Immerse yourself in the sun-kissed land of Fedran and explore the world Rutejìmo has only begun to discover in Sand and Blood, the first in a trilogy by D. Moonfire.
Rutejìmo’s goals for the future are typical for a seventeen-year-old boy: become the best warrior by mastering the magic of the sun spirit. Yet he’s not the strongest, nor the fastest in his clan, and he doesn’t have the work ethic. He longs for the recognition Chimípu gains from her accomplishments, and he ends up trying to outdo her every chance he gets. This competition continues even when the adults left them in the middle of the desert, with only their packs, their wits, and three of their peers. This starts the rite of passage, the journey to show the clan the type of adults they’ll become. Over the next few days and nights, the five youth split into two groups to brave the harsh desert and its inhabitants. During this time of trial, Rutejìmo meets his clan’s spirit, who shares some of its powers. Rutejìmo learns more about himself in the desert than he did back home. He realizes it’s his actions and not his intentions that define him, so he attempts to correct past mistakes, at the cost of his pride.
D. Moonfire is successful at creating very distinct, very unique cultures. Within the first three pages we learn of the Shimusògo clan’s reverence for the dead, since their urns are placed in a guarded shrine where only adults may enter. However, it’s the subtle clues and expectations that are most entertaining. For instance, when the youths feel they are ready to become adults and want to take their rites of passage, they are subtly encouraged to steal the urns and place them at the entrance to the valley. If they do this and do not get caught, they are praised instead of punished. This is why at the story’s beginning, Rutejìmo is quietly climbing the shrine’s roof.
Like in every culture, there are rules that must be observed, even if no one specifically says what those rules are. This is the way it is in Shimusogo Valley. The younger generations learn from their elders, who lead by example. This includes the respect that everyone shows their warriors. As a sign of respect, once Shimusògo clan members take their rites of passage and receive magic from the sun spirit, they have “Great Shimusogo” added in front of their names. Disrespect is shown by not using a person’s name altogether, which happens to Rutejìmo whenever he gets in trouble. Respect is earned in this community based on a person’s choices and their past deeds. No one is entitled to it.
Magic can act so many different ways. I admit, when I read a story that contains magic, I typically imagine spells that explode or studious wizards who learn their spells from books. This is not how the magic works in Fedran. Here the magic of various clan spirits separate themselves from traditional expectations. Individuals must discover magic on their own, and this usually occurs during stressful times, like the rite of passage. Additionally, the magic’s utility is based on an individual’s personality, strengths, and choices. This combination of traits dictates how the magic will manifest and when. It’s neat how the magic adapts to the individual. For example, both Rutejìmo and Chimípu use their magic to run. This is the Shimusògo way. However, they each run at different paces. Chimípu is faster.
Technology is very rare in this land because the resources necessary to make them are limited, which makes their creation very expensive (or so I assume). The mechanical dogs are shoulder-height and travel within Shimusogo Valley, hauling packages or moving earth and rocks from one site to another. These dogs are useful because of their “tireless strength” and therefore are worth the resources needed to keep the machine functioning. The glow eggs are smaller, more portable machines, and are therefore more common than the others. Shimusògo runners always have them in their packs while they travel, since they’re lightweight and provide light after they’re wound with a key. This makes the light renewable and cheaper in the way of resources. The final machines introduced are the giant metal scorpions the Pabinkúe clan uses to transport themselves across the desert. This comes as quite a shock to Rutejìmo, as he did not expect to see such a device at the time.
I read Sand and Blood in one night. I repeat…one night. I prefer to lose myself in stories, usually by imaging myself as one (or more) of the characters. This immersion is easy to do in this novel because each person is so well-defined. No one acts in the same way, and each have separate dreams and goals. Some are more selfish than others. Others like to fight. A few prefer the mysteries of the night. Even characters we never formally meet have strong reputations among those we do meet, so we end up knowing what they’re like, from the point of view of others.
What I like to see is how different characters react to the same problem. At one point during the rites, one of the characters becomes severely injured. Two of his peers end up leaving him, not caring whether he lives or dies. Chimípu stays and tried to help him. Rutejìmo is indecisive, and eventually chooses to leave with the other two, until he realizes his mistake and returns to help. People react to problems in different ways, and sometimes the first response is not always best for everyone involved, as Rutejìmo learns.
While this novel is full of suspense, battle, and self-reflection, there are a couple things people may trip over while they’re reading. There are some minor (very minor) editing errors that disturbed the flow: missing words, the unnecessary addition of small words, or word associations that don’t quite match up. These didn’t bother me too much because the narrative is solid. Others may have trouble with a lot of the names; however, to me these names only enrich the cultures in Fedran.
Sand and Blood is a fantasy narrative that will appeal to those interested in a world where magic is linked to the spirits, technology is rare, and survival is difficult. This novel does contain scenes with violence. I would recommend this novel and I look forward to reading the second and third of this trilogy.
If you’d like to read some sample chapters, go to: http://sand-and-blood.fedran.com/.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)