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Guardians of the Keep by Carol Berg
Review by Colleen Cahill
Roc / Penguin Putnam PPBK  ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460006
Date: September 7, 2004 List Price 7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Berg's heroine, Seriana, is a former noble of middle age with only the discernable powers of loyalty, intelligence and stubbornness. The sorcerous powers reside in her husband, Karon, who was killed ten years ago but now his soul lives in the body of a Prince of Gondai, a parallel and much more magical domain than Seri?s. In book two of the series, Guardians of the Keep, these two continue to fight the forces of the Zhev'Na, evil wizards of Karon?s land who seek to destroy both these worlds.

Karon has no memories of his past life with Seri nor any memories of Prince D?Natheil whose body holds both men, although D?Natheil?s soul was lost in a previous attempt to save the kingdom. Karon must regain all these memories quickly, as he has been summoned by the Preceptorate, a council of wizards, who will examine him and judge if he is truly the heir to the throne. But there is treachery in the Preceptorate as a dark traitor plots to bring down Karon and all of Gondai.

While Karon relearns his pasts, Seri faces a task she does not want, to tell her nephew of the death of his father. She has to deal not only with her brother?s spoilt, pregnant wife, but also with the accusations that she is a witch. The biggest challenge is from her sullen nephew, Gerick, who despises his aunt and lays the blame for his father?s death at her feet. But the boy also intrigues Seri who sees the frightened, lonely child hiding under the surly attitude. Dazrid, a former aide to Seri?s brother, kidnaps Gerick just as Seri realizes the true nature of the child. As she follows the abductor?s path from her world into Gondai, more of the plans of the malevolent Zhev'Na are revealed, and only if she and Karon fight together is there any hope of saving Gerick.

The well-drawn and complex characters are the focus of the story and they carry the plot off outstandingly. Karon is a healer, who in his past existence refused to take any life, but D?Natheil was trained as a warrior and the melding of these two men creates some interesting tensions. Seeing Karon is a torment for Seri, as he has no memory of her as his wife and treats her as an acquaintance and friend - but nothing more. Seri dares not reveal their past to Karon, but she cannot remove those memories from herself and this creates some awkward moments for her. And Gerick is a wonderful portrayal of a moody child; one who is put to many tests. The text is in the voices of all three of these characters and also that of Paulo, a young friend of Seri?s, adding depth to an already rich tale.

If you enjoy fantasy with a dark thread, such as David Drake?s Isles Series or Raymond Feist?s Riftwar books, Carol Berg is someone you should try. If you like good characters in an exciting, unpredictable plot, this is also a series for you.

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