Eyes of Crow

I just finished a terrific novel called Eyes of Crow, written by Jeri Smith-Ready. The book, which is the first in a series (good news if you like the story because it continues on and you get to spend more time with the characters, bad news if you like the story because you can't just read it all at one sitting), is the story of Rhia, a girl who tries to avoid her dark and frightening destiny. When she contracts a terrible illness while very young she isn't expected to survive. She recovers to a degree but never regains her full physical strength. However her brush with death leaves her with a new power; she can tell if someone who is sick or injured will live or die and she is plagued by visions of exactly how they will die.

In Rhia's world everyone has an animal spirit that guides and shapes his or her life. Rhia's mother is an Otter, a healer with a flair for games that bring the family closer together, and her father is a Swan, able to interpret dreams. One of the most rare and frightening spirits is that of Crow, who represents death and eases the passage into the next world. Rhia is terrified that her kindred spirit is Crow and tries to refuse anything that will strengthen her bond with this spirit. Unfortunately for her, she can't escape what she sees and hears and when she is asked if someone who is ill is going to live or die she sees the man's death, a death that foretells war for her people.

More frightened than ever, she turns away from the ritual that will bond her with her totem animal and is left helpless and guilt ridden when her spirit could have helped her most. Someone very dear to her dies and she can do nothing to calm them and help them cross over to the other side. This death is a turning point for Rhia, who is finally able to force herself to accept Crow as her guide and leaves the village to start her training in another settlement, where she will have to face death head on.

Ms. Ready-Smith has created an intricate world where the inhabitants strive to create a balance with nature, some living in tree houses with the belief that agriculture is wrong and others who farm and raise domesticated animals. But living to the south of these tribes is a race of people called the Descendants, people who have rejected the spirits, live in cities and worship gods in the form of man. When Rhia senses that the Descendants are coming to war on her people she is torn between staying in her new village and continuing her training or leaving to protect her home.

I was surprised to see Voice of Crow categorized as a romance. While there is a very interesting love story embedded in the book, there are also strong themes of war, the meaning of life and death, responsibility to the earth and vise versa and spirituality. If I had bothered to try and put it in a genre I would have stuck it in fantasy. It's certainly a book I recommended to my college age son who I've never seen read a romance. Well, possibly he read Romeo and Juliet in high school but, despite being the quintessential romance, that's also not what most people think of as romance. If you're worried that this books is the kind of romance that your grandmother read, filled with irascible bosses falling in love with their timid secretaries, there's no need. I don't think anyone publishes those anymore and Eyes of Crow has more in common with Lord of the Rings than it does with Lord Ravenscar's Revenge. Not in the sense that there are any Hobbits or anything, but there is plenty of feasting, fighting and ponies.

You can read an excerpt from the novel at Ms. Ready-Smith's website. You can also take a quiz and find out what kind of spirit animal you have, which was interesting. Apparently I am a bear, which means I should be hibernating right about now. You can also find the link to The Wild's Call, a free prequel to Eyes of Crow set just a few years after the collapse of our technological civilization. The free story starts off with this intriguing sentence, "No one without a gun was getting food that day." (I don't know about your mom, but mine said that to us kids plenty of times when she didn't feel like cooking.)

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Spotlight who says, "My favorite movie starring Jim Carrey is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. His part is so different from all his other movies. His character is so reserved and it was great to see him play a part that was a stretch from his usual roles. An excellent movie." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.