First Lines: The darkness in this cave is some complete I can no longer see you, but I can smell your blood. “I think your wound has opened up again.”
I was super excited to read this because I thought the premise sounded so different. It looked unique and different (it’s set in a prehistoric clan!), and you guys all should know by now that I love me some historical fictions. So, before my summer ends, I was going to read it.
Kol’s life isn’t anything special: he hunts, gathers, and protects his family. His clan is close, and as the son of the High Elder, Kol knows that one day this clan will be his. Then Mya arrives with her family from a clan to the south and turns Kol’s world upside down. Bold but standoffish, Mya doesn’t fit into Kol’s world. Still, she intrigues him. But any chance he had to impress her disappear with a careless mistake. When another clan arrives, led by Lo, an enemy of Mya, Kol becomes trapped in the middle of a history he knows nothing about. The tension between the girls escalates until violence erupts. Face with disaster at every front, Kol has to ask himself which girl he trusts more. Because make no mistake, one of them has been planning war for a long time…but Kol doesn’t know which one.
So like I said, I was really looking forward to this because it’s so weird to find a prehistoric historical fiction. And truly, I thought the setting was cool. We don’t know exactly where we are in today’s geography (though it would have been cool if Eshbaugh had told us that in the acknowledgements or something), but we know they’re pretty far north because they’re near ice. Anyway, I really liked seeing things like how they hunted, how they built huts, how they lived off the land, etc. Sure, we can’t verify that all of this is historically accurate, but it’s still fascinating.
I also liked the explanation of the culture of Kol’s clan as well as the differences noted between his clan and Mya’s and Lo’s. I often feel like having a culture that makes sense helps a lot toward making the story believable. (Also, mammoths and saber-toothed tigers make the story awesome.)
And generally, I liked Kol. He’s very driven to protect his family and show his manners to anyone he runs across, but he’s sometimes overly cautious when taking risks. He’s more reflective than some of his brothers are, and it was interesting to see how being a bit cautious plays out in this setting.
At the same time, I had a hard time connecting with Kol and the other characters. Kol’s fascination with Mya seemed just the slightest bit stalkerish. Mya gives no indication whatsoever that she would encourage Kol’s feelings, yet Kol keeps watching her to figure her out and he’s constantly aware of where she is. Yes, I give him a little slack because he’s in a clan of no females his age, so Mya as a teenage girl is going to be something he has little experience with. I just can’t reconcile it, though.
I read another review that said that this story lacked soul, and I kind of agree with that. The story is plotted well, it seems pretty well researched, but it just lacks emotion. Mya is cold emotionally all the time, so there’s no connecting with her. Kol is curious, but he tries to lock up his emotions too, and that cuts him off from us. It’s just so hard to feel emotionally invested in a story when even the characters aren’t.
But truly, what threw me off was the writing style. You can see part of that in the first lines. It’s all told as Kol talking to Mya, so “you” is a very common word. So a scene could say something like, “I saw you entering camp from the bay where I last saw you” or something. It’s a very disorienting writing style because of how little it’s used. I kept getting confused, especially in the beginning when I didn’t know who the narrator was and who he was talking to. Also disorienting is the use of modern words and terms for things. Obviously, this book has to make sense to us as modern readers, but when you see prehistoric men and women talking about parkas, it can pop you out of the right mindset for the story.
So while I loved the uniqueness of the story, I didn’t so much like the uniqueness of the writing style.