I cut my fantasy teeth on Carol Berg’s books, which automatically puts her in a special place in my heart, as fantasy is a genre that I love so intensely. Her Rai-Kirah books changed how I looked at the genre, and how I loved it. Even now, years after I’ve re-read it, I still think back on it and get chills. They aren’t the only Berg books that I have read and loved. The truth is, I’ve pretty much loved everything she’s written for one reason or another.
I remember having long discussions with two of my brothers about some of Carol Berg’s books and all the reasons she’s such an incredible author. No one else in my family really understood why we were so enthusiastic about her (no one else reads SFF, either), but we understood each other and our excitement. Our discussions would be so animated and lively. It’s rare that I have such enthusiastic discussions about an author whose work I love so intensely with anyone.
“Books don’t prattle. Books don’t make demands. Yet they give you everything they possess. It’s a very satisfying partnership.” – Carol Berg
Carol Berg writes some intense characters, all of who seem to be flawed in some way, and riddled with internal struggles. Her characters are all unique in one way or another, whether they are older than the typical fantasy character, or broken, exiled, and damaged in some other way. Not only are they interesting, but she also infuses them with such intense emotions, readers can’t help but feel like her characters are part of them. Realism and emotional appeal makes Berg’s characters speak to each of us very deeply in very different ways.
Berg peppers her books with profound truths, often so hidden in the text you could easily miss them. If you notice them, you will realize that Carol Berg is one of those writers who never limits herself to writing on one level. Her stories are always interesting, but very deep. The internally struggling characters add another layer to the mix. Their struggles mixed with the main plot, make everything so much more compelling and profound than it otherwise would be. Berg often drips in layers of truth that make her books shine. Her books are never about some vague character in some vague place – they are about each of us and the relationships we form with ourselves and each other.
“The world goes on, little Seri,” he said. “A soldier never dies. His blood makes the grass green for his children.” – Guardians of the Keep
Carol Berg’s writing is some of the most lyrical and flowing I have run across. Her books all have some innate grace that serve as a marker against which I measure almost every other book I read. Berg’s books aren’t just books, they are art, and she’s a master of the wordsmithing craft. Her writing style gives all of her books a dreamlike quality that I love. Her stories are more real than real, and her characters are so vibrant, you live those moments as you read, and you learn so much about yourself as you do it.
Her world building is also second to none, often dealing with cultures or civilizations broken off or separated from each other and gross misunderstandings or interpretations between them all. This gives everything an added layer of appealing complication. She effortlessly makes her worlds realistic and incredibly well realized without giving readers huge portions of schoolbook text to wade through. The development is subtly, and naturally, woven into her dialogue or descriptions. As you become the characters, you also become part of the world. Often you don’t even realize it is happening, but it happens. While I read her books, her worlds are more real than my own. Only a master of world building can manage something like that in such a way that it takes no effort on my part to immerse myself so deeply.
Carol Berg is a powerhouse author. In my mind, she’s probably the first powerhouse genre author I ever read. She moved me profoundly in more ways than I care to admit to here. Her writing sinks under my skin and into the marrow of my bones. Powerful characters, fantastic worlds, and absolutely graceful writing are combined nicely with an author who, on a personal level, is one of the kindness and most sincere authors I have had the honor of interacting with. Carol Berg is a deep, thoughtful person and all of her books reflect that. She will dazzle you and make you profoundly uncomfortable (a sign of a good author). In the end, she will make you love her books, her style, and her grace.
Read her books. Read them now. They will change how you look at the genre. I promise.