This is the first volume in a series following the labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, a warrior of the Shshi race of intelligent termite-like people. It is set on an alien (to humans) world described in an earlier multi-volume novel covering the discovery of the world by humans. In the first book, the point of view is primarily that of Kaitrin Oliva, a human linguistic anthropologist who decodes the Shshi language.
This next multi-volume novel has no humans, only the termites. It's an epic tale told as if narrator Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer is dictating it to his scribe long after the events of the story. This is an effective means of narration because it allows for asides and personal thoughts of Di'fa'kro'mi about the story. I found it amusing when Di'fa comments how he used a bit of literary trickery to describe events happening elsewhere. That is, Di'fa invents a point of view shift. Clever of the author to come right out with it before I made a note about the "POV SHIFT!" Ms. Taylor uses multiple literary devices to get around some of the obstacles a termite might have recording a story for others to read, not just listen to in the oral tradition of the Remembrancers.
This novel is steeped in earth mythos from the role of Di'fa as the Homer of the Shshi to the obvious comparison of Ki'sh to both Ulysses and Hercules of Greek myth, the war with Troy, and a lot of other references I probably missed.
It's a really long first volume, but I'm almost getting used to Ms. Taylor's monolithic multi-volume novels. You certainly get plenty of words for your 99 cents (the price may have changed) and all of them quite necessary to the story. I will always have a problem with the names and the other con-lang (constructed language) features, but this one is footnoted for the most part. As for the names, there's a handy cast of characters and places at the beginning of the book.
What did I love about the book? Lots. The epic sweep of the story (and this is only the first volume of Ki'shto'ba's travels). The warrior is as knightly and honorable as any of King Arthur's court. The brotherly love between Ki'shto'ba and his twin brother, A'zhu'lo (highly unusual in the termite world) is touching and real. I quite enjoyed the antics of Za'dut the trickster outcast who just can't keep his claws off others' property. While playing the clown, he turns out to be quite clever and, at his heart, cares as much for the companions as any of the others.
I think what I want to say is that this novel is deeply and touchingly human although the termite practices are entirely unhuman. The concepts of honor, love, grief, fear, jubilation, caring are all there and I truly believed them.
Well done, very well written, squeaky clean grammar and spelling. Ms. Taylor has made me a fan of the termites even if I can't always remember who's who with the secondary characters. I didn't have a problem remembering the companions who travel on this epic journey.
(reviewed 4 months after purchase)