It's Book Review Wednesday, and our book for the day is quite an unusual one--as you'll see by the blurb below…
The peaceful nation of Caladon has been cut of from the rest of the world for hundreds of years, but one day they are brutally attacked, and must find a way to defend themselves without betraying their ethic of non-violence.
My Review: 4 Stars
I LOVED the world in which these characters lived. It was complex, with nations similar to many of those in our own world. Everything was bright, colorful, and highly descriptive, with explanations of the customs and cultures that gave insight into the countries visited by the characters.
It was a tad scattershot and disorganized for my linear brain. It hopped and skipped between different characters, and it was hard for me to keep the timeline straight. But that's just me--I like a story that moves forward, with only occasional flashbacks.
One thing I noticed was that the book came across as a bit of an "ethics lesson". The people of Caladon tended to judge the other nations for what they perceived to be different or unusual. The characters often made comments on moral or ethical issues, which sort of came across as "preachy". Not that it affected the story in any way, but it just stood out to me. For many people, this sort of thing wouldn't be an issue.
All in all, it was a solid story, though the writing suffered a bit.
Here's a Taste:
Vend and his comrades lay still, hardly daring to breath, unable to see any way of escape or place to hide. They watched the enemy soldiers coming down the hill, prodding at the fallen bodies as they came. The Katrians ordered them to discard their weapons. Those who could walk were herded into a line. Vend turned round and looked behind him. Another group of soldiers was waiting to cut of their retreat in that direction. There was nothing to do but obey. With prods and shouts, the Katrians drove them back into the gully. They were forced to leave behind everyone incapable of getting up.
Vend seemed to be the only officer left. Searching among the Katrians, he identified their officer. “Excuse me,” he said in Katrian. “Will you allow us to take care of our wounded comrades?”
The officer turned towards Vend with a look of surprise. “You speak our language, do you?” He turned to his men. “Bring him over here. What’s your name and rank,” the officer asked.
“Vend Paritip. I’m a lieutenant. What about the wounded? They need to be treated immediately or they may not survive.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of them.” He paused for a moment and gestured to some of his soldiers. They took this as the signal to start moving the prisoners away from the site. “How did you learn to speak Katrian?” the officer asked Vend, walking along beside him.
“I’m a language specialist at the university. What are you going to do with us?”
“These men will take you into town.” He turned to the man beside him. “Take Lieutenant—what was the name?—Paritip? Take him with the others to headquarters. We’ll finish up here and follow you down.”
The soldier pointed his gun at Vend and jerked it once in the direction he wanted him to move. Vend started to walk down the hill after the other prisoners. As he moved past the enemy soldiers, he noticed several of them removing ugly-looking knives from their belts. He kept walking, conscious of the weapon pointing at his back. Suddenly a scream rang out behind him. He turned to look, but his escort prodded his neck with the gun, forcing him to turn round and keep walking.
The soldiers escorting them seemed to be in a hurry to get them away from the hillside and urged them into a trot down the hill towards Arvin. Behind them they could still hear screams. Tears of impotent rage and grief stung Vend’s eyes. For the second time in his life, he felt the urge to kill other human beings.
When they reached the outskirts of Arvin, the prisoners were allowed to slow down a little. Vend looked back towards the hills and saw columns of smoke rising from the place where they had been captured. Now that all the prisoners were together, Vend saw there were no other officers among them. There were five women and twenty or so men. They seemed to be in shock, their eyes deadened with grief for fallen companions, cheeks streaked with tears, skin ashen. They huddled close to one another, as if the touch of another arm or hand could give them some comfort.
Vend was so overcome with shock and horror that he hardly noticed anything as they walked through the streets of Arvin. If there were any people on the streets, or if they passed damaged buildings, he wasn’t aware of it. Eventually, they reached the building complex that the invaders had taken over as their headquarters. It appeared to be the administration center of the town, around which they had thrown up a crude enclosure of wood about three meters high with coils of spiked wire along the top and bottom. After they passed through the iron gate, which was heavily guarded, they were told to sit on the ground and wait.
“They killed them all, didn’t they, Lieutenant?” one of the men asked.
“It sounded like it, but we can’t be sure.”
“What kind of inhuman monsters are they?” The woman who asked—Vend thought her name was Mari—wiped away tears with the back of her hand, leaving a dirty streak down her face. Another woman sitting next to her, put an arm around Mari’s shoulder and rested her head on it.
“What’s going to happen to us?” a man asked.
“I don’t know,” Vend replied. “We’ll probably be kept prisoners until the war’s over.”
“That won’t be very long, will it?”
“I hope not. By the way, I should remind you that the only information you are required to give is your name and rank. Having said this, and given the barbaric nature of the enemy, you aren’t expected to endure—how can I put it?—intolerable duress. If the pressure to answer their questions is unbearable, then answer them. You are not expected to suffer injury or give your life for the sake of secrecy. After all, how much harm could our limited knowledge do?”
They weren’t prepared, however, for what came next. It was never easy to anticipate the actions of this enemy. Two officers came out of one of the buildings and walked across the courtyard towards the prisoners.
“I understand there’s someone who speaks Katrian,” he said. When Vend nodded, he continued, “You’ll translate. Stand up all of you.”
Vend stood and told his comrades to do the same.
“All the women step over there.”
“But...” Vend tried to protest. Immediately, several guns pointed in his direction.
“Silence. Just do as you’re told.”
The women went to one side as they were ordered, darting anxious glances from their comrades and to the guards.
“All right, take them away.”
The five women were prodded with weapons towards a two-story building close to the fence. As the Katrians herded the women into the building, cheers and whistles erupted inside, then the door slammed shut. They heard a woman’s voice raised in protest, followed by several thuds and a scream.
About the Author:
Vicki was born and grew up in England, but has lived most of her adult life in North America—all three countries, at one time or another. She currently lives in British Columbia. the most beautiful part of Canada. On the way to becoming a writer, she has raised a few kids and had scores of jobs, all the way from office clerk to law office accountant--she loved that job.
Being a pacifist and a Jesusonian influences what she writes in that she is often puts forth ideas for overcoming conflict without the use of force and excessive bloodshed. Her books are mostly in the speculative fiction and fantasy genres.
Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.ca/Reluctant-Warriors-Vicki-Wootton-ebook/dp/B005064ZHI/
Connect with Vicki on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006847185155