Sunday, 30 December 2012

Transgressions by Phillip Berrie

Transgressions by Phillip Berrie is the first book in what I assume will be a fantasy trilogy. The following review contains minor spoilers, but nothing pertaining to vital plot elements.

Transgressions is about Wamzut, a wizard who, before the action begins, lost his body and almost died in a magical battle. He was saved as a disembodied soul only due to a magical insurance device he had in place. The story opens with a priestess, Nessa, helping him take possession of a body whose soul has vacated it due to an unrelated magical attack. The new body is not that of an 80 year old man, however, but of a young, half-elven woman.

There is plenty of scope for this to go badly in terms of how it is treated in the text, but Berrie pulls it off without making it creepy. Wamzut, now going by Attina, the name of the woman whose body he's possessing, vows to find and stop the magical creature that killed Attina and commences that quest more or less immediately (after dealing with a few practical matters). Of course, things don't go entirely to plan and so, a more-epic-than-intended journey begins.

As far as the trans aspect goes, Wamzut is still at heart a man and refers to himself as male unless he's specifically referring to his body (and even then he usually says "Attina's body"). He also continues to be attracted to women and, after some (entertaining) urging on Nessa's part, a physical relationship blooms between them. I do think perhaps a bit more time could have been devoted to him angsting about his new genitalia, instead of being skimmed over, but the "how to be a woman" conversation was also skimmed over, underscoring that the focus of the story is on magical events rather than the new gender.

The world building was well thought out. There were lots of small world-fleshing-out bits dropped in, which I enjoyed. A particular favourite was the psychic wave that rolls with the sunrise which interferes with some types of magic and jolts magic-wielders awake if they're sleeping.

I found the prose a little stilted at times, but given that it's told in first person by a technically 80 year old man, it is, perhaps, understandable. I got used to the style more quickly than I expected to but I suppose your mileage may vary.

Transgressions is very much a book 1. A lot of goals are introduced which Wamzut begins to world towards but not all are completed. The book did end at a logical break point but I was left wanting to know "but what about...?" It's definitely the first portion of a larger story and I am keen to read the next instalment to find out what happens.

I recommend Transgressions to fantasy fans, particularly those who enjoy stories about travelling between worlds/dimensions. Although I didn't think the trans aspect was handled poorly, I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a trans narrative; it's definitely more a story about magic than gender.

4 / 5 stars

Published: November 2012, self-published
Series: Book 1 of ? (guessing it will be a trilogy)
Format read: ebook
Source: Review copy provided by the author
Disclaimers: The author is a friend and once upon a time I read an early draft of part of the opening, which influenced my reading slightly (thanks to vaguely remembered story facts), but not my review.

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