Author: Jae Waller
My rating: 3.8 out of 5.
A complex character journey in a very developed alternate world.
17 year old Kako is frustrated with her tribe, the Rin, for their ancient way of life, and their seclusion from the rest of the world. Wanting out, she leaves to seek marriage in a neighboring tribe with whom none of the Rin have been in contact for many years. Trouble meets her on the way, and her plans are rerouted while she heals both physically and emotionally. But the world is more complex and different than she’d expected, and Kako is no longer sure of what she wants from life, nor of who she wants to be. Aimless, she drifts between tribal life and exploring the native settlers’ cultures, meeting and making friends from vastly different lifestyles. Kako is on a journey from adolescence to adulthood, trying to find herself, love, and the truth of her people’s history, while bumbling her way through.
The world building was very well developed. To put it simply, it was set in a time similar to when the European nations were settling in America, living alongside the Native Americans. Neither society trusts the other, but their lives are intertwined whether they will it or not. The writing was very descriptive in a way that enhanced the story rather than bogging it down with details. It was a very immersive experience.
Magic had its place in this world. Several tribespeople could control water. All adults could shift into an animal form. Some settlers had other skills, such as fire control or healing. And then there were the spirits, who usually stayed out of human affairs, but had a powerful control over parts of nature, which didn’t bode well for humans.
The characters Kako interacted with were fleshed out and had their own backstories and mini plots. The book was very deep and thorough throughout. It disturbed me that Kako kept falling in love with older men. Men who were nearly twice her age. I understand that her culture is different, more tribal and ancient, where modern marriage habits aren’t their norm. But it still bothered me.
I don’t know where Kako will settle or how she’ll live out her life. Neither does she at the end of this first book. But her journey felt as deep and twisted and as real as anyone growing up and figuring themselves out. Kako was a strong and complex woman, and this book was a fantastic immersive experience. I’d compare it somewhat to Tess of the Road.
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.