Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The second murder attempt came as Ishmael was being escorted from the interview cell to his new cell, adjacent to the guard station, where they kept all the troublemakers. Farther from the exit, to his regret. He could hear the profane heckling, and the shouts for silence, even before they turned the corridor, and both redoubled as soon as the sonn caught their approach. Vicious as the harassment was, there was a peculiar forced quality to it, which he attributed to the fundamental hollowness of men who were compelled to fight all comers to prove they existed, had consequence, were men. They were level with the cells when a prisoner reached through the bars and grabbed at the nearer guard's belt. The guard was young, or slow witted, or...for whatever reason, he reacted too late, for his backward lunge against the grip coincided with the prisoner's push. He stumbled into Ish, thrusting Ish against the second guard; the guard twisted, seizing Ish, and shoved him hard against the bars of the opposite cell. The prisoner's arm snapped up like a bar across Ish's throat; a knife-- he did not need to sonn it to know-- was driven with killing force through his shirt and against the rings of his armored vest. His assailant swore. The guards shouted and tore him away before his assailant could deliver a second stab to his unprotected armpit or throat. A seemingly random cast of sonn told Ish there was no hope of a dash for the exit. He let himself pitch forward into their arms, impersonating the stab victim he was meant to be. They lugged him into his appointed cell; there were shouts for the apothecary amongst the greater cacophony of a triumphant prison kill. None of them attempted to open his shirt or examine his wound, clearly averse to touching a mage more than they had to. He lay inert, considering the choreography of the assault. The more he thought about it, the less accidental it appeared. Two prisoners, surely, the guard maybe, and whoever had contributed that knife. All prisons were bad for a man's health. This one promised to be exceptionally bad for his. He breathed steadily, knowing calmness was his best ally now. ~Excerpt from Darkborn by Alison Sinclair In the city of Minhorne the Darkborn and the Lightborn live side-by-side but cannot physically occupy the same space at the same time because the light is deadly to the Darkborn while the Lightborn cannot survive in the dark. The Darkborn have an unusual adaptation to their life in the dark-- an advanced kind of sonar, referred to as "sonn" that allows them to visualize the world around them even though they are born blind. But the ability to survive in varying conditions is not the only thing that separates the races. The Lightborn embrace magic while the Darkborn shun it in favor of technology. Despite their differences, the Lightborn and the Darkborn have co-exited in relative peace-- until a remarkable event threatens to shatter the equanimity between the races. One morning, just before the sunrise, a pregnant woman shows up on Balthasar Hearn's doorstep on the verge of giving birth. The woman is engaged to a powerful nobleman and gives birth to illegitimate twins she claims are the children of a Lightborn lover-- something that should be impossible. But when the children are born with the ability to see, Hearn is forced to acknowledge that something beyond his comprehension has occurred. And when two men break into his home, nearly kill him and threaten his family, he is drawn into an intrigue that may tear the whole land apart. It's very hard to describe "Darkborn" in just a few paragraphs because it is a surprisingly complex book. The story doesn't just revolve around Balthasar Hearn. In fact, more of the book follows Hearn's wife, Telmaine, and the outcast Darkborn mage, Baron Ishmael di Studier, who has fallen in love with her. So I won't try to spend anymore time describing the book when I could be telling you why you should be reading it. As someone who reads primarily fantasy and sci-fi, any new idea is immediately appealing. I read lots of sword & sorcery novels as well as all things paranormal-- and I can't tell you how many books I've read about elves, witches, werewolves and vampires. Though if you're a fan of the genre (as I suspect you must be to be reading this) you know exactly what I'm talking about. As we all know, not everything that is different is good-- but "Darkborn" is. The best way to describe "Darkborn" is to call it a steampunk romance combined with a Regency era fantasy. The story weaves itself around the characters of the Darkborn and the Lightborn, the manners of high society, the unique qualities of the "sonn" and lots of action. And somehow Sinclair makes it all work. Any quibbles I have with the book are minor ones. For example, Two of the main characters have very similar names and when they interact I found myself thoroughly confused. That's not a major flaw-- though it does interfere with the flow of the book from time to time. Also, very little time was spent on the Lightborn people-- with the one Lightborn character we're introduced to disappearing without explanation-- though a book titled "Lightborn" is scheduled to be released next year and by its title alone I would surmise it should tell us all we want to know about the Lightborn. But would those ever-so-slight flaws discourage me from recommending this book? Not at all! I completely enjoyed it. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am not someone who looks for high-brow entertainment. I like stories that entertain. I like action and romance-- though too much action-for-action's-sake and blatant sex totally turns me off. I like a nice balance between elements and "Darkborn" delivers them beautifully. There is a part of me that is always a tiny bit embarrassed to gush over a book that I know isn't going to go down as a classic-- but sometimes just enjoying something so much is unique enough for me to want to pass on a recommendation and say you might want to check this one out-- just because it's a lot of fun.