The fourth book in the fantasy series Unfinished Song which is set in a fantastical Stone Age.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook, pdf
Page count: 150
Publisher: Misque Press

Some time seems to have gone by after then end of the previous book, Sacrifice. The group of Initiate Tavaedis, magical dancers, have been formed into a performance troop under their teacher Abiono and they have traveled away from the Yellow Bear clan. Unfortunately, Abiono is an old man and unable to control the young dancers. Dindi is working as the Tavaedi’s serving maiden and has been given permission to learn the dances openly. However, a spoiled girl from the previous book, Kemla, is part of the group and as the most popular girl is apparently leading the women of the group. She seems to hate Dindi because the red fae, whom only Kemla and Dindi can see, constantly tease Kemla that Dindi is a better dancer than Kemla and that Dindi should take Kemla’s place as the star performer. Since Kemla can’t punish the fae or make them silent, she takes her rage out on poor Dindi, treating her as a slave. She takes things so far that she urges Tamio to sleep with Dindi so that Kemla can reveal it publicly and Dindi will be thrown out of the party. Apparently, there are no consequences for Tamio?

Now Dindi she can practice as much as she wants even though the others are pretty cruel to her (and once again the adults just stand by and let this happen). However, she was forced into a bargain with the fae in the previous book; she will have to find a way to lift the Curse from the Aelfae and bring them back from the dead. Dindi is using her corncob doll to find a way to do that. However, Tamio is hounding her so there’s not much time to do it. She also found out that there’s a hex on her family and she’d like to find a way to undo that, as well.

Meanwhile Kavio’s fae mother Vessia, known as the fae White Lady, is determined to help her son by finding women who could become the next Vaedi, the wife of the war chief. However, she’s being held captive by her own nephew. She manages to escape with the help of a young warrior and they set out to flee Vessia’s own tribe. They come across the Lost Swan tribe looking like a pair of beggars. Kemla denies them hospitality but Dindi shares her meager food and shelter with them.

Then, a group of warriors attack. They ride on big birds and kill some of the people before the nearby tribes come on horseback to aid them.

Umbral is a new characters and so is his group. He is a leader of a group of Deathsworn; those who serve the Lady Death. They all seem to have some sort of physical deformity and so they have been sent to the Deathsworn. Even the women have physical deformities and this was a refreshing change form the “flawless skin” princesses of fantasy. They are eager to kill people and are investigating a magical plague which devours people’s spirits. They also want to kill Vessia and the next Vaedi. Umbral comes across traces of a magic both ancient and fresh. Quickly, he becomes obsessed with the maiden who has left such traces behind her.

Dindi’s visions with the Corn Maiden seem to be over and she now sees into the life of Mayara, who is the last survivor of an Aelfae settlement. As a little girl, Mayara suffers horrible things: her mother cuts off her wings so that the humans wouldn’t kill her. Then her mother hides her just before the humans come and little Mayara sees her people slaughtered. Later, she wanders alone in the woods until a human finds her and takes her home, to live among his family.

Even though the group is performing and working magic in the Lost Swan tribe, Dindi’s tribe, she’s treated poorly. She is sent to sleep in a very cold hut and given only a small amount of food. However, this doesn’t seem to be her home tribe because we don’t see her parents or other close family.

There are some differences in the setting. Specifically, riding mounts. The Raptor Riders have large predatory birds which they use to ride on and the Broken Basket and Full Basket clans have horses. Unfortunately, the inclusion of horse made the setting less unique to me. Part of my enjoyment of the books have been their setting which is rather different from all the pseudo-medieval settings which are very common in fantasy. The use of horses makes the setting more familiar and less unique. In the previous book, there was a mention of gold and jewelry so the people have the means to smelt metals and work them quite intricately.

Two of the point-of-view characters are unfortunately pretty insufferable to me: Kemla and Tamio. They both start as arrogant and self absorbed to the point that they have no compassion or empathy to anyone else. We get to know more about them but they never really reform. Tamio is a unabashed womanizer and the best thing that can be said about him is that he isn’t a rapist. The Deathsworn are interesting and I hope we get see more of them.

I also found it a bit weird that while there are lots of talk about sexual conquests, none of the women worry about getting pregnant. However, in the previous book there was a brief mention that illegitimate kids are “unwelcome” and that a man will have to either marry a girl he gets pregnant or pay with foods and other stuff. The latter seems to be more common. Yet, the woman is expected to care for the kid and surely a poor woman without much kin, such as Dindi, or an ambitious Tavaedi such as Kemla, should be worried about being able to rise a kid. Of course, dwelling over such things would slow down the pace and possibly bore the reader. Unfortunately, this society too has the sexual double standard for women and men.

There are two new tribes in the book, the Green Woods tribe and Raptor Riders. Both are warrior clans which have quite different customs than the tribes we’ve seen so far. For example, both men and women can be warriors in both clans. They also have shape shifters. The Raptor Riders use huge birds and enslave them while some of the Green Woods people can turn into wolves. However, these wolflings aren’t tolerated until they can control themselves. They are banished into the woods to presumably learn control but, not surprisingly, most seem to live in the woods all their lives, and attack people occasionally. A bit disappointingly, at least in the Green Woods tribe the women have to tend to their chores in addition to being warriors while the men sit and talk.

The plot is again fast paced and full of twists, some of them unexpected. The book ends in a cliffhanger. More things happen in every short book than some established writers manage to put into 600 page books.