Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Passion Play"

Beth Bernobich is a writer, reader, mother, and geek.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Passion Play, her first novel and the first volume in a trilogy from Tor Books, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Footsteps thudded heavily down the hillside. The men, three of them, circled the clearing, whispering and muttering to one another. One paused by Therez's shelter, his boots just inches from her face.

"She's not here," he said.

"Probably got away," said another one. "Damn. Well, there's no use tripping around in the dark. Let's go back and tell Alarik."

"He won't like it."

"Don't I know that."

They walked off, expressing their disgust by kicking the branches and leaves. Therez heard their noisy climb back up the slope. Quiet returned, but she counted to a hundred, then another hundred, before she crawled from her hiding place. By now, the moon was well up, and the sky was clear. It was cold, but she could survive. All I have to do is walk.
Passion Play takes place in a secondary fantasy world, where magic and multiple lives are real. This is not your feudal Europe--it's closer to early Renaissance, with a once-powerful Empire fragmented by civil war into smaller kingdoms. The largest of these, Veraene, would like to recapture that glorious past, but certain influential people understand such a goal would lead to a bloody and useless conflict, and so there is a war-within-a-potential-war taking place in the kingdom.

All that is a backdrop to the true story, however, which centers around Therez Zhalina, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, who has run away from home to escape an arranged marriage. Along the way, she changes her name to Ilse and buys passage on a caravan. Her plans for escape go south almost at once, but eventually she escapes and comes into contact with those involved in high politics.

So does page 69 represent the book? Well, yes and no.

The scene I quoted comes hours after Alarik Brandt, the caravan master, threatens to send Therez back to her father in return for a reward. Two young men she considered friends demand a high price to help her escape. She agrees, because she cannot see any other chance to escape. She's recaptured on this same page. On the next, she faces even more painful choices, but never gives up.

So in that sense, yes, this page does represent the spirit of the book--the obstacles, setbacks, and often horrific choices that Therez faces in her struggle to independence. The key element this page does not show--and cannot, at this point in the story--is the strength and healing she achieves along the way.
Read an excerpt from Passion Play, and learn more about the book and author at Beth Bernobich's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue