on 9 March 2014
OK, I'm not going to go on about how entertaining and engaging Saidak's characters are, and not just Kalie...they are and you will meet them and some of them you will never forget, both from Kalie's people and the nomads. Another thing I loved about this book is that there is very little unbelievable magic... just some good doses of spiritualistic rituals that fit in with the era in which these people lived. I also stupidly put off reading it for almost a year in spite of it right under my nose on my kindle. Silly me!
But there's several things I want to mention that I don't think will give away the story that I think are important in understanding that this is a story about two cultures previously living somewhat ignorant of the other's existences, separated by great geographical distances/mountains etc until by chance, Kalie is captured by a small group of normads who had ranged south. After a long time, she manages to escape back to her people who can't believe that a tribe like these nomads could ever exist. She is physically and mentally damaged and almost catatonic, although the author does not go into what happened whilst she was captured as that is the point of the story. Her people just go into a state of denial.
I was not expecting a comparison to any of Jean Auel's books as some reviewers have mentioned. That series takes place 28,000 BP. Daughter of the Goddess Lands is set much much later in time when grain farming, animal husbandry and pottery were practiced by those who followed the Great Mother culture and lived in thriving communities and, well after 10,000BP But they also hunted some and gathered in the woodland and fields as well.Their weapons and tools are still stone. That is my favourite time in prehistory.... before smelting of hard metals or the invention of writing (that we have found anyways). After that, most sagas become more about the weapon superiority. This is about people and culture clash and worst of all....greed and enslavement.
Kalie's people, who follow the Great Mother, created villages and even large towns with permanent walled and roofed structures. I virtualy can picture this at the edges of the Black Sea. If you know of Göbekli Tepe, then this builds on that very early settlement culture. The houses in Kalie's town are all attached to each other, with access gained from the roof hatches. They lived beside a river... great flood prevention! Their farm fields and animal stock are outside the walls. And in the story, it was this architecture that helped to repel the nomads, but also cut the town off from their animals and crops, although they had food stores inside. They also travelled the river in this story with boats which connected them with other towns and villages. But they also travelled over land freely and did not worry about other similar peoples attacking....it just wasn't part of the goddess culture.
This is a novel, but based on the possibilities that the people in this era could have had a strong foothold on creating civilisations that were not based on patriarchal leadership and the less status of women. Civilisations that perhaps would have been more prevalent except for the wild nomads of the harsh eastern steppes that stormed down upon them. It was only a matter of time.
The nomads had heard stories of the people living to the south. They laughed with disdain at these peaceful pastoral people living in a warm climate with plenty of food where women are revered and respected, and were leaders. Kalie's people see pottery and other things as items of beauty and or usefulness and valuable to trade. Nomads see them as only things to be taken as booty and conquer those who create them. The nomads can't believe their luck. Why don't they lock up their women/concubines/slaves and possessions as they did. They will just ride south and take it all.
They didn't count on Kalie who had survived being taken by a nomad party previously and who had healed but had hardened inside. When she returned to her people, it took their healers all their skills to bring her mind back. She had been that damaged. But that is not the point of the story. She warns them about the nomads...but they don't believe any people could be that barbaric, even though they had heard tales.
When the nomads who storm their town are repelled by the shocked inhabitants thanks to the walled nature of their town, and some are taken in as captives, it becomes a standoff. To let the captives go (and Kalie's people healed the injured ones to their surprise as they expected to be killed) wasn't enough for the small army of nomads camped outside the town (cutting off Kalie's people from their fields and livestock).
The egotistical nomads wanted a surrender with tribute as payment then they will not pillage their town....but Kalie and her people are intelligent and cunning. Kalie's proposal of infiltration of the nomads by going as part of the "tribute" with them back to the steppes is seen as a wild and reckless plan by her kin and town peoples. But she has other women who agree with her. They know it will be terrible going with them, but infiltration will give them the chance to kill them once they are there to stop any more from coming south. The agreement is reached and they go, but they have no idea how terrible it will be. But for now their town will be safe it they go. The nomads think they have won and will just return and plunder next time...forget about tribute. Kalie thinks that she and her warriors, who have been training hard, think infiltration and assassination will be hard but very possible.
I love that the author did not dump Kalie into the arms of one of the captives they'd taken and healed. During his recuperation he had leaned a lot about them. He was realising his normad ways were not always the answer. Kalie's people were very advanced. But the nomads are a desperate and ruthless people...their grazing lands are drying up, rival clans are ever a threat. They live in a kill or be killed culture.
What Kalie finds is that on the plains and steppes to the east and north, life is harsh. No fertile fields for cultivation to provide enough food to allows a tribe to stay in one place. Also, climate change no longer gives them the predictable cycles that sustained their circular migrations to follow the seasons with their entourage. They have huge herds or horses and goats. They erect tents and setup their living spaces every time they move. They treat their women and even children a bit like the baggage they have to take along on migrations. There's little time for art and culture, although Kalie discovers some of the women create beautiful things. For men... their horses and any sons their women can give them are the most valued possessions. Wives were for making sons, daughters were for trading and concubines for fun and sons as well and then women slaves for the wives to help with all the work. There is no room for peaceful pursuits and other tribes may take your stake on a place on the steppes, your horses, goats, women, possessions. Any men taken in skirmishes are killed only the women are divvied up as mentioned above.
One woman can't change it all in one go...and she doesn't. That's why I enjoyed it so much. She suffered, her comrades suffered. But there are victories and ultimately, a certain revenge, her original goal of her and her fellow women warriors becomes less important when the future of her people are at stake.
The sequel, Shadow of the Horsemen, carries on with Kalie's mission because when DOTGL ends... you will want more!
If you liked Mary Mackey... you will LOVE this series. The time period is slightly shifted and that makes for a different take on the setting and characters.
Sandra Saidak writes more of an adventure saga than a romanticone and how the nomads and their horse-taming, along with the farmers in the south, changed the world forever. It did happen, how it happened? We do not know...was it all violent? Was there any peaceful negotiation? Were they weary starved nomads who just walked south with what was left of their horses, woman and tents begging for a place in the more verdant areas of the Mother people? Who knows... but given how the nomads has survived for so long until the steppes gave up their fertile grounds, it's unlikely. These books were not only entertaining but I learned a lot. It was readily apparent her research is accurate and in depth but didn't get in the way of a good story.
I understand the third in the sequel will be out, Keepers of the Ancient Wisdom, later in this year hopefully? I can't wait because when I got to the end of Shadow of the Horsemen I wanted more!
on 7 June 2014
I was expecting this to come up short compared to Jean Auel, but was pleasantly surprised. I found Auel's writing gets quite 'preachy,' especially towards the end of her series, but this is much more subtle and yet still manages to depict a well-rounded culture. I liked the way it avoided the obvious romantic cliches, and the heroine isn't one of those perfect annoying characters.