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Dust and Light

by Carol Berg

Series: Sanctuary Duet (1)

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1487184,482 (3.91)17
"How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of "unseemly involvement with ordinaries," which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her .... After that one mistake, Lucian's grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries--beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets. But sketching the truth of dead men's souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad--and mad sorcerers are very dangerous..."--… (more)
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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Giving up circa page 113 (chapter 10) because I'm just not connecting with it. And I'm sad about it, because there's a lot that's really interesting about the world and scenario. The plot just doesn't have any driving force for me, however, partly because it's bound up with a character who's wrestling with privilege (or perhaps more with noblesse oblige, because there's a weight to it, but it's privilege nonetheless) and his personal and familial concerns, and I just cannot find it in myself to get that invested in him, or his bratty sister, not even for mysterious magic and murder most horrid.
  cupiscent | Aug 3, 2019 |
I re-read this prior to reading the sequel. For some reason I got a bit stuck halfway through, perhaps because I was emotionally committed to another series at the time. But when I picked it up again I raced through it. I love Berg’s writing and interesting characters in a fascinating world and society. This is set in the same world and around the same time as Flesh and Spirit/Breath and Bone so if you’ve read those you know more about what is going on than the main character Lucian does, and I recommend you do read those first. Pureblood Lucian’s reputation has been destroyed for a minor offence and then is framed for a horrible crime and imprisoned, the world told he is mad. He has no idea why, unless it’s because his portraits of important personages combine his two magical bents to show the truth about his subjects... ( )
  Griffin22 | Jan 4, 2019 |
Pros: several interesting mysteries, great characters, brilliant worldbuilding

Cons: so much bad stuff happens to Lucian it can feel pretty intense in parts

Lucian de Remeni-Masson was punished for his youthful indiscretion by having his magical history ‘bent’ burned out of him, leaving him only his ‘bent’ for art. He was also given a Registry contract, painting portraits of other Purebloods. When his extended family is all killed, save one younger sister, he thinks it’s nothing more than a Harrower attack. But when he’s suddenly contracted out to a common coroner he slowly begins to realize that the attacks on his family aren’t finished. His magic of seeing truth through art reveals that noble children are being killed, and the coroner wants to catch the culprit. But that same art may have revealed secrets those in power would prefer stayed hidden.

It’s been a few years since I’ve last read a novel by Carol Berg and I’ve missed the depth of feeling she evokes in her characters. I’d also forgotten just how much she tortures her protagonists. Her books tend to be very intense reads and the first book in this Sanctuary duology is no exception. There’s no graphic depictions, but you definitely feel Lucian’s despair at numerous points in the book. While it’s set in the same world as Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone, you don’t have to have read those in order to enjoy this one.

There’s a lot going on in this book, from the mystery surrounding Lucian’s family’s murder, the dead children, mythological danae, and what really happens when Lucian invokes his magical bent. There’s also a civil war and famine going on.

Berg’s worldbuilding is as brilliant as always. Her worlds always feel realistic, with complex social systems (here there’s commoners, royalty, clerics, the Cicerons and Pureblood magicians). I love how different characters all have realistic - and often opposing - priorities, making it hard for Lucian to know who to trust. I loved his relationship with Bastian, with the two of them constantly rewriting their roles and how they interact, based on what’s been happening. They slowly learn to trust one another, but it’s always a tentative thing, due to their different backgrounds and expectations.

The ending is such that you’ll want the next volume at hand when you finish. ( )
  Strider66 | Sep 4, 2018 |
I had recently read the Lighthouse duology, also by Carol Berg, and it was one of my favorite reads from the past few years. I then discovered this more recently-written second duology that's set in the same world during the same time frame, but featuring a different set of characters. This is the first book in that second duology, The Sanctuary.

As with Lighthouse, this book is told entirely from the first-person perspective of a young man. In this series, our main character’s name is Lucian. He’s a Pureblood, which means he’s a magician who lives under a strict set of rules intended, among other things, to protect the magical bloodlines. They believe their magic is a special gift of the gods and take its use and preservation very seriously. Unlike Valen, the main character in Lighthouse, Lucian is serious and dutiful. He believes in the Pureblood way of life and he trusts the Registry. The Registry is responsible for making decisions about how Purebloods may use their magical gifts, and for contracting them out to employers. Different Purebloods have different gifts, and Lucian’s gifts involves the ability to draw portraits of people in a way that reflects the truth of who those people are. Early on in the story, the Registry terminates Lucian’s current contract and forces him into a lowly job drawing portraits of dead people for a coroner.

There’s so much more to the story, but anything more I could say would spoil various revelations that are more fun to read about for oneself. All I can say is that there are a variety of mysteries and intrigues in the story, both in relation to Lucian’s new job and in relation to recent family events. As with the Lighthouse duology, the story starts off seeming fairly straight-forward but continues to grow in complexity as things progress. I haven’t yet found it to be as twisty as Lighthouse, but it’s still a great story that keeps me interested in finding out what will happen next.

The two duologies aren’t dependent on each other. A reader could easily pick up either one without any confusion. There is consistency between them, though, in terms of major events happening at the time, which I appreciated. I enjoyed a few small references to things and people who play a larger part in the original duology, and I enjoyed an explanation this book offered for a very minor plot point that was never really explained in the previous duology.

Most of the main questions presented throughout this book are answered by the end, but the over-all plot is not resolved. At the end, there are some interesting events that indicate the next turn the story is about to take and I already have the next book queued up and ready to start. ( )
  YouKneeK | Jun 19, 2016 |
You can always count on Berg for a great fantasy tale, and this one is a top-notch entry into her bibliography.

I thought this would be a direct sequel to the 'Lighthouse Duet': 'Flesh and Spirit' and 'Breath and Bone' - but instead, it's a separate story that takes place in the same world.

The 'Lighthouse Duet' gives us an initially unlikable protagonist named Valen, an attractive young man who becomes contracted to a doubtful master, has to learn about his magical heritage, and who goes through all manner of trials and tribulations, meanwhile growing as a person and solving a problem larger than those that affect just his own life...

Here, we are introduced to Lucien, an initially unlikable protagonist who becomes contracted to a doubtful master, has to learn about his magical heritage, and who goes through all manner of trials and tribulations, meanwhile growing as a person and solving a problem larger than those that affect just his own life... ;-)

Yes, Carol Berg likes tortured young men. I don't mind! And the two characters are actually quite different in their specifics and personality.

The book largely reads as a murder mystery - Lucien is a professional portrait painter, whose magic, when used in conjunction with his art, has developed a tendency to reveal more than intended about the sitter. Unwittingly, he triggers the destruction of his entire family, and is cast from his position. But, the talent that was his downfall may also be his redemption.

Can't wait for the sequel! ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
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"How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of "unseemly involvement with ordinaries," which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her .... After that one mistake, Lucian's grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries--beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets. But sketching the truth of dead men's souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad--and mad sorcerers are very dangerous..."--

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