From the black ship spilled all manner of tall Kabliw - men from the South land, men from a world past the barrier of the stunted trees that Sjennonirk's people called the Hackles of the Dog.
–Karin Lowachee - The Gaslight Dogs - c.2010
Book 1 of The Middle Light series1
Sjennonirk is the spirit walker of her tribe. For years now the Kabliw have been coming, her people have welcomed them albeit with a certain amount of caution, but the bring trade. Now however their ships have unloaded crates of guns. Sjennonirk is understandably wary. But before she can learn more about what they intend to do with these weapons she finds herself locked up and transported to Ciracusa, accused of murder.
In the city General Fawle takes an interest in her and her the fact that she is an ankago or spirit walker. He wants to use that ability to further his own ends.This is a book that has been sitting my Mount TBR for a quite a while now. I first read about it on Calico Reaction2 and it sounded intriguing. I guess I was wary of starting it because it is the first book in a series and there is no sign of a book 2. But eventually I decided to go for it, because Lowachee is not a huge name her publisher’s may not look for a sequel, so why wait for something that might never happen. I know that might off some readers, but if no one ever took a chance on an unknown first book then the series would never ever get written.
But back to the book itself.
Lowachee has some great world building going on. Of course she is using the history of the United States and Canada and the conflict between the European settlers and the natives, so it is a world that is somewhat familiar. However it isn’t just a retelling but a reinterpretation. It isn’t set in our world, but one that echoes some of our history.
It is also a book that encourages you to take your time reading it, the style of writing was one that made me want to reread the odd sentence in order to make sure I understood what was being said. It isn’t that it was badly written or anything, just that it comes with a slight difference in focus.
There are two main narrators, Sjenn of the Aniw and Jarrett Fawle of the Ciracusan army, General Fawle’s son. Jarrett is struggling with his place in the world, he has a very uneasy relationship with his father and only seems somewhat comfortable when he is out on patrol, battle offers him some sort of clarity. But an encounter with an enemy soldier has brought with it nightmares. Summoned back to the city and his father he is thrown together with Sjenn in an attempt to understand what has happened him.
Sjenn is obviously an outsider in the city. Everything around her is foreign and uncomfortable, she only wants to go home. But she has no control over that, all she can do is try to make the general happy so he will help her go back. But can she really go along with what he wants when it might mean disaster for her own people?
I really enjoyed most of the book. Unfortunately the ending comes somewhat out of the blue with very little resolution or closure for any of the characters or plotlines. In fact it is opens up a whole heap of further possibilities.
It is a fascinating look at identity and place, religion and war, as well as what happens when cultures clash. If there ever is a sequel I will be sure to pick it up.