Today's review is the first from a new Pal. Welcome Joan Slowey.
When I started reading this book I thought it would be about warring tribes, about hate and destruction. But instead it is about love and peace as realised through a passionate and tender love story between two people of different race and background. Their situation calls for patience and tolerance and a willingness to learn about the "other". They have to question their accepted perceptions, their core beliefs and their place in society.
This story takes place in an alternative universe where there are extra suns and moons and where people have two hearts. I stepped into this wonderful world and accepted it but I would have liked a bit of information about the effect on the planet of all the extra light and heat, and the function of a second heart in an otherwise normal, human body. The story involves two types of people, the Morevas and the Hakoi. The Morevas consider themselves superior to the lowly Hakoi and behave accordingly.
The main character, Moreva Tehi, is banished from her home for breaking the rules of her grandmother - The Most Holy One. For a year she is to be steward to a garrison in a Hakoi village, Mjor, in the far north of the country:
" . . . cold and dark, with dense woods full of wild animals."
Spoiled from birth, she assumes she is smarter and more knowledgeable than anyone else and she hates the Hakoi, considering them all stupid. She is reckless and impulsive but she is also a marvellous healer, working hard to find a cure for the Red Disease. Her grandmother forbids her to continue her research when she goes away but she packs up her mobile laboratory and her notes and takes them with her anyway.
And this, for me, is where the story becomes enchanting. I loved the colourful Hakoi village. I loved climbing the tower where Tehi lived, and I loved spending time with the kindly, local healer, Hyme, in his clinic. Tehi meets the Laerd Teger who runs the village; he is a Hakoi with no time for Tehi's people. They clash immediately, each determined to best the other but very soon they fall in love, and it's a wonderful love story. Tehi's hearts are opened up and she realises that anger and hate are based on fear:
" . . . My hate, a black blot upon my soul."
" . . . we may find there was nothing to fear at all, and we can replace our hate with love."
The narrative drive of this book is very good; it's what makes us all read, and the characters of Tehi, Teger and Hyme are very likeable. The best thing, for me, was the atmosphere; it was so strong. I really felt I was there, in the village, and when it snowed it was pure magic. The dialogue is realistic and the whole story is well paced with hints of the outcome skilfully placed here and there with a glance, a word. The main theme is love and how it heals the damage caused by bigotry and prejudice. I wondered as I read, how all the problems were going to be solved and I found the resolution both clever and unexpected.
On the negative side - there are a couple of villains in the village but they appear rarely and we know little about them. And I think a few more main characters would add to the interest of the story, and maybe a sub-plot. I have to mention the repetition - locking and unlocking doors, going up and down the stairs, going to meals, eating the meals, walking back to the tower or laboratory, putting on and taking off costumes and make-up.
But in the overall story this is a small complaint. I really enjoyed this book and often find myself thinking about the village and the forests and mountains, and wondering how everyone is getting on.
There is some sex in this book and some mild violence.
No significant issues.
Rating: **** Four Stars
Reviewed by: Joan Slowey
Approximate word count: 165-170,000 words