The Reliquary Ring by Cherith Baldry
|The Reliquary Ring by Cherith Baldry|
|Reviewer: Myfanwy Rodman|
|Summary: A masterly combination of fantasy, science fiction, alternate history and politics. The lead characters are beautifully and subtly drawn. The relationships between them, especially that of the genic Gabriel and his master Leonardo, are complex and bitter sweet. The characters as a whole have that illusive but essential quality of being recognisable, their actions and reactions always believable.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 480||Date: April 2004|
In an alternate Venice ruled by The Church, genetically engineered beings called genics are bought and sold as the servants and playthings of wealthy aristocrats. They are considered heretical, outside the laws of both man and God and even their touch is believed to be unclean.
Serafina is a genic and when her elderly and eccentric mistress dies, she finds herself trapped as the possession of Count Dandolo and his family. There she meets other genics, Hyacinth, whose capricious nature hides the soul of a musical genius and Gabriel, the diffident painter, who is in love with his human master.
Bound together by servitude and their shared genic blood, the three soon become embroiled in the politics of the city. The aged Duke is dying and the nobles must elect a new ruler on his death. Count Dracone, an immigrant from the mysterious Northern Empire, has discovered a precious relic - a ring believed to hold a hair of Christos himself. The Count wants to be Duke and his plans could bring about the end of the world.
Cherith Baldry's The Reliquary Ring is a masterly combination of fantasy, science fiction, alternate history and politics. The lead characters are beautifully and subtly drawn. The relationships between them, especially that of the genic Gabriel and his master Leonardo, are complex and bitter sweet. The characters as a whole have that illusive but essential quality of being recognisable, their actions and reactions always believable.
Unfortunately, Baldry loses this deftness with her antagonist Count Dracone, who is disappointingly two-dimensional. Even before he is introduced he is spoken of with fear and disgust so that the audience is in no doubt that he is the 'baddie.' He is constantly portrayed as a 'dark lord,' taunting and tempting those around him and committing acts of callousness and destruction to achieve his will. It would have been nice to see that he was more complex than this or to have some idea of the past that shaped him.
Despite this Count Dracone is genuinely scary and has many of those wonderful 'bad guy' lines that actors relish. Point of view shifts between several main characters ensure that the action keeps moving and that the plot unfolds smoothly. Often such changes in point of view can be annoying, especially when the action is going on somewhere else and the reader is stuck with some character they don't really like. But the shifts are handled well here and they all have something important to say.
Baldry's elegant and simple prose fits perfectly into the novel's renaissance style setting. Yet The Reliquary Ring also has a science fiction edge, epitomised by the metal machines of the Empire and their destructive flights across the city. And centred on the genics, beings marked as non-human by their beauty and their pale blood, the manner of whose creation is never defined. It is with a fine degree of control that Baldry blends these two genres of fantasy and science fiction together, never letting one overpower the other. As a result the world she creates is unique and compelling.
The Reliquary Ring is easy to read, absorbing and well paced with an excellent blend of action, intrigue and drama. It has murderous plots, assassinations, miracles, demons and an endearing love story. The greatest disappointment is that it is a stand-alone novel. What these characters (and this reader) really need to know is - what happens next?
You might also like Seven Point Eight: The First Chronicle by Marie Harbon.
The Reliquary Ring by Cherith Baldry is in the Bookbag's Science Fiction Picks.
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