Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Gods and Warriors, by Michelle Paver

Hylas is twelve years old, an Outsider, and on the run from the Crows. They destroyed his camp and killed his dog and he doesn’t know why. Worst of all, his little sister Issi is missing. Can he find her while evading the warriors who are hunting him?

Pirra is the daughter of a high priestess, rich and privileged, but her life feels like a prison. Kept inside the House of the Goddess all of her life and now being transported across the ocean to be married into a different kind of prison. Can she escape this pre-destined fate?

Telamon, the Chieftan’s son, befriended Hylas against his father’s wishes. Stuck between honoring friendship and dishonoring his house, can he help Hylas escape and will he reveal all he knows?

Gods and Warriors is the first in an awesome new series by Michelle Paver, who is famed for Wolf Brother and the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. She’s moved a tad further into present, leaving behind the stone age setting of Wolf Brother to delve into the Greek Bronze Age. This is similar and yet different to the stone age; its people still worship the gods of nature - The Lady of the Wild, The Earthshaker, The Angry Ones - and live, for the most part, in enclosed villages, but they are overseen by Chieftans who rule great swathes of land and who have grudges and feuds to bear upon neighbouring chieftans. They have bronze weapons, wear more sophisticated jewellery, and tame horses with carriages. In Gods and Warriors I see the beginnings of the beliefs and values that invade classical Greek literature, the ideas of honour and fate (and hubris) that fill Homer’s stories (for more on this, see my review of The Song of Achilles).

The tale kicks off with Hylas’s first, adrenaline-pumping escape from the mysterious foreign warriors who have destroyed his camp, and it rarely lets up on the tension from this point on. Why are the Crows after him? Will he escape and find his missing sister? The rest of the story builds upon this basic beginning, sweeping across mountains and sea, squirreling into caves and shipwrecks. He and Pirra are thrown together as tenuous allies, trying to extricate themselves from both the hunters and a prophecy regarding a powerful dagger that they have stumbled upon. Did Hylas ‘stumble upon’ the dagger or did the prophecy choose him? And what is Telamon not telling him?

Gods and Warriors really flows well, all the different parts fitting together quite beautifully, coming together at the end and yet leaving me with a series of unanswered questions, to keep me on tenterhooks for book two. And I wonder: will book two tell Hylas’s sister, Issi’s, side of the story? That would be really interesting. This is a great story to set young minds alight and I’ve no doubt it will become a bestseller.

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