I picked this up on recommendation from a friend who reviewed it, and I was not disappointed.
At its heart, this is a story of two brothers. They’re sons of their village’s chief, but one of them is a bastard, and that fact has kept them apart ever since they were old enough to know what that meant. This changes unexpectedly when the aging father names Etran, the bastard, as his heir and new chief of the village.
To salvage what unity he can, Etran names Comran, the other son, as his second in command, and the two of them needs to learn to work together.
The choice of chief is not a popular decision and the brothers struggle with both each other, and with malcontent villagers. When a neighboring tribe invades their territory, things get worse.
I found this a charming story and an easy read. There’s a bit of action and violence, but the focus is on character development and on the relationship between the two brothers. There’s also a bit of romance going on in the background, but that’s more as a way to add weight to the gravity of the situation than something to focus on.
What I’ll whine about
The beginning. The complex relationship between the two brothers is thrust upon the reader rather bluntly, and we have to take the narrator’s word for it rather than see it ourselves. This was probably done in order to get on with the story and get to the interesting parts (in which it succeeded), but I still would have liked to see a bit more of Etran and Comran before Etran was made chief.
What I’ll gush about
Despite the situation in the valley being quite grim, there’s a lot of warmth and heart in the story. Early on, I felt like the two brothers were perhaps a bit more emotionally mature than I’d expect (definitely more so than I at that age), but soon enough, I just went with it. It made for a good story, and that’s the main thing.
The animals. The giant greywolves, sabrecats, and lynxes that the tribes’ warriors ride upon are awesome, and they make for some spectacular imagery during the battle scenes. The animals are probable the only really fantastical aspect of the story, but it still very much feels and reads like fantasy.
A heartwarming tale of two brothers trying to figure things out in a sometimes cruel and brutal world.