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on February 8, 2008
This book concludes the story of Valen, begun in _Flesh and Spirit_, and is as surprising, action-packed and satisfying as the first. You should probably begin with the first book which starts out strong. Valen is a difficult hero; tortured by addiction, he's had a childhood so grim that being a renegade, thief and soldier is a pleasant change. The book opens with him running from the army with fellow deserters who leave him wounded in the mud and weather on the roadside. He's taken in by a local monastery that shelters a mystery. In the meantime, battles wage between princes vying for the throne and the fanatic Harrowers whose aim is to cleanse the earth, all causing death, famine and misery.

In this installment, Valen has been recaptured by the society and family who despise him. He's one of the Pureblood Sorcerers, but has never been able to learn spells or read or abide the extremely confined lifestyle he was expected to lead. His services are sold to Osriel, The Bastard, the third Prince, who is known for his dark sorcery and for the taking of the eyes of the dead... There are secrets upon secrets, of course, and things are gradually revealed all through this book. Is Osriel a demon or the savior of the realm? Will the Cabal of the Lighthouse succeed in saving some knowledge in the Dark Ages that threaten the land if the kingdom is not settled and if the Harrowers succeed with their goals? Will the mysterious magical creatures, the Danae, whose land is also dying, aid one side or other? Will Valen survive to figure out what his destiny will be--failed, addicted sorcerer or a force for good?

There are a fine cast of characters with great histories and destinies to determine. There are plot twists galore. Treachery and conspiracies, and plots for good and evil. It was all good reading, compelling and exciting with memorable people, places and societies. I would definitely recommend both of these books.
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on December 17, 2009
I finished reading this book for the first time about three months ago and since then I've reread it, in whole - three times, in parts - over a dozen.

I started the series with "Flesh and Spirit" and I had to make several attempts to read the first few pages. Berg's writing style is dense, she has new words for common things (measures of distance, for example) and it took me the first chapter to catch on to the flow of the story. I will admit that "Flesh" was the first book I'd read by her, so I didn't know what to expect. I will say she does not repeat herself. When Valen thinks about his maps showing the way into Aeginea, you have no idea what that means that early in the story. It's only in rereading the books that I saw a lot of things that I didn't take in the first time. In the first chapter of "Flesh" there is a large creature who smells of the sea, and comes up on Valen laying on the ground, while injured and dying. Valen senses it, but does not look at it. It's only after reading the second book that you would know who that is.

The protagonist, Magnus Valentia de Cartamandau, for me was a hard character to get ahold of at first. I kept looking for (and not finding) the traditional fantasy-genre hero. He is a wastrel. He ran away from home at 15 and has led a shifting and nomadic life of near-poverty, hiding from anyone who might take him back to his horrid family and the pure-blood sorcery life. He had been a soldier for the previous king, but he was not good at it. He cannot read, he hates study, he's a liar, and he's a drug addict. His thoughts are often on drinking, dancing and whoring. He is a sorcerer, but he does not think much of his own skills. In some sense he is a broken man, only too light-hearted in personality to dwell on it much. Despite his faults, he is not vicious, and he is interested in keeping safe a couple of boys who live at the monastary, with no alterior motive. For that alone I was willing to give him some credit.

In "Breath and Bone" redemption is found. Valen becomes whole. He becomes the hero and ceases to be the broken man. All the things about him that seemed not to work right, are retooled into something magical. And he realizes that the socerery he does have is quite strong. It's wonderful, beautiful and amazing.

My favorite scenes are the ones with Kol. Such an icy, stern, disciplined person, but it's impossible to dislike him. Maybe because in Valen's world Kol is the only one not playing games or lying to him. It's fun to watch their relationship progress as they get to know each other. The language and imagery Berg uses to describe him are so lovely. She can effectively capture both beautiful and horrible things.

I also enjoyed Valen's change of status with three of his four siblings (we never meet the fourth). From hated childhood tormentor, and recondeur who they believe ruined their lives, he becomes a brother they are concerned for, whose opinion carries weight with them. These are some of my favorite scenes too.

Berg does such a good job of creating relationships between the central characters, that some scenes and dialogue just sparkle. There are so many moments in the book where the author has captured something funny or touching, even if only a phrase or a sentence.

Here are a few I remember off-hand:

-Saverian, whose been knocked unconscious and thrown over Valen's sholder, is starting to wake up and "mumbles something about hands and castration".

- After leaping from the fortress wall without injury, Valen greets a stunned Max (who earlier had tasked him for cowardice), and openning his arms to show his nakedness, humorously asks him "Balls enough?"

- Jullian deciding Valen must not be a demon or he wouldn't have eaten the poridge.

- Stian telling Valen what sort of mythic beast inscribes his face.

- Kol lightening up enough to laugh and make amused comments to Valen. And Kol's final words to Valen, which are so hardwon and of course so sincere.
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on January 2, 2008
I read this book in one sitting.
The world first brought to life in Flesh and Spirit is expanded into a rich tapestry of mythos and culture in Breath and Bone. These books are populated with realistic characters that live and act in true and convincing ways. The plot, while predictable to some, is engaging. With the amount of twists and the depth of detail I hesitate to try and distill the story into so few words. However, I found the Danae world of nature and dance artistically beautiful (wish there had been more!)

