Your reviewer made a classic blunder when buying Book One of the Chronicles of Altaica: not getting Book Two at the same time. And made another blunder on opening it for ‘just a quick look’ at lunchtime. I was embroiled in desperate situations on page 38 before realising I was late for work. Quick peeks are not going to work for you with this pacy story. Fortunately Asena Blessed is now to hand and I will be soon immersed once more in this world created by Tracy M. Joyce.
‘Her stories are gritty, a little dark and morality is like quicksand. You won’t find any unicorns or fairies here.’ (Tracymjoyce.com.)
From the first lines we are on the run with Isaura, fleeing a huge army devastating her home. She and some of her community flee down river in a barge which the wind and currents later take far out into the ocean despite all they can do. The desperate group endures storms and scorching sun and, as the food runs out, they begin squabbling. As the long days pass hope ebbs away, and they become suspicious of one another, particularly of Isaura who, we learn, is not considered ‘one of them.’
‘Two things your race is known for -magic and murder. Hill clan witch!’ …. No one would look at Isaura, no one would speak to her.
Much of the engrossing first part of the book takes place in the cramped confines of the barge. Tensions and fears are exacerbated by the harsh conditions. We readers are plunged into a time of starvation, death and grief, complicated by the corrosive power of envy and a mire of moral complexity. We even get a little romance when Isaura finds herself awkwardly playing cupid to Gabriela and Jamie, who are among her few friends.
‘My kingdom for a good looking man who has a fully working brain’. Isuara.
As the refugees drift helplessly toward apparent death, the action shifts to the peoples and complexities of Altaica, ‘a land rich in tradition; ruled by three powerful clans. A land with a history marked by warfare; where magic as we know it does not exist. Instead what is here, in abundance, is a more primal power. (Back cover.)’
‘By the gods, how long have they been on this boat? How much longer can they last?’. Umniga the Kenati of Bear Clan.
Umniga, a wise woman, who discovers the strangers has her reasons for wanting to rescue them, altruism not being the first. She and her acolyte Asha can’t do it alone but must persuade the clan chiefs to help. They mistrust one another and see no reason to trouble themselves over strangers. They want to know what is in it for them. A canny play of brutal politics between factions now begins, breaking out inevitably into conflict. When we pick up again with Isaura’s particular fate we are hurtling at a hard gallop toward the second book, Asena Blessed.
Altaica and Asena Blessed are published by Odyssey Books and the beautiful covers designed by Karri Klawitter. They are available through major online retailers, including Book Depository, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can obtain signed copies at Tracy Joyce’s website.