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Book Review / Crow Dancer

A solid story of a girl who makes one mistake and changes the course of history. On the annual imposition of Crowdancers to the royal court, Princess Navyra hides out and spies on the secret meeting. But her decision leads to tragedy and she is forced from the kingdom, exposed as one with spirit sight. Her brother, the heir apparent, refuses to allow her to leave alone, and abandons his throne to protect her. But they are torn apart and the girl is left to fend for herself.

Navyra’s resilience and (sometimes blind) courage are what give her the edge over pursuits which would destroy others less stubborn, and those older. She leads an exciting, dangerous life, full of dark and hidden powers she must control or which may destroy her, and the development of these is fun to follow. Her journey pushes her through the territory of a reluctant sage, the frills of lust, obsessions of the grieving, and the trappings of trust – also a whole host of great supporting characters who are rounded and show enough of themselves to avoid being flat. Imari especially was a gem.

The author is excellent at building up atmosphere and guiding us safely through the story, then throwing rocks in our path and forcing us on a different road. She is also brilliant at weaving multiple arcs and bringing them back neatly together by the end, and the narrative is bold and free of chaff – no stunting or awkward lines. The world of Yoshai and its neighbouring lands is excellently developed, and not over-described (which I always prefer over pages of exact detail) so imagination can be called. I was left guessing the next move pretty much the whole way through as Navyra was forced to journey alone and I absolutely did not see that twist coming, the one at the end of all the snow, you know?

I think, for me, the overarching theme was missing power. Everything in the story was strong and developed, but I think it was tied up so well, and so well-balanced I didn’t have the hangover I get from other stories, where I sit back, breathe and digest all I’ve been through. It might have been because the big reveal/ and its consequences were very strong parts of the story’s climax but came in quite late overall. A few more well-positioned key hints foretelling the conclusion could certainly have sat there almost invisibly until the time was right. It might have been writer’s fear of telling too much, I hear that. Then again, it could have been my own fuzzy mind, it’s been a bit overwhelmed of late.

Regardless, a book well worth reading and a writer whose work is only going to get better. I’ll certainly be visiting her other work in the future. And if she did decide to write another tale in this world, Imari’s would be my choice to hear in full.


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