Michael's Reviews > Passion Play

Passion Play by Beth Bernobich
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's review
Oct 22, 10

Read in October, 2010

From the back cover of the ARC:

Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek's more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. Many would consider hers a happy lot: but there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that the way for a young woman of her beauty and social station to survive us to be passive and silent.

When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realized that he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever.

And it leads her to Raul Kosenmark, master of one of the land's most notorious pleasure houses...who is, as Ilse learns, a puppet master of a different sort altogether. Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and where there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.

Lush fantasy. Wild magic. Intrigue, seduction, and treachery, with a kingdom at stake, Passion Play is the journey of a woman who must master her passions in order to win all that she desires.


Beth Bernobich's Passion Play is one the best fantasy novels to come into my hands in some time.

Ilse is an engaging and likable heroine, and this is definitely her novel. She goes off to seek her own life and for the first part of this book, pretty much everything that can go wrong for her does, showing that Bernobich is willing to go to dark places other writers shy away from. Ilse grows as a character and a person throughout novel, her mettle tested again and again in meaningful ways. The stakes are real for this character, and sacrifices are made in order to move forward.

It has a few problems: I felt the beginning was rush, and I never got the sense that Ilse's husband-to-be was as evil as the back cover matter makes him out to be. Don't get me wrong: he's no angel, but I thought the character was thin.

I feel I should also point out that early in the novel there is a sequence of events that might prove triggery for some people, the more so since the writing is so real and full of emotion.

A strong cast of characters act as heart and soul to the world, and deep politics and Machiavellian maneuvering keeps the tension high throughout. Obviously part of a longer story, the series antagonist only makes one real appearance, as the action is driven by cloak and dagger action and backroom machinations. That one appearance though, is memorable and frightening. The magic in this book, while not on center stage, is believable and well thought-out.

Bernobich creates a lush, believable, vibrant world full of magic and romance, one easy for the reader to lose themselves in.


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