture shock to the princess. And though descriptions are a bit sparse, yay, we do get to find out that neither of the peoples of these two worlds are white.
This is a story with good guys and bad guys, and the good ones are really nice people, not infallible, not without flaws, but kind, brave, and decent to each other (most of the time); the kind of people who you would want to face adversary with. The primary villain is of the classic evil would-be overlord variety, and he’s bad-bad-bad, but also a bit of a hoot. His first line (addressed to his minions) is "Blithering Idiots! I come". Then there’s another villain, who’s not evil so much as callous, arrogant, and single-minded, who I think will turn out to be a bit of a wild card as events unfold.
The German word "geist" is like the English "ghost" but with a broader meaning, more like soul – you don’t have to be dead to have a geist. This could be thought of as an anti-zombie story. The danger comes from the sundered souls (the "Riven"), comandeered by the evil wizard, not their shambling abandoned bodies. This is a drama, not horror. I felt the story gave up some of the tension and creepiness that the concept of the Riven would be expected to engender, in that by the time we meet the main characters, they are used to the situation and dealing with it in quite a matter of fact way. Certainly great terror would be felt by the luckless peasants whom the villain rounds up to become his "worshippers", but we don’t really experience it from their point of view.
I’ve always found Sharon T. Rose’s writing to be professional, original, and sensitive, and this story does not disappoint. The creative, flexible use of language helps delineate the different cultures and personalities, the plot involves some common tropes with unique elements and is generally unpredictable, and the characters are sympathetic and multidimensional. I found the out of body experiences a little difficult to relate to, although much space and allegorical phrasing (pushing and pulling of energy, etc) is devoted to describing them. Overall, the story may be a little slow, but it is worth getting into.
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