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helenliz

helenliz

Shadow of the Horsemen

Shadow of the Horsemen - Sandra Saidak I received this as a result of being selected in a GoodReads giveaway.And it immediately put me in a positive frame of mind when I opened it to see the author had dedicated it personally and signed it. How lovely. Set in Prehistory on the poor grasslands of the Russian Steppes, it tells of a tribe of horsemen who are not the nicest group you've ever met. I had a precursor to the tribes of Ghengis Khan in mind most of the time. That may be a huge disservice to all concerned, but the mental image made sense to me. They and their lives are nasty, brutish & short. Their culture is based on the horse and their annual migration is based on the availability of grass. They are a martial people, with men being prized as warriors and the women being left with a duty of fulfilling their every whim. I thought it noteworthy that the slaves were also all women - no need for hired muscle then. Under pressure from growing population and decreasing grassland, they have turned their sights on the fertile farming lands to the east. These lands are occupied by a more peaceful people, with a more equal society and a female goddess. The story centres on Kalie, a slave from the east who has made herself a slave in order to try and save her lands by subverting the tribe from within. In a sense it's a very modern novel set in the remote past. There are pressures of population growth and climate change on the tribe. Tradition plays a huge part, but Kalie brings ideas that are not traditional. There is the role of women in society, which is highlighted by the two (potentially extreme) examples of the subjugation of the horsemen with the (apparent) equality of the lands to the east. Then there's the relationship between people that glue a society together - or rip it apart through greed and ambition, there's personal ambition, duty and sacrifice for a higher cause. And finally it is a touching love story between two very different people and how you can find a common cause in the most unlikely of places. This is the second book in the series - I'd not read the first, but I'm not sure that it mattered enormously. Kalie clearly has a complicated past, but the essence of that was explained as and when it became relevant. I suspect one of the hardest things of inventing a culture, world or language for a story to inhabit is inventing the names and I found some of these rather odd. When a new character was introduced I'd sometimes find myself wondering more about how would you pronounce that rather than who they were and what they were in the story to do. However, that's just a minor point. For the most part the story drags you along, with varying pace and moments of tension and release to keep the reader interested to the final moments. I suspect a follow up may be in preparation - the ending seems to leave more than enough scope for one and I would certainly pick it up if i saw it.