J. Gregory Keyes
The Waterborn (Book 1 of Chosen of the Changeling)
Del Rey 1996 Hezhi is a princess of the great city of Nhol, and herself a descendant of the River God. But being of Royal Blood is not only for good - when you're in the puberty, your magic will show and you will either disappear or become established at the royal court. Hezhi's only friend disappeared when Hezhi was ten - and now she's set to reveal the dark and devious secrets of the palace and the family.
Perkar, the son of a minor chief of a cattle-herding people in the far north, sleeps with the Stream Goddess. That is a passage rite when you become a man among his people. Falling in love with her isn't. And vowing to kill the River God who is continously tormenting her, eating her, is absolutely stupid. When the King sets out to meet the River God's brother, a mountain god, to negotiate more land from him, Perkar joins his group - but with a slightly different goal.
From this short introduction you probably understand that this book isn't set in any ordinary quasi-Medieval fantasy Europe. It has a very mythological character. Gods are nothing out of the ordinary, it's more spectacular when someone from a tribe far away appears than when a god does. Sometimes it's easy to place a setting - it might be Celtic, Chinese, Native American or whatever inspired the author the most. To create this world, the author has gone through some more trouble, amalgamating Mesopotamian and Native American ideas and milieus into a seamless whole. Seamless? Well, Perkar's home - and way of thinking - is more Native American and Hezhi's more Mesopotamian, but the different world views are most cleverly made to co-exist with a rational explanation. Rational? Well, not rational as we Westerners see it, maybe, but rational in this world's own logic.
Sometimes it becomes a little too much mythology. Occasionally the book feels more like a myth than a novel, but most of the time Mr Keyes find a nice compromise, halfway between Darrell Schweitzer's The Mask of the Sorcerer and your average fantasy series. Not too frightening or strange, but at the same time original enough to stick out. Personally I prefer the parts of the novel taking place in the vicinity of Nhol. These are really great. I also think the novel is getting better all the time, and I'm eager to know how it all will end in the next novel, "The Blackgod". Keyes promise to provide with some more high-class adventure.
© Henriksson & Henriksson 1997.