The Roses of Roazon
by Cherith Baldry
Published by Tor Books
480 pages, 2004
Something Frightening This Way Comes
Reviewed by Robert Lightbody
With the release of Cherith Baldry's The Roses of Roazon, the fantasy world has a new rising star. Baldry's name may not be as well known in the fantasy writing world as some other authors, but I believe with the release of this brilliant and exciting new book this is about to change. The Roses of Roazon is a delicately gripping blockbuster of a book which, from front to back cover, had me enthralled within the layers of its multifaceted, character driven plot. Like the rose in its title, the book may be likened to a single rose that is lovely when in bud, but becomes so much more beautiful when its petals are unfurled and you gain a glimpse of the complexity of the whole.
The story is set within the peaceful land of Arvorig which is governed by the newly appointed Joscelin, Duke of Roazon. Behind the throne of the dukedom, dark forces are at work that will attempt to strip Joscelin of his title and have him banished for heresy. Those who threaten to overthrow Joscelin have forgotten the ancient tale that says if a true Duke or true member of the Roazon bloodline does not hold power in Roazon, then the long banished, mysterious, demon infested island of Autrys will once again rise and threaten all of humanity. Against this epic backdrop of the age-old struggle between good and evil, others will also face their own personal battles of faith, love and redemption.
The Roses of Roazon is set within a medieval French-styled society of political courtly intrigue, religious fervor, knightly chivalry, unrequited romance and generous doses of dark machinations. Much like the brilliant fan series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R Martin, The Roses of Roazon tells its story from the individual perspectives of its colorful characters. There isn't one overriding hero -- each of the characters' stories feeds into the larger narrative, like the individual threads of some magnificent tapestry, that only once spun together can reveal its enthralling tale.
I loved Cherith Baldry's last book, the dark and mysterious fantasy The Reliquary Ring, set within the opulence of a romanticized pseudo-Venetian landscape, populated by dark magic and even darker science. And there are definite comparisons between the darker elements of both of these books. But The Roses of Roazon is a hands down winner that surpasses its predecessor in absolute leaps and bounds. The world of Roazon is rich in warmth and detail and there are some truly memorable moments, from The Day of Memories lakeside ceremony at the beginning of the book to the chilling and succinct sacking of the city by demons in the book's later chapters. And if you add into this rich environment beautifully emotive characters such as the downtrodden but chivalrous Bertrand, the emotionally torn anti-hero Aurel and the former sister Alissende, hoping to regain her faith, you have a truly beautiful and memorable novel.
Kudos to Baldry for keeping this book to a single volume, which is rare nowadays. It's possible that she could -- as has become the trend -- spin this book out into several needless volumes. Since this would doubtlessly quell the intensity and pace of the book, I am glad she didn't and opted instead to give us this one full-bodied novel that uses every bit of its 480-plus pages. I have no hesitation in recommending The Roses of Roazon as one of the best reads of 2004. When I look back to compile my own list of personal highlights of the year, I'm sure it will be somewhere near the top. | May 2004
Robert Lightbody is an entertainment journalist working in London, who writes for magazines around the world. He likes books that stoke the imagination and leave you with that "something special" long after you have read the last line.