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The Dubious Hills Hardcover – April 1, 1994
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in a small village in the magical world first introduced in her YA trilogy The Secret Country , Dean's beautiful and compelling adult novel presents fascinating philosophical puzzles about the nature of knowledge, responsibility and evil. Centuries before, battling wizards eliminated war from the Dubious Hills. Part of their formula for peace was to parcel out mundane experience and knowledge: only the village's Gnosi knows how to teach, only its Akoumi understands about death and only the Physici knows about, and can experience, pain. That Physici is Arry, a 14-year-old girl whose parents' death left her in charge of her young siblings. To counterbalance the Dubious denizens' lack of innate understanding, the wizards bequeathed the villagers magical birthrights, some specific talent that appears at the onset of puberty. This finely balanced, bucolic society is upset by the invasion of wolves offering dangerous insights. In order to protect her world, Arry must search for ways to deal with the wolves' offer. The answers she finds are neither easy nor painless and serve as reminders of just how cruel, and wonderful, children can be. As in The Secret Country , Dean uses snippets of Tennyson, Shakespeare, Hopkins and others for her spells, adding a touch of poetry to her already lovely language.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In a world where nothing is known for certain and everyone has some sort of magic, a mysterious series of livestock killings by a wolflike creature leads a young woman to confront the elusive truths behind her life in the sheltered world of the Dubious Hills. The author of Tam Lin ( LJ 3/15/91) brings a fresh approach to rural fantasy in this tale of people in a magical world. Filled with subtle texture and style, this is a good bet for most fantasy collections.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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It's really amazing - it's so difficult to understand a truly different way of knowing something, but she does it. It's told from the point of view of a fourteen year old girl whose province of knowledge is pain. This sounds painful, but it's not; what's painful is learning, and change.
It's also, inceidentally, a werewolf story; but not the traditional sort. This is not what you come looking for when you look for a traditional werewolf story, which is why at least one reader was disapointed in it. This is a metaphor, a poem, a story about change and the casual way it can cause us harm, and choice and a fully functioning society utterly different from anything else I've ever read. It's beautiful and should probably have a lot of awards.
I have never been able to get it out of my head. I hope I never do.
The precise nature of knowledge in this story creates the opportunity for some wonderful jokes. There is a constant going from person to person in the village verifying information, as no one can be sure if what someone else says is the truth, there is the perpetually dubious reply 'who says so?', the response of a taunting child in our world, but an earnestly serious response in these dubious hills. When Arry is frustrated, she curses by saying 'Doubt!' and calls the damnable family cats that get into everything 'doubtful' because they are always under her feet. Doubt, of course, is the most frustrating and tentative thing about this hilly place, rendering it perfect for cussing. Dean also takes the lines from poetry by Keats, Gerald Manly Hopkins etc and makes it into the little spells children under 5 use to help out around the village. The lines of such familar poetry used for the little magic that is used in the village is a homely and lyrical touch. the magic is not invasive, it adds just enough of an otherworldly quality to this wonderfully realised world.
Dean is an exceptional world builder, right up there with Ursula Le Guin, but the thing that I love is the minature size of her worlds. They are child-sized worlds for adults. She treats the presence of evil intelligently and delicately in her work, understanding that it is a complex part of being human. Someone in one of the other reviews here critisied the ending of the Dubious Hills, but if you don't appreciate the ending, you've missed the point of the whole book. They have found a way to escape the doubt that plagues their lives, and think how gratifying it is to know things for certain. I think the Dubious Hills is a critical utopia, and an exceptional exploration of knowlege. I'm agog that such a simple story can have such a deeply philosophical edge to it. Dean is, in truth, a master storyteller, she can weave such complex and delightful worlds in so few words. Her language is deft, quiet, simple. But she creates complex, realistic places and situations. This is a superb book.
I bought it because it was inexpensive and I didn't like Dean's _Tam Lin._ I wanted to give her another shot. I also was hoping, thinking that it would be like _The Giver._ Superficially, it is, but then it gets into the whole werewolf: should we or shouldn't we question. To me, it was a silly question, a silly simple society and characters I found I didn't care about.
Rather than this I recommend Peter David's _Howling Mad._ It's about a wolf that gets bitten by a werewolf and becomes a man every full moon.
(Beloved in the same lost way I love Narnia; I cannot do
otherwise.) The world is that of the Hidden Land, also known
as the Secret Country. It is beautiful and yet deeply strange,
and it catches at your heart with joy and sorrow. But the
region is a different one, heart-stoppingly so.
I loved this story. It is not exactly like the other three
set in this world, true. But the style is the same, and the
way she mixes in things known and not. There is also mystery
to it, like her other tales. You will puzzle out what is
happening at the same time you are enthralled by it.
None of Pamela Dean's books should ever be out of stock or out of print. I cannot praise her unique writing style highly enough. Look for _The Secret Country,_ _The Hidden Land,_ and _The Whim of the Dragon,_ too; they're among the very best fantasy ever written.