The Song of the River by Sue Harrison

Song of the RiverFormat: Ebook galley

Length: 484 pages

Publisher: Open Road Media

Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

From the publisher:

Two ancient tribes on the verge of making peace become foes once more when a double murder jeopardizes a storyteller’s mission

Eighty centuries ago, in the frozen land that is now Alaska, a clubfooted male child had been left to die, when a woman named K’os rescued him. Twenty years later and no longer a child, Chakliux occupies the revered role as his tribe’s storyteller. In the neighboring village of the Near River people, where Chakliux will attempt to make peace by wedding the shaman’s daughter, a double murder occurs that sends him on a harsh, enthralling journey in search of the truth about the tragic losses his people have suffered, and into the arms of a woman he was never meant to love.

Song of the River is the first book of the Storyteller Trilogy, which also includes Cry of the Wind and Call Down the Stars.

Here’s what I thought:

It took me a while to get into this book, mainly because there are lots of unfamiliar terms based on the Native American dialects of the area.  It’s obvious that the author has really done her research, and I feel like I learned so much about the history and culture of the ancestors of the present-day Aleut people, who lived on the Aleutian Archipelago thousands of years ago. It was fascinating to see how their societies functioned, their customs, beliefs and what they held to be important.

Another thing that made it difficult reading, at first, was that the story shifts between several different tribal villages, and it took me a while to distinguish one from the other and to associate the names of particular characters with the village where they lived. I could have used a chart of some kind to keep them all straight. But, by the second half of the book I was sufficiently sucked into the story to get it all sorted out.

The pace picks up significantly in the second half, and I started to see patterns emerge as the different threads of the story were woven together. The cultures of the different villages are all distinct but share certain common themes–strong superstitions, the importance of the hunter, respect shown to elders, and the limited roles available for women. And although their practices differ, each society also has a place reserved for the storyteller, and the central characters who emerge belong to this tradition.

This book is the first in a trilogy, so there are two other books that pick up with the same characters and setting. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the second book, as there are still unresolved issues at the end of the first that left me wanting to know more. I admire Harrison’s ability to take what feels like a very alien environment and, over the course of the book, make it feel familiar. Her research informs the story in a way that is interesting but not overpowering, and her characters’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences reflect universal human concerns.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys historical fiction with strong plot elements and who has an interest in Native American culture.

About the author:

Sue Harrison Author Photo © Erin JohnsonSue Harrison grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and graduated summa cum laude from Lake Superior State University with a bachelor of arts degree in English language and literature. At age twenty-seven, inspired by the cold Upper Michigan forest that surrounded her home, and the outdoor survival skills she had learned from her father and her husband, Harrison began researching the people who understood best how to live in a harsh environment: the North American native peoples. She studied six Native American languages and completed extensive research on culture, geography, archaeology, and anthropology during the nine years she spent writing her first novel, Mother Earth Father Sky, the extraordinary story of a woman’s struggle for survival in the last Ice Age. A national and international bestseller, and selected by the American Library Association as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 1991, Mother Earth Father Sky is the first novel in Harrison’s critically acclaimed Ivory Carver Trilogy, which includes My Sister the Moon and Brother Wind. She is also the author of Song of the River, Cry of the Wind, and Call Down the Stars, which comprise the Storyteller Trilogy, also set in prehistoric North America. Her novels have been translated into thirteen languages and published in more than twenty countries. Harrison lives with her family in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula.

For more information please visit Sue Harrison’s website.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks so much to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book and giving me a chance to share my review.

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5 thoughts on “The Song of the River by Sue Harrison

  1. Pingback: The August Wrap-Up | Too Fond

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