Finished filomancer's new novel, Bear Daughter. It's a quest/adventure/bildungsroman, built of the stuff of Native American myth and religion. Cloud, the daughter of a bear god and a human woman, having spent the first twelve years of her life as a bear, wakes up as a human girl one day. As one might suspect from this situation, Cloud doesn't fit well into the human world, and she is no longer part of the animal world. Conflicts with her family and village and a terrible moral demand drive her through the story.
The story is set in the Pacific Northwest, before the Europeans came, but the Northwest of myth, with First People, immortals, gods, spirits, wizards behind every rock and bush. It's an insecure and perilous world for a twelve-year-old to wander about in. The setting reminded me a little of Jack Vance's Lyonesse in that way, although Lyonesse was based on European myth. Both novels de-romanticize pre-modern societies, and make the reader understand that those societies were highly violent and dangerous, places where slavery, casual murder, and brutality towards anyone weaker than oneself, were taken for granted. Oh, and this is the Northwest. Be prepared for rain. Lots of rain.
Cloud isn't Little Miss Sunshine, either. She's got a prickly personality, part annoying, passive-aggressive adolescent, part bear. And she's struggling under a burden of responsibility that no twelve-year old ever ought to have to shoulder. It took me a while to warm to her, but I did eventually, and came to love her by the end.
I'm not a likely audience for this novel. Native American myth and history has never really caught my interest, nor the whole tragedy of the European/Indian conflict, nor the romance of the West in general. Nonetheless, Judith won me over, and I enjoyed this book a lot. Good writing, lots of tension, vivid settings, highly imaginative events and cast, satisfying ending.
== shiohigari == (noun) shell gathering (at low tide), clamming
|Left radical is the radical form of 'dog'. Right radical is 'protect' (守), which lends its own meaning, and also acts phonetically to express 'on all sides'. Thus, a dog which protects its master on all sides, or a hunting dog. This is still one of this character's meaning in Chinese, but it simply means 'hunt' in Japanese. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Dog protects master when out hunting.'|