In this fantastical prehistoric drama, a tribal chief struggles to make amends for past transgressions.
In the last moments of his life, the cantankerous, unnamed chief of an unnamed tribe makes angry comments about the weaklings all around him, the burdens of family, and fellow tribesmen. When he finally dies, a young woman greets him in the afterlife and informs him that his ancestors refuse to meet him due to his evil ways, which included murder. He’s given another chance, though: he’s reincarnated as an orphan boy named Breygan, with his past life a shadowy memory that only reveals itself obliquely, in his dreams. At the age of 11, he meets Eska, a young girl who’s also an orphan, and returns with her to her village. But when she later grows close to a male rival, Breygan is overcome with jealousy, pushes her off a cliff, and flees. Soon, he finds a sad, motley group living in a cave, only half alive due to past sorrows. Breygan convinces them to leave the cave with him; they embark together on an adventure and meet Ainza, a woman also plagued by her past. Her brothers, Ortzi and Arginn, intend to kill Breygan as a sacrifice to lure the sun back, and they pursue him when he escapes. Meanwhile, Ainza reveals her troubled history, which involves a tribal leader. This is the fourth installment of the Misfits and Heroes series by Rollins (Past the Last Island, 2015, etc.) set some 14,000 years ago, in what is today northern Spain. Like its predecessors, the tale seamlessly combines elements of the real and the magical, conjuring a world that is often bizarre but also artfully plausible. The plot can be very difficult to follow, however, as it’s full of dreamlike sequences. It’s also so laden with heavy-handed symbolism that it can seem, at times, like an overly didactic parable. However, the drama is consistently gripping throughout, and the way that Rollins braids the multiple storylines together is often ingenious.
An imaginative but challenging tale about the power of the past.