An epic of high drama, set 14,000 years ago against the days of spirits and strange happenings.
In this ancient fantasy, Rollins fashions a saga from the great migrations that drove people from Australia and eastern Asia to make their way across Polynesia, Melanesia and the great Pacific. Rollins portrays smoky, pungent images of village life: the fortuitous saving of a disfigured child marked for death, the importance of sacred stones and heavenly music, a time when royals voted critical decisions by a count of eggs. Shamans squeeze vital signs out of the ether, but they steer clear of self-importance. For example, one shaman doesn’t fudge his ignorance to save his ego: “Raidu came over and looked at the tray. ‘What do the omens say?’ Owl Man didn’t look up. ‘It’s difficult to say.’ ‘Perhaps a better shaman could read them.’ ‘Perhaps,’ Owl Man replied.” The world Rollins creates is fully alive—“all in one piece with no boundaries between items, somewhere between the world of people and the world of dreams”—though hardly benevolent; a great geologic cataclysm shatters the peoples’ lives and sends them on their eastward quest, into a sea Rollins makes achingly wide and deep. This work follows on the heels of Rollins’ previous work (Misfits and Heroes, 2010), and there’s much of the same sense of time’s passage, as characters grow into themselves and enough years pass for volcanoes to level islands and entire fleets of citizens to flee. Rollins is a writer with a touch for complexity and range, with plenty of meaty detail in her pages and a considerable stable of fleshed-out characters, but she keeps it all surely in hand. She also has a talent for bringing realism to a world where all things are possessed with some sense of spirit, and a pervasive magic guides one’s destiny as surely as willful decisions.
An exciting story set in an imaginative, capably rendered prehistoric world.