First in the Aspect of Crow trilogy. Eyes of Crow is a fantasy which takes place in an ambiguous setting. Possibly the far future following a cataclysm, or possibly set in another universe. (I'm just going by the book, if anyone knows for sure, feel free to let us know in the comments).
The people of Asermos each have the gift of a different animal aspect, and each animal brings different talents. Rhia is bound to the spirit of Crow, a rare gift, which allows her foresight of death. Being a Crow is a great responsibility, charged with easing the passage of people to the Other side. It's a time of change in Rhia's life. She has to accept her gift - a thing which she doesn't find easy to do - and begin her training. But the Descendents (people who have abandoned the spirit animals and embraced the man made) are seeking to invade. Rhia will have to face her fears, the loss of both friends and family and death itself.
I'm not sure if it's good to be almost in tears within the first few pages of a book. (Actually I am, and it is.) But that's how quickly I was sucked into Rhia's world.
Although I found the introduction of the various animal aspects - bear, mouse, wasp, wolf, swan, spider, otter, wolverine, butterfly etc. - slightly info-dumpy. I think it was probably best to get this out of the way and make it familiar early, so it's in the readers head. And I admit that once I started this book I couldn't put it down.
Rhia has to leave her village of Asermos and travel to Kalindos to be trained by their Crow. There is a discord between the two villages which made me think of the ant and the grasshopper parable. The Asermons are an agricultural community, the Kalindons are more hunter/gatherers, living closer to the edge.
Whilst at Kalindos she begins a relationship with Marek (a wolf). Yet at the same time she's trying to find her way, to understand what being a Crow means. Her people are also having to deal with the fact that their very way of life is being threatened by the Descendents. Brings new meaning to the idea that you aren't given more than you can handle.
The world itself and its rules are incredibly well thought out. Each animal spirit gift has three phases. First when they accept the gift (I think), the second on the birth of a child, the third on the birth of a grandchild. With each phase increasing the power / potential of the gift. In this society people don't have children until they're ready, this shows they're ready for the next phase of their power. The consequences for going against this natural order can be harsh. As can the consequences of denying your gift. Both of these choices are explored in Eyes of Crow.
For me Eyes of Crow was very much about trying to understand your place in the world, when the world you know is constantly shifting and changing. Rhia resists change, she puts off embracing her spirit animal, and intially runs away from taking the necessary steps to becoming a Crow. But you don't blame her for her fear, and through the course of the book, she grows both emotionally and spiritually. We see her change from a girl to a young woman.
This is definitely another series I'll be following.
Also available - Voice of Crow (Bk2)