Voice of Crow by Jeri Smith-Ready
This was published in October 2007 and is the second in the Aspect of Crow series. I absolutely loved the first book in the trilogy so I'm not really sure why I didn't get onto this one straight away. I think it just ended up slipping down my TBR pile by accident. Also I was quite affected by the first book and I sometimes find when this happens that I need a little space before continuing on with an author or series.
Voice of Crow picks up where Book 1 Eyes of Crow ends. The reprieve from the onslaught of the Descendents begun in Book 1 is only temporary. They return with a vengeance here, striking at the heart of the Kalindon and Asermon communities. Separated by the conflict Marek and Rhia pay a high price to keep their son safe. And at the end of the book, more than ever, it's clear that this is not a conflict that will be easily won, that in the future further sacrifices are waiting to be made.
The story doesn't suffer from middle book syndrome, that sense that some second books have of being nothing more than a bridge. Although Voice of Crow moves the reader from point A (the end of book 1) to point B (the start of book 3), it's very much about the journey and not the destination.
There are two stories told here. One is the continuing story of Marek and Rhia and I do like that we get to follow their relationship beyond the intial get together. We follow Rhia's pregnancy, the birth of her son and the separation of the family following the Descendent insurgency. This is quite a bleak part of the story, and what happens to Marek is heartbreaking, it's almost like it kills something inside of him. Indeed for a time it seems it has. Beautifully written, don't get me wrong, but when you are so involved with the characters and their situation...in some places it becomes difficult to read.
So in a way, thank goodness we have a slightly lighter storyline to follow as well.The developing relationship between Alanka the Kalindon wolf and Filip the Descendent prisoner of war. They are able to confide in each other in a way that is impossible for them with anyone else.
I love that they initially come together whilst both suffering from foot in mouth disease. Theirs is an unlikely relationship and it's thanks to the brilliant story telling of Jeri Smith-Ready that you wholeheartedly believe and root for them as a couple. And it also serves to illustrate the guilt that comes with finding happiness when all around you is sorrow.
He stroked her hair, wondering how, at a moment like this, he could dare to feel so happy.But it is mainly I think through Filip's eventual acceptance of the Asermon and Kalindon culture that we find hope, that maybe all the people of this world can be reconciled. His acceptance of his Guardian Spirit's (Horse) gift - the ability to hear animals speak - makes him a bridge between the two peoples. He is part of the hope for the future - the possibility realized.
I must quickly mention the animal's voices. I always find it a worry when there are talking animals in a story, it can completely pull you out of the world you're trying to get into.
"This place smells strange," the mare thought. "The grass itches, and my feet are sinking."But JSR pulls it off. She makes each animals voice unique and doesn't credit them with more intelligence than seems feasible.
There is a lot about acceptance in this story, and this is not always a benevolent thing. Sometimes it's more an acknowledgement of the reality you find yourself in. Filip accepting that his Guardian spirit is the Horse. The dead accepting that it is their time to leave and let go. Rhia accepting the burden that knowledge of the future brings. Marek accepting that in order to survive he has to do whatever it takes.
Jeri Smith Ready was one of my breakout authors for 2007 and I can't believe I waited this long to read this book. I won't be waiting as long to read the final book in the trilogy.
Book 1 - Eyes of Crow
Book 3 - The Reawakened