Review: Passion Play by Beth Bernobich

Source: Goodreads Firstreads
 River of Soul #1
Paperback, 367 Pages 
Amazon / Barnes & Noble
Rating: 5/5

Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. Many would consider hers a happy lot. But there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that for a young woman of her beauty and social station, to be passive and silent is the best way to survive.

When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever.

And it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark,  master of one of the land’s most notorious pleasure houses…and who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppetmaster of a different sort altogether. Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.

I was a little hesitant to give this a full five star rating because it’s something I don’t give out lightly, but when it came down too it I just enjoyed it way to much to give it a mere four.

The beginning is a bit slow and I had a hard time getting into it, but once I got around chapter three and the set up was nearly completed I realized that this was going to be something wonderfully written and deeper then I had first realized. The title is a little misleading I think though. When you pick up a book named Passion Play and read the description they give, you get the picture that this is going to be one of those novels with a lot of elicit scenes and romances with some sort of noble and sexy scoundrel. Maybe not quite erotic novel but fairly close. That’s honestly not the case here. Now, there are some parts that warrant that this be read only by adults or those mature enough to handle the situations but it’s not erotic in nature and it’s certainly not distasteful. This book centers more around intrigue, there is a good deal of politics as well, and of course Ilse’s progress in making a life for herself.

Therez, or better known as Ilse (which I’m guessing is pronounced similar to e-lease), is the sort of main character that does what she has to in order to survive her situation. It may not be pretty and she may not like it but if it means she can get one step closer to the freedom she so craves she’ll do it. Early on you want more for her character, you feel horrible about her situation and when she does get a better opportunity you hope it only gets better. I connected with her pretty quickly thanks to the fact that the story starts off right before everything gets kick started. There is no long explanation of things or backgrounds because the way the author writes there is simply no need. I adored Raul and while his situation calls for pity at times he is a worthy counterpart to Ilse. The chemistry between the two comes off as genuine and progresses at a believable rate, as does the character development. It actually takes the time to explain things when needed but doesn’t bog you down all at once, unlike so many other fantasy novels that involve political unrest and threats of war.

I think that the ending is really the only thing that made me a tad upset.It’s not an actual cliff-hanger but it’s fairly close to one, and cliff-hangers are my literary enemy. I can’t wait to find out if the choice that Raul and Ilse made was the right one and if it will turn out in their favor.

I do highly recommend this to fantasy lovers, and for those who enjoy romance novels I’m sure you’ll enjoy this too if you into with the knowledge that this does not solely center on their relationship. If you are curious about the story but don’t want to commit Tor has a short story that serves a prequel for free on there site called River of Souls. I’ve yet to read it, but I’m sure it’ll give you a good sense of the writing style.

In compliance with FTC guidelines, I received this book through the First-Reads program on

5 stars

This entry was posted in Book Reviews (2012) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Review: Passion Play by Beth Bernobich

  1. This sounds delightful and yeah when a book makes me feel that good I give it a five!

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