Scholar of Decay by Tanya Huff sixth book in the recently re-released, and repackaged, Ravenloft the Covenant series. These books were originally published back in the middle nineties, but are now being released in trade paperback with new covers. Before the re-release of these I had read some of them, now I am happy that I will be able to read more of them. If you have never read a Ravenloft novel before, the easiest way to describe them is Dark Fantasy. Or, some may even say fantasy with a sadistic twist. In Ravenloft novels, readers will find many familiar fantasy elements but they will also find darker elements as well.
The main plot of this book centers around the scholar researching a spell to help his wife. The situation of his wife and how she is in the predicament she is in is well explained and provides a good catalyst for the story. There is also a myriad of subplots present as well. There is the relationship between the two brothers Aurek and Dmitri. There is the relationship between a pair of twin sisters and the rest of their family. Actually, in regards to the plot of this book there is so much stuff going on it is almost impossible to list it all here ad not spoil elements of the book itself. The plot is very well laid out and has a very natural flow to it. Ms. Huff quite obviously had a plan she wanted to accomplish with this story, and in my opinion she accomplishes quite a bit and created a very interesting story.
The characters in this book are very well written and add depth to the story. Each character's individual motivations are laid out for the reader to understand, as well as each character's actions are directly influenced by their past and their motivations. It's nice to see characters acting in a certain way not simply because the story says they need to. There are many memorable characters in this novel such as Aurek, Dmitri, Louise, Jacqueline, and too many more to name in this simple review. Even with all the characters, and plots, present in this book I never once felt like I didn't know where a character was or what was going on. That is a credit to Ms. Huff's ability to not only keep me entertained, but to keep me informed as well.
The only criticism I have with this book is there are a couple times during the book where there are dramatic point of view shifts with no break between the shift and the previous paragraph. These shifts actually jarred me out of the story and forced me to reread several sections to make sure I truly didn't miss anything.
In the grand scheme of things though, I really did enjoy this novel. It was a fast paced, solidly written fantasy book. It's not a book that requires the reader invest a great deal of thought into. Instead, the way the novel is written it allows the reader to be taken along for the ride.
Fans of dark fantasy or horror fantasy will no doubt find elements in this novel that they will appreciate. Even fans of traditional fantasy will find things within the pages of this book to enjoy. This is not an epic adventure/story, so if that is what you are looking for you may want to look somewhere else. However, if you are looking for a self-contained story with no books to read before or after, give this novel a shot. I can easily see myself recommending this novel to the right people.