Loved the characters and the journey the story took me on!!
This was a really fun and interesting book, the characters and the story line had me hooked from the very first chapter!
This book was so different. if you want to read about aborigines people. This is full of details about how a people live, survive and die in a primitive setting this is the book for you. Malcolm and Jessas story was so full with challenge. It never explained what happened- how Malcolm came to this different dimension that was so like Earth. I felt it took such a long time to get to the good part. I almost put it down. I’m glad I didn’t. It was so good at the end. I am not as happy with the ending but it is enough to soothe my soul.
This is one of the most touching novels I read in the last couple of months. I was VERY impressed by it. One of those books you hate to have reached the end of. The military part sounds convincing, there is invested in world building and in a growth of the people's minds and characters.
Malcolm Redwing is a captain in the British army and stationed in Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. While he was a lonely boy and student he feels very much at home in the army and is best friends with Charlie his bunkmate. Tall, blonde, gregarious, handsome Charlie. Malcolm himself is rather short, had dull brown hair and grey eyes and is not that handsome. He has come to a time in life he has to decide to stay in the army for another couple of years or do what his handsome fiancee Rachel wants and become a civilian. But then his commander asks him to stay in Afghanistan a bit longer and do some covert work in a forwarded base. When Malcolm tells Rachel she turns into a mad cat and tells him she hates him playing soldier and having a hero complex and ends their relationship. Flabbergasted Malcolm changes his next of kin into Charlie and boards the chopper. A chopper that crash-lands and all Malcolm remembers is sliding into a hole.
When he comes to he is shackled and wounded. A chestnut haired, brown eyed woman is taking care of him. He thinks he must be somewhere deep inland in Afghanistan and is surprised he cannot understand a word of what the people are saying but he hopes and prays they will not hand him to the Taliban.
What he does not know is that he is the first person with grey eyes those people have ever seen. Only gods have grey eyes. They themselves have mostly blue eyes apart from a few people like Jessa the healer who has brown eyes and is thus regarded as a second class citizen. What he also does not know is that the tribe suspect him to be one of "the Others" a mysterious enemy in the south. They plan to torture the truth out of him.
All of a sudden the village is attacked and about to be slaughtered with most men still on a hunt. The leader of the remaining warriors cuts Malcolm free and with his military training he manages to help him save the lives of the villagers.
Malcolm thinks he is lucky. But when he walks out of the tent in the evening he freezes. In the sky are two moons and not a star looks familiar. Malcolm realises he cannot be on earth but has no clue how he got there.
The novel reminded me a lot of stories like "Dances with Wolves" but later on I also recognised the influence of the Mongol and Chinese. It is a nomadic culture centred around horses. The stallion of the herd decides where to go and the mares and the people follow. Also their view on fertility is seen in horse's terms. The women have fillies in their belly and the spirit-sire gives those life. The men of the tribe are normally invited by the women to share their tents on occasion. So it is seen as very strange that Malcolm always sleeps in Jessa's tent even after he is completely healed but no stallion sounds are heard.
Unlike in most modern novels here the relationship between Jessa and Malcolm develops very slowly and genuinely. The same applies for his relationship with the rest of the tribe. Or with us as a reader. You really feel ties to both Jessa and Malcolm.
What is also very well done is the ending. I am not saying a word but let me tell you it is quite uncommon.
I can strongly recommend this novel. It deserves a lot of readers.
And what the last loyalty is? Is it Malcolm's loyalty to the army, the loyalty of the tribe towards him or Jessa's lasting love?
What an incredible debut read! I was blown away by this story, moved to tears by the ending, but satisfied by the way it was done even so. It was the perfect finale for this book (even if it did make me cry).
I wasn't sure when I read synopsis if it would be a story for me, but it sounded a bit like Jean M Auel series, of which I read and loved the first book years ago. ( I might have to search the rest out now!) It does share a few characteristics via The People and the way they live, very primitively, but I feel they share more with historical Native Indians in their outlook, reverence for nature, the way they follow the horse herd, as the Native Indians followed the bison etc at different times of year.
Jessa, a classic under-dog, talented and respected as a healer, and yet ridiculed at times for her eye colour, brown, unlike the rest of the People who have blue eyes.
Hers is a lonely life, not for her the popularity among the men of the other ladies, and she's kind of apart from the rest, few real friends, always on the fringes.
Then she gets a new patient and although he's a stranger, a potential danger to The People, she is fierce in her defence of him. Malcolm's uniform bears marks the People associate with Gods, and when he does open his eyes they are gray – another sign from the Gods.
Malcolm finds it hard to believe his situation, is desperate to escape and get back to his duty with the army. It's when he looks out at night though, early on, and sees two moons and many more stars than on Earth that he realises its not going to be easy. He has no idea where he is or if its possible to return.
As time goes on and he becomes accepted among The People his desire to get back, his duty to return vies with his situation of a life he's come to enjoy, a woman he loves, a people he respects.
And then come The Others.....and Malcolm realises that maybe he is here for a reason, that the People need him and his command of tactics to survive the upcoming battle.
Its a fabulous read, I really enjoyed seeing the day to day life of how the People live, the way the horses are so important, the way the tribe is run, the respect for nature. When Malcolm goes on his first hunt and the prayer of thanks to the Gods is said over the animal that dies, the prayer respecting and venerating its sacrifice of life, it reminded me very much of the Native Indians who did the same, and of the Scots who had their own prayers of thanks when hunting. I've no doubt other groups that live off the land have similar rituals, and this made the hunt feel very real.
I liked too that they didn't just slay at random, but chose older, weaker targets, never a pregnant or nursing animal, and when the leader decided they had enough meat for survival they stopped.
All that made the People feel real to me, I loved their rituals, the way nothing was wasted, their whole way of life, tough but fair in the main. There's a hierarchy that works, where everyone knows their place.
Malcolm slowly finds his place, and he was a man I adored, he saw in Jessa what her eye colour blinded the others to. Once he treated her with respect, as a desired woman, other men of the People saw her differently too. I was so happy at what transpired between them, at the way she and Malcolm became one unit, that he didn't follow the Peoples custom of sleeping with any woman that invited them, but stayed true to Jessa only.
I felt I knew many of the tribe, knew them as people, as real individuals and understood their reactions. I liked that not all were good, that sometimes behind a pretty or handsome face lay an unpleasant nature. There's a slow build up of tension between some of the characters, things that all come to a climax towards the end.
And the end- oh I really wanted a different ending, but TBH it wouldn't have been near as good done my way. The way it happened broke my heart, made me cry but was so perfect, and among the sadness there is also happiness, not just for Jessa but for others of the People.
Stars: five, its an incredible, amazing, riveting first novel and I'm so looking forward to more from this author.
Married with two grown children, born and still lives in Birmingham, England.