Carol Berg,
Song of the Beast
(Roc, 2003)

I don't normally enjoy novels written from a first-person point-of-view. Few authors are able to write in that perspective with enough skill that I'm able to suspend disbelief and "feel" the story. Too often, first-person comes across as journal entries -- something I have little interest in unless I'm actually reading real entries from a historical person. Happily, I was pleasantly surprised upon reading this latest novel from Carol Berg.

Aiden McCallister, cousin to the king and the greatest musician of his age, follows the king's troops playing for any audience that will listen. Most of all he is drawn to the beauty of the dragons of the Ridemark and often sings in praise of them and the god of music, Roelan. At the age of 21, without warning, he is imprisoned for treason -- though no one tells him what crime he committed. For 17 years he endures torture and any sound made, particularly if he's heard praying to Roelan, brings more torture sessions and so gradually he falls mute. At 38 he is released, a broken man, but soon learns there is still a price on his head. And so the saga begins for he burns with a desire to find out why he was imprisoned and what his crime was.

Approximately 90 percent of the tale is told through Aiden's eyes with a few here and there told from his friends. The writing flows well and not once did I get the sense of reading a dry log. Also, unlike many fantasy novels the protagonist is anything but heroic. It is very clear he is a broken man -- scarred both outside and in. For anyone wanting heroic fiction, a la Conan or Aragorn, look elsewhere. Berg's characters are all too human with very human flaws. I am a bit puzzled, however, on one point for despite the Scottish surname there is nothing Celtic about the protagonist, the setting or the story. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and though this is the first novel from Berg I've read it definitely won't be the last.

- Rambles
written by Dana Fletcher
published 10 April 2004

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