The second book in the Unfinished Song fantasy series set in a mythical Stone Age.

Publication year: 2011
Page count: Kindle doesn’t have page numbers
Size: 451 KB
Format: ebook
The author kindly sent me a review copy. Spoilers for the first book!

The book starts right after the end of the first book, Initiate. Prologue is told from the point-of-view of Gremo, one of the weirdest characters in the first book. He was a minor character there so I wasn’t expecting him to show up again. Then we’re thrown right into the middle of the rest of the familiar cast.

Rthan is an enemy warrior and a magic-user called a Tavaedi. He lost his wife and child in a raid some years back and tried to get his revenge in the first book. However, he was taken captive by young Kavio. He’s made a slave and given as a ”slave husband” to Brena, the woman he held captive just the previous night. Rthan is quite attracted to Brena and has to constantly remind himself that she is the enemy.

Brena herself is a healer and a magic-user. She’s a widow with two teen aged daughters who have both just been Initiated into adulthood and also into the magic-users’ secret society, so she’s their teacher, too. Brena is impatient and has no use for fools or men. However, she’s also attracted to Rthan but is convinced that he will abandon her at the first opportunity.

Kavio is an exile and a very powerful magic-user. He’s one of the few who can command all six Chromas or types of magic. He hopes he has found a new home here in the Yellow Bear tribe, but the War Chief Hertio is suspicious of him and demands Kavio to show his loyalty.

The young Initiate Dindi failed her Initiation at the end of the previous book. Her whole life she’s wanted to be a magic-using dancer and has trained in secret even though that’s forbidden. It turned out that she doesn’t have magic at all. Still, she can see the small fairies and talk with them unlike other people who don’t have magic. She doesn’t want to live the life of an ordinary maiden: getting married and raising kids. At first, she even seriously considers just dancing the rest of her life away with fairies. Instead, she decides to break another taboo: she will spy on Brena and the Initiates and learn the dances by herself. When she’s confident that she knows them, she will ask for another Initiation. If anyone finds out, she will be killed.

Dindi also has her magical corncob doll and she continues to see visions of the past. The young woman Vessia, who is called the Corn Maiden and is now a prisoner, is the focus of the visions. She and her friends are trying to stop the Bone Whistler who wants to kill all magic-users who can use more than one Chroma.

Kavio finds out about Dindi spying on the Initiates. Instead of telling others what she’s doing, he breaks the taboo, too. Since Kavio is a powerful Zavaedi, he will teach Dindi, so technically, Dindi isn’t doing anything wrong anymore. Dindi accepts even though she’s very attracted to the handsome young man and knows that he can never care for her.

Kavio wants peace between his adoptive tribe and the tribe who attacked them. Blue Waters’ War Chief sends an envoy for peace talks, so Hertio sends Kavio and a small party of the Yellow Bear men and women to talk of peace with the powerful Blue Waters’ War Chief. All of the point-of-view characters are in the party so the middle of the book is spent traveling from Yellow Bear to Blue Waters’ territory. Unfortunately for Kavio, the two tribes have been warring for generations and they aren’t likely to forget their old grievances.

Gremo’s few chapters are told in the first person but the rest of the book is in third. I thought this was an interesting technique and it didn’t bother me.

This book has more romance aspects than the first one. Brena and Rthan are an obvious romantic couple while Dindi and Kavio are doing their best not to be attracted to each other. Kavio thinks that as an exile, he has nothing to offer Dindi while Dindi thinks that as a mere maiden she’s not significant enough to interest Kavio. There’s also a third couple who were a surprise to me. There’s also adventure and double-crossing

We are introduced to another class of people, so to say, men who dress as women and apparently are also attracted to other men. The War Chief’s envoy is one of them and we get to know him pretty well during the journey. The journey was mostly quite leisurely and the excitement didn’t really start until near the end. Still, I liked the character interaction quite a bit. Dindi got reacquainted with a girl she had befriended before, and Kavio and Rthan started perhaps to understand each other a bit more. Through the journey, Kavio teaches the magical dances to Dindi so we get to know a lot more about the various Chromas and dances.

Unfortunately, there was one thing that threw me out of the story: the use of minutes. Unless the characters have some way to mechanically measure time, they can’t really even know about minutes, or hours or seconds for that matter. It seems to me that Stone Age people would measure short amount of time differently: through heartbeats or breaths or just moments. Longer time might be measured with the length of shadows or which way the shadows point or how high or low the sun is.

Also, I had hard time believing that the Yellow Bear men would have let Rthan live with Brena and her daughters. Rthan is known to be a dangerous enemy and he had already tied up Brena to be whipped and raped. Why would he be allowed to live alone with three women whom he could have easily murdered before escaping? I know that it was done to further the romance plot but it still seemed a bit weird.

I also find the concept of a ”slave husband” a bit dubious. It seems to me, that in this time a husband would have owned his wife and kids and everything they had. (Although to be fair, we don’t know much about marriage in this world at all. It might even be different from one tribe to the next. None of the POV characters are married and the widow Brena seems to have just scorn for her dead husband.) On the other hand, slaves own nothing; instead they are owned. I think it’s even expected that a slave would try to run away so he can hardly be expected to have the sort of ties and loyalty that a marriage brings. Also, I would have thought that it would be humiliating for a woman to be tied to a slave instead of trying to further her own life with a good match. What about kids? Would they be slaves, too? I would have loved to hear more about the whole concept.

During the journey, we see that different tribes have different things, and people, they consider taboo. For example, while some tribes, such as Kavio’s Rainbow Labyrinth, prize people who can use more than one Chroma, the tribes we meet here consider such people diseased and Shunned. To them, only people with one Chroma are pure. Dindi and some other characters break the taboos of the other tribes knowing what they do and that they will be punished if they are caught.

Faeries play a smaller role this time but the world has the same mythical feeling as in the first book.

The book doesn’t end with a cliffhanger but leaves a lot of questions unanswered.