From School Library Journal
Grade 7-10-- Continuing the tale began in Long Night Dance (Dutton, 1989), Dark Heart is set in the village of the Creek tribe at the base of Dark Heart mountain. The society is rigid and superstitious, governed by ritual and tradition. It is to this former home of her dead mother that 17-year-old Kat has fled to escape from an abusive father. Here, she must endure the ritual of being ``eaten by a bear'' to become a woman. It is around the preparation for and performance of this rite that the plot turns. The mystery of what this entails and why it must happen keeps readers turning the pages, but the conclusion is disappointing since the ritual is never fully explained or satisfactorily described. Kat is a finely drawn character. As a person in transition between two cultures and from girlhood to womanhood, she often has conflicting feelings. At times she wants to fit into the estab: lished patterns of her new home. At others, she wants to return to Nall, the man she loves but left behind. Her frequent ambivalence and flares of independence make her believable and sympathetic. The minor characters, although not as complex, are adequate to develop the story. Since several questions remain unanswered at the book's end, it's likely that another volume is forthcoming. --Marilyn Makowski, Greenwood High School, SC
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Continuing the heavily allegorical saga begun in Long Night Dance (1989), James confronts independent-minded Kat, 17, with the tradition-bound society of her dead mother. Kat grew up among merchants like her father, who contemptuously treat their women as chattels. In the hill village where she now lives, boys carry spindles they will use as adult weavers (a craft forbidden to women), while girls make pots, abjuring any deviation from customary design; ribald taunts between the sexes are encouraged, and Kat endures suggestive teasing about her pending ritual initiation into womanhood. This involves a bear, which cruelly wounds her in an unsuccessful first trial; the rebellious Kat, deeply averse to the ritual's violence, is nearly suicidal by the time she tries again but manages to survive with her inner self intact. The language here is richly evocative, the images compelling--disturbingly so, since they convey the allure of sexual relationships founded on provocative behavior and male dominance, though clearly decrying them. Kat's tender memories of the first book's gentle Nall and her tempestuous but increasingly subtle interaction with the angry, blind weaver here hint at something more creative and constructive in her future; it remains to be seen whether James can go beyond anger to depict some kind of mature self-realization (or even love) in a third book. Her intrepid protagonist has earned it. (Fiction. 12+) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.