This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week I have decided to go for an animal theme, featuring one of my favourite authors. Megan Lindholm, aka Robin Hobb, wrote the cracking duology The Reindeer People – see my review here. These are some of the covers for the first book.
This offering was published by Unwin in 1989. I think it is beautiful and accurately reflects the feel of Lindholm’s world.
This version was produced by in 2001, though I don’t know who the publisher is as Goodreads merely says it isn’t available. Whoever designed the cover did a really good job, in my opinion. Again, it gives a sense of what the book is about while being attractive and eye-catching.
This is the latest edition of The Reindeer People, published in 2011 by Voyager. It is the starkest cover, with a very simple font and an ungarnished image of reindeer, doubtless in consideration of the thumbnail necessary for Kindle books. It is certainly adequate, but doesn’t have the detail or beauty of both of the earlier covers.
My favourite is the first one, which I think absolutely captures the book while also providing a beautiful cover – though I’m sure it would not reduce to a thumbnail particularly well. Which is your favourite?
This is the second half of the story Lindholm started with The Reindeer People and picks up exactly where the first book finished, back sometime during the Bronze Age, in the wilds of Northern America/Europe/Russia.
Every day, Kerlew’s magic grows, reaching out to his guide, the Wolf. But the magic also calls to Carp, the evil old shaman, who is pursuing Kerlew and his mother, Tillu, across the frozen waste. Meanwhile, someone – or something – is committing terrible atrocities in the village that Tillu now calls home. With fear and suspicion at fever pitch, a strange old man appears, with an offer of help…
Lindholm manages to perfectly capture the sense of fear and claustrophobia that overtakes her protagonists after an unsolved murder. And two very ambitious, ruthless individuals appear to be able to operate without any opposition within the small community, as misfortunes continue to pile up. This is essentially a murder/mystery and the fantastic elements are confined to the shamanistic magic practised by Carp and Kerlew. It works really well and I was so caught up in the characters and their problems, I didn’t miss the supernatural factor. The world is so distant from our own, where Life is precarious and the difference between survival and death often simply down to misfortune, there was a constant sense of tension.
Tillu’s efforts to try and protect Kerlew from Carp’s malign influence held me – as did Heckram’s attempt to keep his place within the small community after having made some powerful enemies… This isn’t a long read, which is just as well because once I picked up the book I found it very difficult to put down. Lindholm’s pacing, evocation of the journey when the tribe have to follow the wild reindeer herds to their summer camp and her depiction of the handful of vividly drawn characters is a joy.
She brings this tale to a triumphant and climactic end – and this little gem presages the author’s successful career as one of the foremost Fantasy writers of her generation as Robin Hobb. Both The Reindeer People and Wolf’s Brother are available in print and as an ebook. If you are already a Robin Hobb fan and want an enjoyable, compelling read then give yourself a treat. You won’t be sorry…
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.