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Friday, March 6, 2009

Twice Born by L. E. Bryce

Twice Born by L. E. Bryce
Publisher: Phaze Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (223 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 4 Cherries
Review by Phlox

The long-awaited sequel to Dead to the World! Eight years have passed since Erred, servant of the Lady of the Waters, was reunited with Tharril, his lost lover. Now living together in the sanctuary of the Blue House of Sirilon, ghosts of the past continue to haunt their relationship. When Erred, driven by frightening and inexplicable visions sent to him by the Lady, returns to Tajhaan, Tharril embarks with him on a journey fraught with peril, passion, and vengeance.

I have read a mountain of books and have rarely come across such a compelling opening sentence, one guaranteed to make the reader do a literary double-take: Tharril did not remember what it felt like to be dead.

With hook firmly embedded, Bryce thrusts the reader into a fantasy world full of enticing hints and mysterious entities. Tharrl lives with his lover Erred in the House of the Blue Water, holy consorts of the water goddess, living a life of security and privilege. His greatest conflict revolves around Erred’s refusal to commit wholly to him and marry him. That is, until Erred begins to suffer horrifying and exhausting dreams which compel him to leave the safety of their home for Tajhaan where both he and Tharril once lived as slaves.

An introspective tale rather than a hack and slash fantasy, intrigue and jealousy tangle around each other throughout the story in lush, rhythmic language often reminiscent of old fairy tales. Erred’s surety that he must face his trials alone, his brooding silences and his long-held secrets all frustrate Tharril to distraction while Tharrl’s jealousy, impulsive behavior and hot-blooded temper keep Erred in constant fear of a major diplomatic incident. Throw in an old lover, who just happens to be the Prince of Tajhaan and happens to have once owned Erred, and the ingredients are well in place for disaster. The pacing is not always at a quickstep, often with more reflection and internal agonizing than action, but the characters are compelling enough and the world brightly painted enough to keep the reader fascinated. In places the writing could have been tighter and the editing more zealous (a missing or misplaced word in a fantasy novel can lead to confusion or a terrible jolt back to reality) but not to the point where it truly detracted from the flow of the story.

Ultimately, though, this is a novel about transformation, both physical and spiritual, beautifully and intelligently examined through the eyes of these three very different men. Cultural and religious divides, pleasure and passion, the nature of divinity and free will are all explored in this lush, fully-formed world. This book is a must for L.E. Bryce readers who have waited for the sequel to Dead to the World and a lovely gem for any fantasy reader with or without previous Bryce experience.

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