Abandoned as a baby, Chakliuk is raised as the adopted son of K’os and grows to be his tribe’s most treasured storyteller. As an adult he is sent off to marry Snow-In-Her-Hair, the daughter of the Shaman of the neighboring Near River People. On their wedding day a double murder occurs which sets Chakliuk off on an incredible journey. I had high hopes for this book. I have read and enjoyed a lot of books based around historical tribes or Native American villages and expected to enjoy this one as well. In the end I liked Song of the River but it was just an average read.
One of my biggest challenges with this book were the character names. The author, Sue Harrison, has studied six Native American languages and extensively researched culture and anthropology during the time she spent writing her first novel. Based on her research I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of their names but they felt awkward to me. The characters would have names like Chakliuk and K’os while others had names like Snow-In-Her-Hair. I struggled with the shift in names. It probably seems like such a minor little thing but with so many characters and such a complex story it felt odd to shift back and forth in style so frequently. I did enjoy, for the most part, the characters themselves. It took a little while for me to get into them but the more I read the more I found myself connecting with them. The best character for me was K’os, Chakliuk’s adoptive mother. She was cold, cunning and deceptive making her a great character to hate.
The story was a little slow in the very beginning and I hoped it would pick up but it didn’t. It wasn’t painfully slow but it wasn’t a book I became obsessed with and struggled to put down. I was able to pick it up, read a few chapters, and put it back down to do other things or go to sleep. The story pace was consistent but that made it lack any real intensity or excitement. It’s also notable that this is Book #1 in a trilogy and therefore lacks a real climax or final ending. I’ll probably pick up Book #2 because I did enjoy this story enough to want to continue reading. This is a book I would recommend as a vacation read since it isn’t a book that consumes a reader but rather that can be read in short sittings. It is worth reading but it’s not one I felt myself becoming obsessed with finishing.
Review by Ashley LaMarClosed the Cover