Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

September 3, 2009

Tasha Campbell – River’s Daughter

Filed under: review — Tags: , , — Sam @ 10:07 pm

This is the first book from Verb Noire, a small independent press set up to publish work by, about, and for PoC writers & fans and their allies.

It’s really good; only 75 pages, but fits a whole story into them, and a neatly plotted arc at that, with a lovely immersive first-person style and a beautiful sense of place. It’s really hard to find a good short novel these days, but this is it.

It’s basically a Swan Maiden or Selkie story, but with both a PoC and a feminist twist, and a strong dose of localized American myth. Normally, these folktales are told from over the shoulder of the hunter who catches himself a pretty magical wife, and the woman’s no more than a cipher and a trophy; sometimes she ends up going back to the sea or the lake, but that’s only there as a signifier for the man who caught her, or perhaps for the people who freed her – subject rather than agent.

This is the first retelling I’ve seen from the PoV of the normally thoroughly othered skin changer; the best I’ve previously seen is Mercedes Lackey’s Black Swan, which retells Swan Lake from Odile’s perspective. Getting to see the river’s children from within, with Campbell’s admirable economy of description, is a delightful change.

Gail, too, is a pleasant protagonist to live with – she thinks about things, makes decisions, cares about people, and kicks arse when she needs to, but not often enough to seem unrealistic. Definitely recommended.

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