In this debut novel set 500 years into a post-apocalyptic America, a woman taken captive by a tribe harbors little hope of returning to civilization and must learn new ways.
Centuries after a global disaster and an ensuing pandemic, Earth’s population has been reduced to 2 percent of its former size. In New America, cities exist on the coasts, but Wrocks and Dackos control the territory in between. Descended from Native American tribes, they have returned to the old ways, believing this purer hunting-and-gathering lifestyle will help protect them from sickness. Kayta Corrigan, 24, is traveling from Philadelphia to Seattle when her airship crashes and she is captured by Wrocks (once known as Crows). Tarken Red Horse wants a new wife and claims the beautiful Kayta, though she’s not nearly as submissive as he expected. As for Tarken, “How could such an odious man be so handsome?” Kayta wonders. Surrounded by a wilderness full of dangers, she has little choice but to accept her place in the tribe, learning their language, work, and customs (such as eating meat, which she at first finds disgusting). The tribe battles weather, starvation, and sometimes other tribes; meanwhile, Kayta makes some friends and forms a deep bond with Tarken. When tragedy strikes, Kayta reconsiders her long-deferred plan to reach Seattle. In this book, Pann brings the Wrock world to life with thorough, well-researched, and entertaining details, explaining how to take down a tent dwelling, cook, prepare hides, treat a wound; she describes celebrations and ceremonies as well as ordinary social life. The tale too often equates appearance with character, and Kayta’s attraction to her kidnapper can be uncomfortable. But the depths and complications of Tarken and Kayta’s relationship take it beyond the sweet-savage-love cliché. Pann fully develops her minor characters, too; Kayta’s growing understanding of them becomes one of this story’s pleasures. Well-paced and balanced, the novel features several riveting battle scenes (and a memorable prairie fire) as well as more personal, intimate episodes. The ending offers a satisfying look at this world’s possible future.
Exciting, thoughtful, and emotional—a successful blend of future history, adventure, and romance.