‘Passion Play’ pleases through pages

November 10, 2010

by Kathleen Duncan, Senior News Editor

I wasn’t expecting much when I picked up Beth Bernobich’s debut novel and first in her series, “Passion Play,” last week. I finished it in less than a day, which for me isn’t anything new, but the 367-page book held me entranced in the life of the heroine, Therez Zhalina.

The book has an easy flow to it, creating a world filled with court intrigue and magic. For those who think, “Oh, it has magic, well,—- that’s not for me,” I say try the book. The magic is an undertone to the story, helping to push it along. I must say though, there are parts to this story that are just plain weird and confusing.

When Therez is informed she is to marry a man she fears and has no say in it, she does what almost any woman would do. She packs up and runs away. Obviously, she didn’t think it through completely because she joins a caravan run by a horrendous example of a man. After other travelers break off from the caravan, her trouble only gets worse, especially after her father sends a messenger to stop all caravans, searching for her, and the caravan leader attempts to ransom her.

After a failed escape attempt, Therez is bound by rope and forced into prostitution, just to make it to her destination away from her father. With the help of one lone traveler, she escapes and makes her way to a new city, but her plan has yet to work out the way she foresaw it.

Eventually, she lands on Lord Raul Kosenmark’s doorstep. Sick, beaten, broken and delirious, she passes out when he opens the door to her.

For some reason unknown to the rest of the household, Kosenmark gives her a place to heal and a job as a scullery maid. Months pass and she slowly finds her way again, only to be drawn deeper into the mystery that is Kosenmark.

He hides behind the façade of the master of the land’s most notorious pleasure house, but Kosenmark is a puppet master of a network of spies and a shadow court whose members believe he should be king.

Therez changes her name to Isle in order to hide her true identity and find a place in his household, but in the end, she can’t conceal who she is. Kosenmark soon realizes her worth and promotes her to an assistant of sorts. Thus she is dragged into his world of intrigue and murder, and so she slowly falls in love with him.

While the plot is great and can hold the attention of most pleasure readers, those who read as much as I do will be stuck wondering where the rest of the story is. Part of the history of the religion is just pieced into places in the book. It flows well, but leaves the reader wanting to know more. Important segments of history are also explained at odd moments, making me wonder why they weren’t stitched into an earlier moment in the story.

One of the reviews on the back cover states, “Beth Bernobich’s ‘Passion Play’ lures the reader with a lover’s whisper and a whiplash of lighting,” and that could not be more correct.

I’m not usually one for romance novels, but “Passion Play” caught my attention and held it. With clever dialogue and an amazingly imagined, if somewhat confusing, fantasy world, Bernobich impressed me with her ability and has me waiting for the next installment.

E-mail comments to mkd009@latech.edu.