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DARK HEART by Betsy James


by Betsy James

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-525-44951-5
Publisher: Dutton

Continuing the heavily allegorical saga begun in Long Night Dance (1989), James confronts independent-minded Kat, 17, with the tradition-bound society of her dead mother. Kat grew up among merchants like her father, who contemptuously treat their women as chattels. In the hill village where she now lives, boys carry spindles they will use as adult weavers (a craft forbidden to women), while girls make pots, abjuring any deviation from customary design; ribald taunts between the sexes are encouraged, and Kat endures suggestive teasing about her pending ritual initiation into womanhood. This involves a bear, which cruelly wounds her in an unsuccessful first trial; the rebellious Kat, deeply averse to the ritual's violence, is nearly suicidal by the time she tries again but manages to survive with her inner self intact. The language here is richly evocative, the images compelling—disturbingly so, since they convey the allure of sexual relationships founded on provocative behavior and male dominance, though clearly decrying them. Kat's tender memories of the first book's gentle Nall and her tempestuous but increasingly subtle interaction with the angry, blind weaver here hint at something more creative and constructive in her future; it remains to be seen whether James can go beyond anger to depict some kind of mature self-realization (or even love) in a third book. Her intrepid protagonist has earned it. (Fiction. 12+)