Transformation (by Carol Berg)

Gasp! A non-toy review!

Book 1 of the Rai-Kirah trilogy; Transformation was published in 2000. Its author, Carol Berg’s first published work apparently. Well, onto the review.

Transformation is a fantasy novel that tells the story (from the perspective) of a slave in the Derzhi Empire, and how he witnesses the transformation of its heir apparent from a deprave psychopath into a vaguely decent human being. Fyi, the slave’s named Seyonne, and the prince is Aleksander.

Verdict? It’s a good book, I’d recommend it. It’s not your conventional Lord of the Rings fantasy, quite different in fact. The characters are catchy and the purple prose is kept quite low.

Spoiler Review
Okay, so we’ve got that out of the way, time to go for an in-depth review.

Seyonne, the slave of the story, lives in a crap sack world of crap sacky nobles and palace officials and scullery maids. Everyone’s a depraved and sadistic monster both inside and out, and they all go out of their way to be extra nasty. About the only two people in the book who aren’t complete monsters is the Palace Slave Master and Seyonne himself. The prince of the Derzhi Empire, Aleksander, is probably the worst of the lot, but he gets better. And no, that’s not a spoiler, since it’s pretty much revealed in the opening paragraph that he gets better.

Anyway, the first third of the book focuses on that aspect of the relationship between Seyonne and the psychotically temperamental Aleksander, of slave and schizophrenic master. But here and there, we’re shown that Aleksander’s temper, while real, can also be measured, as Aleksander’s able to buckle down and do right when the occasion calls for it. He’s much brighter than other characters give him credit for.

For Seyonne’s part during this segment, his character development is probably the best, in that he gets relatively little character development. At the start of the book, we’re soon told that Seyonne has been in slavery for the past 16 years. His character development comes by way of the consistent portrayal of what he’s had to become in order to survive all these years of bondage. A dirty, cowardly, grovelling slave. Numb to mental and physical abuse, his spirit has long since been broken.

As we come into the second third of Transformation, we’re met by the of the Orcs, erm, I mean Zerg… or did I mean Decepticons? Well, whatever, they’re called the Khelid, and they’re the designated evil race. They were mentioned early on in the novel, and even then, you knew who they were. It’s pretty obvious they’re your standard evil sorcerer race. And as we come into the second third or so of the story, we’re introduced to our first Khelid(s), and wouldn’t ya know it? They seem to all be possessed by the Rai-Kirah, demons.

An interesting note about the Rai-Kirah is that despite being demons, they’re supposedly not evil in and of themselves. They simply need to feed off of the negative emotions of their hosts, and are willing to manipulate their hosts into doing evil stuff to incite those emotions. But despite being told that, yeah, they’re pretty much treated as pure and actively malicious evil.

Anywho, by this point, the prince is starting to develop a conscience while Seyonne is getting back a little bit of his backbone. But wouldn’t ya know it? Those devils and their deviltry, they’ve bedeviled the prince Aleksander, and cursed him to turn into a puma… I mean, Shengar. Fortunately, the enchantment isn’t a constant thing, and usually requires a specific trigger. But due to some magnificent bastardry by the demons, Aleksander and Seyonne are forced to flee.

They seek out and find the Ezzarians, the race that Seyonne originated from, and it would seem that Seyonne was quite the Marty Stu in his youth, and thus begins the final third of the story where Seyonne regains his powers of sorcery. Fortunately, he already somehow retains his 17th Dan black belt despite 16 years of malnutrition and horrible abuse, so that part’s okay. He just needs to work on regaining his confidence so he can access his chi.

While Seyonne goes off to take a level in badass, Aleksander spends his days being useless and refraining from seducing every woman in the village, including the married queen. In lieu of actually raping the women (Aleksander and the nobility seem to have no moral compunctions about rape, and may well even consider it as an acceptable form of courtship. Crap sack world remember?), he mind rapes everyone instead. Allowing him to realize who’s in love with who, oh, and that the Ezzarian queen and her consort (who used to be Seyonne’s lover and best friend respectively), betrayed Seyonne 16 years ago.

Seyonne finally realizes the truth, but by then, has to take Aleksander home so that the prince may reclaim his rightful place. Which they do. They had to confront and kill a demon lord along the way, but that’s par for the course. Aleks rewards Seyonne by setting him free and giving him the former nation of Ezzaria.

And that’s that. A good romp through a logically developed world as we follow the adventures of Seyonne and Aleksander. Pretty much all the characters in the book are interesting and morally ambiguous. The relationship between Aleksander and Seyonne was developed at a logical pace and although the ending turned out to be just as one would expect it to, there was enough room for doubt that heck, maybe it could have been a downer ending (which of course, it ain’t).

A good read, I’d recommend it. I wasn’t too keen on Seyonne suddenly becoming a Marty Stu once he remembered he used to be one 16 years ago, especially since it was mostly pointless, but I can dig it. By that point, we got to see more of the DRAMA surrounding Seyonne personally, and the story focused more on that as we barreled through the inevitable conclusion.

3.1 out of 4.0

0.0 – 0.0 = I’d pay to get rid of it
0.1 – 0.5 = I’d give it away
0.6 – 1.0 = I wouldn’t take it for free
1.1 – 1.5 = Very Bad
1.6 – 2.0 = Bad
2.1 – 2.5 = Average
2.6 – 3.0 = Good
3.1 – 3.5 = Very Good
3.6 – 4.0 = Excellent

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