This is an interesting book which I enjoyed a great deal, although with a few reservations. I loved the setting - Anuna's people live in a village built under an overhanging rock shelter, in the style of many such found in the southwestern US and Mexico. This is an unusual and evocative setting, very nicely drawn. The author has also created a beautifully detailed world view, a religion combined with a magic system, which makes perfect sense. The early part of the book, which describes how Anuna becomes a 'Weaver' (spiritual leader and healer) to her people is lovely, and the little traditional stories scattered throughout the book are charming.
The characters are more of a
mixed bag. Anuna herself is a very sympathetic character, whose
anxieties are perfectly in keeping with her age and experience. She
knows herself to be capable, but she is easily cast into despair and
needs constant reassurance. However, her growth in confidence during the
story and the way she takes up the role of leader while retaining her
humility is very believable. Baran, too, comes across as a fully rounded
person, and Dog, of course, is a wonderful character.
is a little too black to be truly believable. The author makes a good
effort to give him redeeming qualities and the sort of history which
explains his behaviour, even if it doesn’t excuse it, but still I found
him just too evil to be realistic, and his men seemed too ready to
follow him unquestioningly. And then there are the kidnapped women from
Anuna’s village. Oh dear, what a bunch of useless victims. Even given
their beliefs and the horror of the situation, I would have expected a
touch more resilience and common sense. Given that a large part of the
plot revolves around them, it’s a pity they’re not a bit more robust.
plot is a fairly simple one: while Anuna is off in seclusion becoming a
Weaver, her village is raided and almost everyone killed, apart from
four women taken off to become breeding stock for the raiders. There are
no swords, no battles, no kings or empires, no duelling wizards, no
quest to save the world. The only fights are the scuffling in the dirt
variety, with the occasional dagger, spear or kick to the groin. This is
a very basic story of survival in very trying circumstances, the battle
of good and evil writ very small and personal. I had some issues with
the women’s belief that suicide is the only honourable solution to the
defilement of rape, but the author addresses the idea head on, so it
doesn’t go unchallenged. For those sensitive to the subject, rape is a
central theme but there is nothing graphic or erotic in the depiction of
it, although I confess to some unease at the heroine’s sexual response
in a context of captivity, brutality and rape.
writing style is rather nice, detailed and descriptive without being
overwrought. However, there’s a great deal of angsting amongst the
women, a lot of crying and even falling into swoons, which I don’t have
much patience with, I’m afraid. There’s also a lack of polish - numerous
minor typos (not spelling or grammatical errors, so much as mistypes -
‘it’ for ‘in’ and the like - plus words missed out and odd extra words,
as if an edit failed to remove all the unwanted words). A character
called Korak later becomes Karak. And a logic fail - a major plot point
is that two of the village women reject Anuna because she is now
‘tainted’, except that one of the women, Orana, is herself ‘tainted’ in
exactly the same way. Hypocrisy by the women, or an error?
are also outbreaks of total stupidity on the part of some of the
characters. Who, given the choice of being burned alive or trying to
escape, would actually say - no thanks, we’ll burn? And who, having
reached safety, would actually turn round and go back for them? In
fantasy, all sorts of improbable things can happen, but (magic aside)
human nature remains the same, and some actions just aren’t credible.
these quibbles, I enjoyed the story and tore through it a couple of
days. There is a strong romance element, and for those who like
large-scale action and epic dilemmas, this is not the book for you, but I
rather liked it, especially the unusual setting and the
well-thought-out magic/religious system. And Dog, who has a starring
role. The negatives keep it to three stars.