Monthly Archives: January 2012
A Few Reviews: The Year-god’s Daughter
Judith Starkston, author of Hand of Fire and Priestess of Ishana:
Lochlann takes her reader into the mythic, mystical world of Minoan Crete with vibrancy and power. On the island of Crete, known as Kaphtor, a long line of women rule. Their male consorts “rule” for only a year as the Year-god and then are sacrificed to bring fertility to the land. On the mainland, the Mycenaean kingdoms fight among themselves and look with envy at Crete’s greater power and civilization. Rival kings yearn to overthrow the Cretan queen and win for themselves Crete’s preeminent position in trade and wealth. They also worship a male god and hold in distain the goddess who has guarded Crete for generations beyond memory. Thus Lochlann sets the central conflict in her opening novel of her Child of the Erinyes series, which in its eight books spans 4000 years from the Bronze Age to modern times as it follows the lives of two men and a woman who are reborn seven times through history.
The Year-god’s daughter of the title is Aridela, the youngest daughter of Crete’s queen. She has been sheltered and pampered, and her rebellious streak has been allowed to flourish. Lochlann gives her coming of age story rich depth as Aridela confronts threats and challenges both from within her royal world and from the princes of the mainland who circle around her and her family as they try to deceive, seduce and attack their way into supremacy. Sometimes they become entangled in their own snares as Aridela seduces in return. Aridela has goddess-sent dreams and speaks prophecies that reveal the fate of herself and her culture, but they are hard to interpret and even harder to obey. Two half-brothers from the mainland will influence the course of her life and force her to make lethal choices. As each choice presents unintended consequences, Aridela must grow and adapt to them. Family members both on Crete and the mainland, love each other, but when fate does not dole out the talents and gifts in equal measure, and siblings must watch the least suited child take the place they covet, then deep and impossible jealousies and conflicts wrench apart these families. This mythic world is an ideal place to watch such dramatic family tensions play out.
Lochlann’s rich language draws her reader into the story from the first sentences, invoking all of the senses: “The bull was so much bigger than she expected. His pitiless eyes sucked her breath away. The musky stench of his body obliterated the stands, the screaming audience, even the crushing hammer of heat.”
Lochlann uses precise details in abundance to bring to life long ago Knossos. She puts us inside the palace in a variety of ways, such as revealing what decorated the walls, “Frescoes of flitting swallows, high marsh grasses, monkeys, ibex, lilies, and of course, grazing bulls, surrounded them on all sides. Here were hazy mountains with plumes of smoke at their summits, bees rising from carcasses, and peasants holding offerings. They passed painted seas and leaping fish. Even the ceiling of this fantastic place was part of the nature scene, the colors as fresh and bright as if created that morning.” We see and hear the women of the royal court, “Disks sewn into the women’s skirts chimed as they walked, a soothing sound mostly lost beneath giggling and gossip. . . . The women fluttering around her were curled, oiled, and gilded. Their tight bodices made their breasts protrude like proud trophies.”
The Year-God’s Daughter succeeds in bringing to life a very distant world and capturing a heady blend of archaeology, legend, myth and fantasy.
The Year God’s Daughter is the first in author Rebecca Lochlann’s Child of the Erinyes series. Even without reading the bio on her website, it’s obvious from the first few pages that this is an author who did her research. She spent fifteen years acquainting herself with ancient Greece, and it shows. Authenticity is steeped into each chapter.
If you are not a fan of historical fiction, don’t let that stop you from reading this excellent book. The finely-honed characterization is such that even with a host of unfamiliar names, you will never lose track of who’s who. The narrative never gets boring – the author has produced a fine balance between description and action.
The story opens with the child Aridela, beloved princess on the island of Crete, recklessly attempting to fulfill her dream of becoming a bull dancer – she believes the goddess Athene has made it her destiny to accomplish the daring and difficult feat. Menoetius is a young foreigner, bastard son of the High King of Mycenae, tasked with finding any weakness in Crete’s defenses. They meet under dire circumstances, and thus begins “Glory, passion, treachery and conspiracy on the grandest scale.”
