Tuesday 22 January 2008

Eyes of Crow by Jeri Smith-Ready

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)


Anonymous said...

I haven't read this author, but I think I'm going to try out her new series about vampires, Wicked Games in the fall. It sounds promising and from your review her writing sounds good.

Naomi said...

I absolutely fell in love with this book. I know what you mean about being in tears - parts are so poignant and touching you can't help but well up. The last book I read that had that effect on me was Kushiel's Avatar. It's a sure sign the writer has created a real world for me.

Anonymous said...

I read this book about 6 months ago and I totally agree with what everyone has said. I really need to get the followup I didn't realise it was out!

LesleyW said...

Scooper - I just found out about Wicked Game and I've added it to my wishlist. Amazon UK are giving the release date as May.

Naomi - If a writer can make me laugh or cry within the first few pages. I'm pretty sure it's a book I'm going to love.

Has - Yep the next book in the Crow series is out. It's already in my TBR pile. :)

Carolyn Crane said...

Thanks for the review! I enjoy when people make up whole new worlds and unique powers. I also like the idea you point out about finding a place in a changing world. Sounds very relevant.

And hey, thanks again for visiting and your kind words about Petunia. I am so sorry to hear about Sooty. I know exactly what you mean, not being able to stop thinking about him.