You are pulled along by the experiences of Valen, at times rejoicing at his triumphs and at other times you could reach through the page and strangle the man. The story, while compete, leaves you wishing for more - another story from Valen or a new tale set in this lush world. Berg once again proves herself as one of the best Fantasy writers out there and a master of first-person prose. This is a must have for any fantasy literature collector and library.
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Books like "Breath and Bone" are the reason I read fantasy. Carol Berg's world-building is detailed and believable, and her characters are achingly real, even the magical ones, although I can't remember another book where the hero spent so much time throwing up. If upchucking were an Olympic event, Valen would definitely win the gold medal.

"Breath and Bone" is the sequel to "Flesh and Spirit" and although the first volume was marred by lack of pace (I had trouble finishing it), this book moves quickly from one compelling scene to another as Valen interacts with his mother's fey relatives and gradually learns how to control his own magical gift, while he is trying to keep his world's Armageddon at bay.

Two mirror-image worlds, each with its own kind of magic are intertwined, and both are being deliberately destroyed by a prophetess and her followers. Their methods are a litany of our own world's woes: climate change; the poisoning of farm land and water; mass starvation; and war.

Valen is being hunted not only by the priestess, but also by another group of fanatics called the Pure Blood Registry, and by his own family. In the earlier volume, he had been sold to the world's most dreaded necromancer by his own father.

The villains in this book are totally evil. They'd as soon rip open your stomach and set your intestines on fire as wish you 'good morning.' My one problem with this author's fantasies is the amount of torture she packs into them. In some of her novels, pain and suffering mold the character of her hero, but in "Breath and Bone" they are relatively gratuitous--I was convinced early on of the wickedness of the villains--so I skipped over the torture scenes. You might want to do the same.
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on June 27, 2015
I love this author's writing, and Valen continues to be an amazing character. Definitely not your run of the mill, rock-jawed hero, which is a plus as far as I'm concerned. The only flaw from my perspective is that Berg is a bit slow to launch us into the main conflict. There's a lot of set up at the beginning. She picks up momentum as as the story progresses. Sticking with the novel is definitely worthwhile.
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on August 16, 2008
The story began in "Flesh and Spirit", and even though Carol Berg has consistantly been one of my favorite authors, that particular novel perplexed me. It creeps along for a few hundred pages before getting some footing and even then, you can tell there are "great things to come", only there's much to slog through before we get to that point. The end seems poised for all to come together in the second (and final) novel.

And it does! Where the first book floundered as it tried to establish its "world" and character motives, this one simply flies. There are so many twists, turns and surprises that it keeps you glued to the pages. I had trouble putting it down and blazed through it in a single day. She ties up all the loose threads nicely, and even though the ending leaves some questions to be answered, it is overall a very entertaining read.

My main complaints with this novel are few. Mainly dealing with the main character's obession with Jullian. I realize they had struck a friendship over the first book but it didn't seem like the kind of relationship that would drive such a blindsided obsession as Valen has over the boy's safety and so forth. There are a few more minor quibbles, that are just that - minor.

If you are looking for some great fantasy, do grab this one and its previous title, "Flesh and Spirit".
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on August 10, 2014
It's hard to find fantasy works that feel new and fresh, but next to shelves of elves and vampires, Carol Berg delivers a wholly satisfying experience in her Lighthouse saga. The world she built is rich and complex with hints of history, culture, and divisions that deliver. Her characters' motivations are understandable. The choices they have to make fit the logic of the world. She works her story so well that no part seems forced.
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on January 25, 2016
A Nice book with lots of surprising Twist and turns. main character found salvation and was reformed as a better person. It was rather limited since it was written from a first person point of view, i would have loved to have a better understanding of the world carol berg has created. perhaps, i am rather sensitive but i find the character and dialogues within rather too descriptive and vulgar. Find myself skipping scenes (tortures, gruesome deaths, etc.)
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on June 2, 2008
I really liked this book. I loved the world and the system of magic and I especially like Osriel. I liked the physician and that whole thing. The one thing that I would have liked is if his 'drug use' was better described and put into the story. But I loved the danae and the dance. It was really cool. Some of it was pretty predictable, which was kind of annoying. Sometimes the descriptions got to be a little much, I found myself skipping over some of the action sequences. I think this book would have been helped by less description of the action of the characters and more description of the what the characters were thinking and whatnot. I really liked the settings and the maps and the descriptions of when he uses his magic to find a person or location though. This book has some flaws, but I think overall it is a beautiful book.
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on January 15, 2008
My favorite thing about Carol Berg's writing is that every time you think you have things figured out, every time you think you know how the story is going to resolve and how things fit together, some amazing new revelation happens and everything is thrown into a new perspective. This book is no exception. New and exciting pieces of plot keep furthering your interest in the story. In Breath and Bone especially she seems to know exactly how much information to give you along the way to keep your attention glued to the page.
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