Divine destiny is a deep-seated theme throughout. Constant regional earthquakes are interpreted by the ruling priestesses as omens, and most everything is imbued with celestial meaning. The reader is immersed in a vivid culture of devoted spirituality. Athene must be appeased with violent sacrifice and every year that sacrifice is the queen’s latest consort – a man who bested all other competitors for the honor of living large for a year and then allowing his blood to consecrate Crete’s soil. Crete is a matrilineal society, but male-dominated kingdoms surround them, and contempt for Athene is spreading on the mainland. If the encroaching changes reach as far as Aridela’s peaceful, prosperous island, a long-prophesied catastrophe will befall them all. From the start, we know this story is headed for a spectacular, world-changing ending. I can’t wait for the rest of the series to see how it all plays out…
Rebecca Lochlann has produced a book of uncommon quality. Highly recommended.
At Historical Novel Review:
Set amongst the mystery of the Minoan Labyrinth and the heart-pounding thrill of the bull-dancing ring, The Year-God’s Daughter is the first volume of The Child of the Erinyes, a sweeping epic of a series spanning time from the Bronze Age to the near future.
In Rebecca Lochlann’s first novel, we are introduced to Aridela, a young priestess and princess – and to the mysteries of Athene, the inscrutable goddess whose hand guides Aridela’s fate. Aridela is the youngest daughter of the queen of Kaphtor (Crete). She was born under portentous circumstances and has grown up revered and pampered in her mother’s palace. She is headstrong and strangely wise for her age, seemingly born to rule – yet her meek elder sister Iphiboë is the heir to Kaphtor, and Aridela is pledged to a life of celibacy and service to the goddess Athene.
This novel, being the first in a long series, is largely set-up for events to come; yet The Year-God’s Daughter is packed with plenty of action. As the groundwork is being laid for the rest of the series, the reader follows Aridela through her coming-of-age – and follows, too, the lives of the people she touches, whose fates are altered by contact with this young woman chosen by Athene: Iphiboë, Themiste the high priestess, Selene the foreign warrior-woman, Lycus the bull-dancer, and more fascinating characters are subtly moved like pawns on a game board by Aridela’s unknowing influence.
Most notable on the list of characters entwined with Aridela are Menoetius and Chrysaleon, half-brothers and sons of the king of Mycenae. They are sent on a mission by their power-hungry father to discern Kaphtor’s weaknesses so that Mycenae might take control of the rich island nation. But both brothers soon find themselves in love with Aridela…and at one another’s throats.
The depth of historical information in this novel will delight fans of the genre. A surprising amount of history and archaeology has been slipped unobtrusively into the narrative. Lochlann has clearly done an astounding amount of research into her historical setting and culture, yet she never overwhelms the reader with specifics, nor does she lecture. The conveyance of historical facts and archaeological tidbits feels very natural, woven deftly into the dialogs and thoughts of her intriguing cast of characters.
The primary strength of this book is the writing itself, which I can only describe as sumptuous. Lochlann has a great flair for sensory detail and fills her novel with such a wealth of sights, sounds, smells, and flavors that the reader feels absolutely immersed in the world of ancient Crete from the first page. Reading The Year-God’s Daughter is a delicious experience – seldom have I read a historical novel with such a well-drawn setting, and the fact that this book is independently published makes the feat all the more remarkable. The rare grammatical gaffe occasionally pulled me out of the tale, but never for more than a moment – and while I often found myself wishing I understood some characters’ motives better, I have to assume that, since this is the first in a series with extreme scope, more will be made clear as the series progresses. In any case, the luscious sensory prose was more than enough to keep me reading, and has left me eagerly awaiting the next installment.
Cover copy: Crete: A place of magic, of mystery, where violence and sacrifice meet courage and hope.
Aridela: Wrapped in legend, beloved of the people. An extraordinary woman who dances with bulls.
The north wind brings a swift ship and two brothers who plot Crete’s overthrow. Desire for this woman will propel their long rivalry into hatred so murderous it hurtles all three into an unimaginable future, and sparks the immortal rage of the Erinyes.
A woman of keen instinct and unshakeable loyalty. A proud warrior prince and his wounded half-brother. Glory, passion, treachery and conspiracy on the grandest scale.
What seems the end is only the beginning.
Reviews At Amazon: read them all