The first book in the fantasy series Unfinished Song.

Publication year: 2010
Page count: Kindle doesn’t have page numbers
Size: 189 KB
Publisher: Misque Press
Format: ebook

The author kindly sent me a review copy.

Dindi is on the verge of womanhood but has not yet taken the Initiation to adulthood. All she wants to do is dance, but in this world dancing is the way to do magic and only those who are good enough to be accepted to the mysterious Tavaedi clan are allowed to dance. As long as anyone can remember, nobody in Dindi’s small tribe, the Lost Swan, has become a Tavaedi so her mother, aunts, and cousins are all urging her to become a wife and a mother. But Dindi is determined to succeed and so she steals moments to practice with her faery friends whom only she can see.

Kavio is a trained Tavaedi dancer and “everyone” knows that he broke his tribe’s laws. He’s on trial and expects to die. Instead he’s exiled which is a greater shame to the young man. He leaves his family and sets out to the world where people will either shun him or want to kill him.

Rthan is a warrior of the Water Blue tribe. His wife and daughter were killed on a raid and he tried to get even. Somehow, Kavio prevented the deluge Rthan had conjured with his water spell. Now, Rthan is more eager than ever to get even with the younger man. Also, Rthan can see a shimmering being who has taken the form of his eight year old daughter. The being urges him to take revenge.

Zavaedi Brena is the Healer for the Yellow Bear tribe and she’s also a widow with two daughters who are approaching the age of Initiation. Brena wants desperately for them to pass the test and become Zavaedis like herself so that they can lead the life they want to and not be dependent on husbands. So, she teaches them the dances even if it will cost Brena her life if they are caught. Her elder one Gwena seems to learn quickly but the youngest Gwenika claims to be sick often.

Faearth isn’t a familiar fantasy medieval world; it’s equivalent to Stone Age with a mythical feel. The people don’t have horses even though they’ve heard that other tribes might have them. They don’t even have dogs. They have obsidian knives instead of steel weapons. The society seem to be somewhat patriarchal with clear gender roles. Men are warriors and hunters, and women are mothers who cook, clean, and gather food. Dindi’s oldest male cousin claims that he is her keeper because she doesn’t have a brother. However, otherwise the women characters seem to be independent.

Dindi’s a bit different from the usual fantasy heroines. She’s lonely and her cousins bully her. She’s also often clumsy and her faery friends get her into trouble. But she’s also determined and brave. At the start of the story, she gets a pet kitten Puddlepaws. Her mother also loved to dance but she fell in love with her husband before her Initiation and apparently deliberately chose to stay an ordinary woman and stopped dancing. Later in the book, Dindi experiences visions. Although I’m not a fan of visions as a plot device, the POV character in the vision was very interesting to me.

On the other hand, Kavio is pretty standard young man; stubborn, proud, and full of himself. He’s also a very powerful Tavaedi. He’s the son of his tribe’s War Chief and destined to follow him as the next chief. Apparently, a rival for the position had him exiled. Some of the people from his tribe, the Rainbow Labyrinth, would like Kavio to lead them in a revolt. However, Kavio doesn’t want to do that.

Rthan is pretty tormented soul on a quest for vengeance. It’s interesting to note that this is usual for fantasy main characters but here he’s cast more into the role of the antagonist.

Brena is a competent woman (and I enjoy reading about them). Near the end of the book we learn that her marriage wasn’t a happy one and so it’s natural that she would want to save her daughters from similar fates. She also deals with the fae although not as much as Dindi.

The magic is pretty complex. It’s done with dancing and each dancer is attuned to a specific color which represents a certain aspect, healing or rain, for example. However, the dancers also perform (pseudo)historical plays and so preserve history in an illiterate society. They wear colorful masks and costumes during the dancing. Only members of Tavaedi and Zavaedi secret societies can practice magic and dancing. The Tavaedi and Zavaedi have their own villages and seem to be able to marry only each other.

Only dances, and magic, which is known are allowed. It’s forbidden to invent new ones and that is why Kavio was exiled.

Faearth has a plethora of faery races: pixies, naiads, nymphs, sprites… But only people who have magic can see them. Dindi seems to be the only one in her village to see them. They seem to be pretty mischievous and instead of helping Dindi, they get her often in trouble. For example, when Dindi had to make soap and gather blueberries, the faeries offered to help. The result was blueberry soap…

The plot is quite fast paced and the points-of-view shift quickly. The writer doesn’t explain much and this was welcome to me, at least, since I’ve read several book in a row where the writers insist on explaining everything and preferably several times. However, it challenges the reader to be alert for clues about the world and the society. Also, a couple of scenes are written in the second person when describing the Initiation rituals. That might irritate some people.

The plot centers around the Initiation and book ends in a cliffhanger. The book is marketed as romance but there isn’t one. Several men and women did meet so its possible that a romance or romances will occur later.

I have only a couple of small quibbles about the setting. For a Stone Age culture, the families were every small. Dindi seems to be an only child even though both of her parents are alive! Brena has only two kids but her excuse is that she’s a widow. At the age of 18, Kavio surely should have been already married with kids. Also, there were no dogs. Dogs are among the first animals that humans domesticated simply because they are very useful in hunting, guarding, simply keeping company, and even being able to pull travois. But these are really minor things.