While at BristolCon, I acquired a copy of the lovely Joanne Hall’s latest book and got her to scribble her name in it. I only managed to read it during my trip to London and back last week. It’s a long journey to Devon. So here are my thoughts on The Summer Goddess:
This is a story about a woman called Asta, chief of her village after her father’s death. She vows to her dead brother, now a spirit who piggy-backs within her, that she will find his son, six-year old Rhodan, taken by slavers in a raid, along with half of the village, and bring him home. But she is betrayed and taken by the raiders before her search begins.
On her journey from one land to another, she discovers that the world is vast, strange, and filled with beliefs other than the one Asta knows. One where Summer Goddess’ are worshipped in hope of deliverance from famine, another where a hungry God requires regular sacrifices and its oppressive priesthood subjugates the people.
Asta is strong, fragile, intelligent, stupid, brave, reckless, focused, and bewildered. In other words, a normal human being. No perfect hero, just someone trying her best to find her way through one problem after another to find her nephew and her people and bring them home.
The world is populated by many other characters, none of whom are all good or all bad. Each are multi-faceted, each bear their troubles, each pursue what they believe to be the right course for their people. Some help Asta, some use her, some she uses, some she must kill to survive.
It is a well written story, but there were times when I got annoyed by Asta’s choices, thinking that perhaps a woman in that particular situation would not have made them. Too reactive to perceived wrongs rather than adding together the information she had already received. Yet, exhausted and confused, there are times and situations when thinking things through was not something Asta could do. I understand what Joanne Hall was doing here.
The story had an ancient world flavour to it, but was written with a visceral, modern, and fairly pithy voice.
Overall a good and enjoyable read.
I hope you find this review interesting, and perhaps pick up a copy to read for yourselves.
All the best
R B Watkinson