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Tribute Trail: Ellora's Cave
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Kherin, the Goddess' Chosen, and Rythian, The Sun Stallion, are both heroes, both proud, both warriors, but they are men from different cultures and from different lands within the wwarriors, but they are men from different cultures and from different lands within the world envisioned and executed by the two authors. Their meeting is part of their destiny, foreordained to return the Sun God to his people, the Shi'R'Laen. This is not an easy task in as much as Rythian does not believe in his own god--or in any others. Kherin is a Betrayed by one of his own, Kherin is drugged, kidnapped, and made a slave by the enemy of both heroes. As a slave, he is a part of the tribute paid to Rythian, who has just killed the previous Sun Stallion and has become the new ruler of the Shi'R'Laen. The Shi'R'Laen are a semi-nomadic people who value their great horses and their freedom (and the freedom of all men). The warriors, both male and female, by treaty, guard the trade caravans from attack and the tribute is given in payment. Rythian names the four slaves, Kherin and three others of varying importance to the work, hearth brothers and sisters, effectively making them members of the tribe and Kherin part of his own household. This isn't strictly true because now that he is the Sun Stallion he doesn't have a household. The Goddess' Chosen becomes the man of Rythian's former household and the husband to his former wives. The world created in TRIBUTE TRAIL includes life, death, gods, civilizations, wars, and a cast of very believable characters. The heroes, villains, women, and gods are very believable. With the exceptions of the deities, they are flawed, filled with doubts, and well motivated for their parts in the unfolding drama. The plot is straightforward, but includes more than enough twists and turns to keep even a jaded reader turning reading faster and faster. The setting, the magic, and the cultures are all credible. I hope the two authors are planning a sequel--I would like to visit this land again. -- Charles Williams -scribesworld.com/reviews/genres/fantasy.html Oct. 1999 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Author
This book is a result of our interest in early cultures, and what happens when they meet. Added to that is the cultural repeating drama of Goddess-worship versus the Sky-Gods. On our world, technological cultures have always won: Romans conquer Celts, Normans
conquer Saxons, Europeans conquer Native Americans. But what would happen if a less-structured people had an extra edge -- what if they had Powers their enemies no longer believed in? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The overall plot is good, very fast paced, rich in long, satisfying climax scenes, but there are some disturbing inconsistencies and true errors.
Just to make a little example, the height of the people seems to vary constantly. Moreover the northener main hero is said to be comparatively short in comparison with his tribe but he is nonetheless much taller than his women and at least "two handspans" taller than his lover... two handspans? it would mean that he is approximately 200cm and that his people are at least 210, assuming his (male) lover be 160cm.
The first chapters are a little slow, even clumsy, then the story takes off to land clumsily again in the last ones.
The world depicted here is clearly drawn from Europe in the first centuries a.D. with its savage nomadic tribes counterposed to some refined civilizations such as Byzantium and pre-islamic Arabia.
The main characters are endearing, even if I must underline how the opposition good vs evil is sometimes a little too neat and that the love between the two main heroes is much too often incensed with exaggerated imagery, so that the side characters of Arun and Voran, homosexual and life-bonded as the two main ones, are much more likeable and believable.
The writing is generally professional, with very proficient pages and a few silly, rhetorical ones, but I really sensed two different hands in these pages, hands which did not necessarily agree with each other as to what to make of the story.
An entertaining reading which could have been much better with a little editing.
While Kherin is betrayed, Rythian Lyre'son of the Shi'R'Laen loves his hearth-family, but worries about the direction Caier has taken the tribe. He challenges Caier, kills him, and becomes the new Sun Stallion. The Tylossian gift of four slaves, including Kherin, are freed and made part of Rhythian's hearth-family. Still, Rhythian has to contend with Caier supporters, the loss of his hearth due the Sun Stallion, and the fear that everyone seems to have towards Kherin who is the first male this tribe has ever seen to have a connection to the Goddess. Kherin needs to recover his health, but forget vengeance and follow the path the Goddess has laid out for him.
TRIBUTE TRAIL is an interesting speculative fiction work that fans of other worldly tales will fully relish. The story line is filled with action and the moralities of the different societies feel genuine as if the three nations (Tylos, Shi'R'Laen, and Khasson) exist. Though the good vs. evil concept appears too simplistic, Terri Beckett and Chris Power provides the audience with a powerful, entertaining tale that will be fully enjoyed.
If that had been the book's sole plot, it would have been an entertaining sword and sorcery excursion. But while Kherin is making his physical journey to a spiritual destination he is sure of, the Sun Stallion is making a spiritual journey to acknowledge the cause of the physical reality he accepts without question. His path is no less fraught with dangers than Kherin's, and filled with betrayals, slavery, and death-defying battles of a different sort. The two stories, each capable of supporting an entire book, intertwine and mirror each other to create a truly exceptional work. Although it's a stand alone novel, I hope it's the first of a very long series by these authors set in this delightful world. There are still many people and places I want to explore.
-- Reviewed for the Science Fiction Romance newsletter
This novel is quite outstanding. The multi-layered plot and the carefully crafted fantasy world make it an immersing read. The writing is very good and the romance between the two male main characters is epic and beautiful. There is also a sequel called "War trail" which is at the time of writing only available as an eBook from Ellora's Cave, but I hope there will be a printed edition, too.