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Song of the River (1997)

de Sue Harrison

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Séries: Storyteller (1)

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A historical novel on the Aleut people, who inhabited prehistoric Alaska. The hero is Chakliux, a trader of hunting dogs who becomes embroiled in tribal intrigues, leading to murder and the massacre of dogs. Lots of detail on the Aleut way of life.
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This book starts in violence and then it seems to drag from there. The reader is introduced to K'os as she returns from following visitors to her village. They discover her and abuse her. She never really recovers - at least not inwardly. She returns to the scene to find a baby and she thinks he is a gift from the gods. He goes on to become her people's storyteller.

Now in a time of suppressed violence between tribes the storyteller is going to the neighboring tribe to marry the chief's daughter to cement peace. But his presence is the last thing that tribe wants and he is the last person to bring peace.

I didn't love this book as much as I loved Ms. Harrison's other book, Mother Earth Father Sky. It didn't draw me in the same way. The characters weren't as compelling to me. I found myself putting it down and going back to it. I do marvel at the research and attention to detail in the story and did find myself truly seeing the world Ms. Harrison created for her people. ( )
  BooksCooksLooks | Aug 23, 2013 |
I have never really gotten into cave people historical fiction. Despite my love for the HF genre, and despite my majoring in Anthropology as an undergrad, I just have never been that drawn to prehistoric heroines. I suppose I've always suspected it would feel false: I'm impatient enough with Regency heroines being modern, so I'd inevitably hate my cave heroine, right?

Yeah, no. (And mostly because this book has a cave hero, not heroine, but even then, there was nothing for me to hate in this book!)

Set in 6th millennium BC in the southeastern part of Alaska, Harrison's novel opens brutally: K'os, a young girl, is assaulted by men of her tribe, and revenge and malice bury themselves in her. Days later, K'os finds an abandoned baby, perfect save for one malformed foot, and raises him. Chakliux, now grown up, is a gifted storyteller, rumored to be an animal-gift from the gods, part otter. His arranged marriage to a beautiful girl from another tribe is meant to cement peace between the two peoples, but in Shakespearean fashion, things shake out quite differently. By page 50, there have been murders, a family secret revealed, and inter-tribal treachery.

While Chakliux is one of the central characters to the story, there's actually a half dozen other players shaping the narrative, members of two tribes struggling to survive in the harsh Alaskan world, the balance of peace or war teetering. Against that great pressure is the more mundane challenges these tribes face: the fight for resources, tribal cohesion, desire for things versus real need (this mostly shakes out in terms of romantic/sexual partnerships -- everyone is yearning for someone else!).

In many ways, I reminded of Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, which featured the many perilous ways sheep could die (among other plot dramas), and Harrison doesn't stint on the harsh details -- there's no romantic view of indigenous people here. The feel of the story is very family saga-ish, and I think those who enjoy that kind of sweeping narrative will like this one. There's a rather bittersweet end to the novel, more bitter than sweet, and I'm dying for the second book.

Despite the length (over 480 pages!), I found the narrative raced; even with the large-ish cast, I was able to keep everyone straight with a few quick notes (remembering who was married to whom, that kind of thing). This e-book has great extras: an Author's Notes which includes some information about her language choices and use of Native American words in the story; a 4-page glossary of Native American words; a map; and a 4-page Pharmacognosia, an annotated list of the plants mentioned in the novel.

Another great re-release by Open Road Media, and I'm looking forward to digging into the rest of Harrison's novels. Those who like Jean Auel's series might want to start this one as well as anyone who likes unusual historical fiction -- this is a place and era you don't often see! ( )
1 vote unabridgedchick | Aug 20, 2013 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Sue Harrisonautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Davies, Stephen BelNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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For the Aleut People
in gratitude and respect
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Late Fall 6480 BC
The Cousin River People's winter village

The pain had been terrible, but that was not what K'os remembered.
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A historical novel on the Aleut people, who inhabited prehistoric Alaska. The hero is Chakliux, a trader of hunting dogs who becomes embroiled in tribal intrigues, leading to murder and the massacre of dogs. Lots of detail on the Aleut way of life.

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