Thursday, March 17, 2011

Initiate by Tara Maya

Title: Initiate
Author: Tara Maya
Series: The Unfinished Song
Release Date: Dec. 22, 2010
Publisher: Misque Press
Pages: 185
Received from Tara for review.

Dindi can't do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who can pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No one in Dindi's clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

Kavio is the most powerful warrior0dancer in Faearth, but when he exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn't commit, he decides to she his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don't kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father's wars and his mother's curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her...assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.


Wow. Holy smoking wow. This is one of the few books I've read that I can honestly say was totally, 100% original. I've never, and I mean have NEVER come across anything like it. Initiate, the first installment in Tara Maya's The Unfinished Song series, is set in the neolithic-like fantasy world of Faearth. Maya has done a fantastic job seamlessly blending tribal cultures, traditions, and fairy tales from across the world to bring the reader a completely unique experience. However, as unique as it is, it was insanely easy to slip into the story because I was familiar with the bits and pieces of our world that Maya took to create hers. It's always nice to be able to recognize where inspiration comes from, and the result creates a sort of "home away from home" feeling in fiction. That's not to say that I feel at home running around with spears and stuff, but the fantasy was grounded enough in reality that it was easy to imagine.

As I said before, the setting of this novel is a sort of neolithic stone-age kind of world. Seven tribes roam the land, living at odds among faeiries, elves, brownies and the like even though not all humans can "see" them. Though there were many characters that played an important role in the story, my favorite was Dindi, a young girl from the Lost Swan Tribe anxious to pass Initiation and become a Taevaedi, a member of a secret society of revered magical dancers whose powers can make it rain or even heal injuries. Though I felt like she acted a little young for a girl of fourteen, I still found her an extremely enjoyable character to watch develop throughout the story--especially since Initiate has a sort of fairy tale-like quality to it. She was one of those characters who always tried to do right but then ended up doing wrong (mostly because her actions were sabotaged by pixies). You can't help but want her to succeed. Her story parallels Kavio's, a young warrior and powerful Taevaedi exiled from his tribe for a crime that he didn't commit. He too, was likable--the strong, brave, and compassionate type we always love to see in fantasy novels. Though the two come from different worlds (Kavio is basically royalty where he comes from, and Dindi is an awkward outcast) what I found most compelling about the two of them together was that they share a strong heart. Yes, this is the part where you say "Awww," 'cause really, even though Kavio and Dindi only interact for a short period of time, you don't need a book description to tell you that their destinies are intertwined.

The book was a short read and felt even shorter than the 185 pages it actually was since the plot moved at a fast pace and was the perfect balance of background information and action. I felt like I really knew the world and all of it's characters (even the minor ones) by the time I reached the end, and was upset when the ending actually showed up. The cliffhanger is a bad one--like the kind that shows up at the end of your favorite show and makes you wish that it next week so you could get on with the next episode. Thankfully, I heard that the second book comes out this month, which means that for those of you interested in picking it up, you won't have to wait long to see what happens next. This is one that I highly recommend to all you epic fantasy lovers out there. Even though the writing isn't as academic as an epic like Tolkien's (and really, thank god), it's just as rich and detailed with deep characters in a world that's easy to care about since it's so similar to our own. Pick it up if you're looking for something totally different!