Read in September 2009
The only parts of this long novel that truly interested me were the brief interludes of science fiction/space opera involving Tess’s brother, Charles. Otherwise, this was a rather long-winded almost romance between an ambitious educated barbarian nomad Ilya and the lost rebellious ‘foreigner’ Tess (running from herself, her former life and her brother’s destiny for her). Predictable.
The alien archaeologists and Tess’s inept attempts at espionage provided another subplot to relieve the boredom.
I connected very well with Tess and Yuri, her adopted jaran brother. But I was completely unconvinced or motivated by the supposed attraction between Tess and Ilya, whom she ultimately fell in love with.
Halfway through reading this story, I re-shelved it as science-fiction from fantasy because there are no magical elements present at all. In fact, it barely qualifies as science fiction. Ninety percent of this story is spent on horseback on the plains of Rhuin, similar to the plains of Wyoming or the steppes of Mongolia. In fact, all the jaran names were of Slavic origin (Yuri, Ilya, Aleksia, etc.).
The author attempted to push the envelope of gender relationships in an interesting way. Even though the point of view was not first person, I still received most of my impressions about jaran society filter through Tess’s eyes and thoughts. Just not enough information to really pique my curiosity. Women have no choice in marriage, but freedom to take as many lovers as they wish? Men that are not aggressive sexually or predatorially to any woman? Refreshing, but hardly believable.
I may continue this series, just because I want to find out what happens with the Chapalii Empire and Charles’s intrigue and rebellion plans.