It is not often a difficult thing to open up a book and determine that it is a Russian novel. There is a bleak and somber feel to much Russian literature, but within the dreary dread, there is a beauty. Whether you are looking at classic novelists like Dostoevsky and Gogol or a modern-era fantasist such as Tolstaya and Pehov, you will find the same building blocks. You will also find this to be the case with the stunning novel THE SCAR from Ukranian husband and wife team Sergey and Marina Dyachenko.
"THE SCAR is, quite simply, powerful, engaging, and a novel of depth, both in story and character."
Egert Soll is a member of the elite guard. He's a brash, arrogant, self-centered warrior who believes the world is his own personal oyster, and everything in it is for his own pleasure. When someone dares to defy him, he is more than skilled enough to dispatch them in deadly fashion during duels. The world begins to turn and collapse around him when he falls for a beautiful young girl, Toria, who is engaged to be married.
Egert humiliates and slays the fiance in a duel, but soon finds himself being challenged by a man known as the Wanderer. With more ability than Egert has known, the Wanderer easily bests the brutish guardsman. Rather than kill him, though, the mysterious foe slashes his face, curses him with a scar, and leaves him questioning his own skill, deflating his ego to the point of cowardice. Egert abandons his brothers and flees, seeking to undo the curse, face Toria, come to terms with his own failings, and at the same time manage to take on a secretive cult of wizards who have cruel designs for the world.
THE SCAR is, quite simply, powerful, engaging, and a novel of depth, both in story and character. Egert undergoes a standard folktale type of transformation, going from brute to fallen man, to hero reborn, but his journey is not one of predictability. Curses have two sides, and the Dyachenkos do a supreme job at exploring this double-edged quandry. The interplay between Egert Soll, Toria, her father Luayan, and the Wanderer is topped off with moments of intensity and introspection.
It is a shame that this novel was written in 1997 and has gone this long without finding an audience here in the US. The fantasy genre has long needed a little kick to shake things up. Sergey and Marina Dyachenko have crafted a fantasy more than deserving of a growing readership, and it can only be hoped that more of their fine work will make its way into our stores.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on May 17, 2012