Flights of Fantasy

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Reliquary Ring ~ Cherith Baldry

The Reliquary Ring - Cherith BaldryCategory: Fantasy

Cherith Baldry is not an author whose work I have read before, but I shall be looking out for more of her books. As an added bonus she’s British and it’s always nice to find homegrown talent on the shelves.

This is classed as a fantasy novel and I can’t help wondering how many people are put off reading something that they would actually enjoy because of this. This book is not what I would call High Fantasy. It’s not like reading a fairy tale in novel form. There are no fantastic beings. It simply presents a tale set in a city that is not real, or based in reality.

The book is the story of the lives of four genics living in a society that considers them to be less than human. Genics are created humans, grown in tanks and genetically manipulated to maximise a particular trait, e.g. beauty or musical talent. They are called abomination by the church, used as slaves and servants and treated as property.

The setting is a city reminiscent of Italy at the time of the Medici's. On the surface a beautiful and wonderful place to live, underneath a squalid place teeming with deceit, injustice and hatred. As the story unfolds, more and more of the seedy underbelly of the city is revealed to the reader and to the characters.

The Reliquary Ring of the title is a ring, discovered early in the story, containing relic of the Christos (the novel’s equivalent of Christ) which comes into the possession of the bad guy in the story. He then uses this relic to manipulate his way to power using some extremely twisted schemes. This is where I feel the author excelled. She manages to make you believe, time after time, that his schemes have been foiled. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't, but he still finds, very believable ways, to twist things still further and benefit regardless.

Although the struggle for control of the ring is the primary plot of this novel, the plight of the genics is a very strong subplot that weaves through the book. By the end I found myself caring as much about justice for them as justice for the baddie.

I found the subject of the treatment of, and attitudes towards genics particularly thought provoking. Genetic manipulation is something we are capable of today. Granted not to the levels described in this story, however it is not that much of a stretch to imagine that we could be capable of this in the near future and there is already strong feeling both for and against this science. The subject of the treatment of beings created in this way is covered in detail and is something we may all find ourselves having to consider, possibly sooner than we think.

I strongly suspect that I will be picking this one up again in the future.

Rating: 6/10


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