For those of you who are interested in such things, Megan Lindholm also writes under the name of Robin Hobb, one of the most successful and accomplished Fantasy writers of her generation. Her impressive output includes The Farseer Trilogy, Liveship Traders Trilogy, The Tawny Man Trilogy and The Soldier’s Son Trilogy. This novel is a significant departure to her other work – it is set in the distant past and there isn’t very much magic, other than that provided by the overbearing shaman.
Living on the outskirts of the tribe, Tillu is happy spending her time tending her strange, slow, dreamy child Kerlew and communing with the land to heal the sick and bring blessing on new births. However Carp, the Shaman, an ugly wizened old man whose magic smells foul to Tillu knows that Carp’s magic will steal her son and her soul. So begins a harrowing and desperate pursuit across the winter-ravaged lands, as Tillu’s flight leads them into an uncertain, and deadly, new future.
This tale pulls you in immediately as we follow Tillu in her efforts to keep her son safe in a period where Life is tough – particularly for a lone woman with a child who is oblivious of the social conventions surrounding him. Where the weather and any number of illnesses or accidents can wipe out a life and those depending upon it in a matter of hours, Lindholm manages to depict the time and place with pinsharp attention to detail, without giving us any long-winded exposition. We are not only confronted with Tillu’s dilemma – we also learn of Heckram’s struggle to secure himself a reasonable future, after the untimely death of his father. He feels a strong sense of sympathy for the fey Kerlew and desires to help him. But he has other calls on his loyalty and energy, as Elsa, his childhood sweetheart is clearly in trouble and looks to him for help…
Lindholm manages to give a wholly convincing slice of life in a reindeer herder’s village and the scene when a young couple are setting up home together is a particularly fine example of how deftly this author crafts a technically demanding scene. I don’t know whether Lindholm has much immediate experience of the sort of landscape she uses in this story – but it certainly reads as if she has.
If you enjoy reading historical tales that have the characters and their particular problems jumping off the page and into your head, then go looking for this book – and one of my main priorities is to get hold of the sequel, Wolf’s Brother.