Chernovog by C.J. Cherryh
1990, Del Rey Books
Review Summary: Chernovog is effective in a way that Rusalka never quite achieved, more than likely because it is limiting the scope of the story being told. The storyline, the characters, and the themes being explored are all more focused and the result is a tighter, and easier to follow read.
Chernovog is effective in a way that Rusalka never quite achieved, more than likely because it is limiting the scope of the story being told. The storyline, the characters, and the themes being explored are all more focused and the result is a tighter, and easier to follow read.
The characterization in particular was done well and sets this apart as a completely separate chapter in the Rusalka series. In Chernovog, we get to see more of the individual characters Sasha, Pyetr, and Eveshka, along with Chernovog himself. We get to see their struggles attempting to live together, their worries about what harm they may or may not cause the non-magical pivot-point in their life (Pyetr), and their cautious explorations of what their lives together may amount to. Unlike Rusalka, the characters have had a few years of peace, some time to think and contemplate and grow, and the effect is very much appreciated.
The storyline begins simply enough, and while drawn out and edging along only step by step at times, the flow carries along much more smoothly than in the prior novel. The plotline’s resolution, however, is really where the novel falls apart this time – the confusion about whether or not Uulamets does really still exist is never fully explained, and the issues regarding the wolves is extremely fuzzy, confusing, and rushed, and the “why” of Chernovog’s final demise is, as far as I can determine, a mystery. What had been leading up to something interesting completely devolved into a chaotic mess at the end.
Cherryh’s themes in Chernovog were very strong, this time, as she seems to have begun refining some of the ideas she put forth in the earlier Rusalka. The constant balancing act between will and desire and morality that these characters are constantly struggling with may be a turn-off for some readers, but I find the arguments and discussions refreshing – what _does_ one do when one’s every wish can be granted? How do you prevent your every idle, human wish from accidentally destroying what you actually hold dear? I also greatly enjoyed Cherryh’s elucidation of her concept of magic versus sorcery in this series, with magic being what you were born with, and sorcery being a reaching for power beyond your native talents, through a bargain of some sort with purely magical beings, powers and principalities.
Overall, I am very glad to have read this follow-up to the initial Rusalka novel. If the ending could only have been less rushed/more complete, I would have been completely satisfied with the work.