Book Review: Dust and Light by Carol Berg
Series: Book 1 of The Sanctuary Duet
Publisher: Roc (August 5, 2014)
Author Information: Website
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
This is my first book by Carol Berg so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But as the start of a new series taking place in the world of her Lighthouse novels, I figured Dust and Light was a pretty good place for me to start. I ended up being very impressed with her world building, especially when it came to the conceptual framework for her magic, which I found wonderfully enticing and beautiful. However, I also thought the story’s pacing was rather shaky throughout, with things coming a bit undone towards the end, otherwise I would have given this book a higher rating.
Dust and Light introduces us to Lucian de Remeni-Masson, a young Pureblood from a noble house. A Pureblood’s magical talent is called a “bent”, and Lucian, being somewhat of an oddity, has two of them. After landing in hot water over a dalliance with an Ordinary woman, Lucian’s grandfather attempted to have one of his bents burned out, and Lucian ends up working as an artist painting portraits under the supervision of the Pureblood Registry. But then Harrowers set the Remeni-Masson estate afire, killing the whole family save for Lucian and his younger sister Juli.
Not having reached the age to inherit the title as head of his house, Lucian’s life is now in the hands of the Registry. When his contract is sold to a common coroner, he is forced to apply his artistic gifts towards painting portraits of the dead for the purposes of identification. But his magic leads to revelations in his art, and one day, while sketching the corpse of a young murdered girl, the resulting portrait points to the victim as being more than just an Ordinary common child. In trying to uncover the truth with his contract holder Bastien, Lucian quickly becomes embroiled in a storm of conspiracy and politics.
As an artist myself, how could I not find Lucian immediately intriguing? Even his new job of sketching faces of the dead is delightfully morbid and fascinating in its own way. The magic behind his talent and how it manifests itself is a strange but wondrous power, leading to a premise that was filled to the brim with potential. And in fact, I did very much enjoy the first part of the book. Bastien the coroner and investigator is a prickly master, but together he and Lucian make for a good team. It was the perfect set up for an excellent fantasy-mystery.
But for all that the plot remained swift and full of thrills, I thought the overall story was hindered by too many ideas and multiple side threads jostling for attention, which ends up doing a number on the book’s pacing. These elements may work well individually, but I feel the Berg falters here and there when attempting to incorporate everything together while maintain a balance; I felt pulled this way and that, which was quite distracting. It’s important to note that the novel is also divided into several parts, and we lose some time between the first and second when Lucian ends up landing in a bit of trouble with the Registry. As transitions go, it had the effect of a speed bump, and I think that was when I hit my first stumbling block.
Like I mentioned before, I also wasn’t too fond of the ending, which I thought was rushed and so in the process we lose a lot of the mystery and intrigue. I would have preferred a greater emphasis on the investigation side of the story, but of course Lucian’s personal plight and finding out the answers behind his murdered family played a large part too. If you prefer books that are more character-focused (as I do) then you’re sure to enjoy this one. Lucian is brought low, but gradually climbs his way back up to take charge of his life in this extraordinary tale of a young man on a journey of self-discovery.
Even though the execution of this wasn’t as clean as I would have liked, I can’t deny this book had its moments – more positive ones than negative. I think Dust and Light was a good introduction for me to the author’s work. Something tells me this series is just warming up, and the best is still to come in the second half of this duet.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Roc Books!