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Shards of History by Rebecca Roland
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
TBT Review Date: May 11, 2015
Feared and reviled, the fierce, winged creatures known as Jeguduns live in the cliffs surrounding the Taakwa valley. When Malia discovers an injured Jegudun in the valley, she risks everything — exile from the village, loss of her status as clan mother in training, even her life — to befriend and save the surprisingly intelligent creature. But all of that pales when she learns the truth: the threat to her people is bigger and more malicious than the Jeguduns. Lurking on the edge of the valley is an Outsider army seeking to plunder and destroy her people. It’s only a matter of time before the Outsiders find a way through the magic that protects the valley — a magic that can only be created by Taakwa and Jeguduns working together.
In terms of world building, Rebecca has done it beautifully in Shards of History. She eschews the traditional Medieval Europe angle of most fantasy novels for a decidedly American Indian one. Malia is a strong heroine who must make extremely dangerous choices, that fly in the face of generations of history, in order to save her people. In Malia's world, gender roles are somewhat reversed. I say “somewhat” because the men are still the hunters and warriors, but the women are the leaders and the men must show them full respect and deference. Malia's mother is the clan mother and Malia is training to take her place.
In order to save her people, Malia must overcome countless obstacles, the biggest being her own people’s prejudice and fear of the very creatures who are protecting them from grave danger. The Taakwa are so fearful of the Jegudun that anyone caught sympathizing with the winged creatures is exiled out of the villages. The twist on why the Taakwa fear the Jeguden is brilliant and creates an incredible nuanced layer to the story that Rebecca weaves magnificently. Malia must navigate generations of fear, a deranged husband, forest fires, potential exile and her own sometimes faltering self confidence to save her people. In the end, she trusts her instinct and her heart and neither leads her astray.
One interesting facet to the novel is that we hear not only Malia’s perspective, but also Kushtrim’s, the leader of the Maddions (those are the bad guys), as well has Rasmus’s, an exile who aids Malia. Kushtrim almost becomes a sympathetic character. We rarely get to see both points of view in a struggle of opposing sides like this. When we do, the tactic is often used to paint the bad guy as even worse than we could learn just from the hero or heroine’s perspective, but Kushtrim’s troubles are painted with an empathetic brush. While I won’t say you’ll wind up rooting for him, you definitely will find sympathy in your heart for his plight.
As with all fantasy, the author is free to add in magic, mystery and unusual beings to create their world. Shards of History has quite a few new and different twists that will delight and surprise many fantasy readers. However, Malia's tenacity and struggles are very real and approachable even for the non-fantasy reader. And for thrill seekers, be prepared to not put the book down by about two-thirds of the way through because once the climactic action starts, it does not let up. It will keep you reading just a little more, just a little more, just a little more - don't start it after midnight if you have an early day the next morning. There is some language and some graphic depictions of violence. There are a few minor sexual references and the “bad guys”, the Maddions, are not respectful of women at all. If you need an age reference I would let my fantasy-loving 12 year read this book. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy and to anyone who enjoys a strong heroine.
P.S.: I'm trying new things with my images instead of just using the stock book cover. What do you think? That being said, the publisher has issued this book with a new cover now. Here is the new cover if you are buying the book so you know you have the right one. It won't be what you see on my copy above.