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Snow Brother Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 1992
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My first complaint regards the treatment of female warriors. That can be a tricky situation for fantasy writers, and this book does not accomplish it very well. The idea of a primitive, warlike society in which the females are fully equal, maybe even superior, to men in respect and ability is a bit much to swallow. This is taken to the extreme when the female main character Shkai'ra sexually assaults male and female prisoners, just like the male members of her band. I found that to be absurd.
This leads into my next complaint. Shkai'ra is theoretically the protagonist of the novel, yet she reveals herself by her deeds to be an utterly loathsome monster. Perhaps we are meant to think she did not rape those people because she is a woman. However, she also either actively participates in or tacitly approves of torture, slavery, cannibalism, and human sacrifice. At one point, one of her followers tries to rape a girl but has some trouble because he's so drunk. Shkai'ra is totally oblivious to the girl's suffering. Her only reaction is to giggle at the "comical sight." Scenes like that almost made me throw down the book in disgust. This is not a character one would root for.
My last complaint is that the book is not really complex enough to warrant its 290 pages. About a hundred pages is spent on the warband's time in the village after they've conquered it. During this time nothing of real importance is accomplished; it could have been told in twenty. The only really interesting idea is the Snow Brother itself, and that hardly shows up at all.
This could have been a novella.
Some of the linguistics are interesting. This takes place far in earth's future, and there's some mileage to be found in trying to figure out how the earth got that way and what the cities of old are now called. But all in all, this was not a great book. The idea of a barbarian woman hero was twisted into a corrupt and sickening thing. If you like Xena, you will not like Shkai'ra.
As with many of Stirling's novels, an extremely militaristic culture takes on peaceful craftspeople and, of course, wins. I have not seen the earlier version of this, and this is a review of the later revision.
Stirling's fans will enjoy this; others might avoid it.
Despite all that, the book is well-written and fast-paced and the protagonist does not exactly prosper, not just now. Perhaps the best reason for reading this book, aside from getting a few hours' entertainment, is that it is a good entry point to the Fifth Millenium series, which is well worth reading.
Half a lifetime later, I still remember that book.
It's a tale of a peaceful little village up in the mountains that's just been invaded by barbarians, who then hunker down and occupy the place. Much of the book is about how the villagers deal with the occupation and mount their own resistance. It's about the weak versus the strong, about caring for people who you really shouldn't, about a rough, tough barbarian who's silly enough to fall in love.
I've read and forgotten a lot of generic fantasy novels where the Heroes and Proponents of All That Is Good lay into the Forces of Darkness and win, because that's how the plot has to go.
Sh'kaira(sp?), and her lover playing twisty little flute-songs, has stayed with me.