Somewhere My Love

Bright Morning Star

Raven's Bride by Kathryn Fox
(Zebra, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6416-0
I've mentioned in previous reviews that I like a book with a certain degree of angst, but this one was too much even for me. Raven's Bride, set in 1801 Southeast Alaska, is a grim, grisly look at the struggles of its native people.

When Tall Dancer first sees Cara Tarakanov he is immediately captivated. She is a white slave of the Tsimshian tribe and facing certain death. Tall Dancer recognizes her as a Russian woman, rescues her and offers to return her to Fort St. Michael, the Russian stronghold.

But Tall Dancer must first return to his own village and his arranged marriage. When he leaves to resume trapping in the fall, he will escort Cara home. Until then, she must remain in his Tlingit village, as his mother's slave, if she wishes to stay alive.

Staying alive is something Cara does quite well. She was captured by the Tsimshian people and made a slave while on the run from her father, Vlad Tarakanov, who is better known as the Butcher. Tarakanov is evil personified, pillaging the native villages, leaving nothing in his wake, while searching for his runaway daughter.

As they share daily life in the Tlingit village, Cara grows to care for Tall Dancer. Yet she realizes her presence could mean the destruction of the village should her father ever discover her hiding place.

This is the most simplistic outline of an exceedingly complex story that takes place over the course of approximately two to three years. The trials and tragedies the characters, especially Cara, must endure, left me overwhelmed by the end of the book. And some of the more grisly scenes are not for the faint of heart.

Raven's Bride is impressively researched, and the author's in-depth knowledge initially caused a few problems. As a person who knows nothing of the native Alaskan people and their struggles with the Russian settlers, I felt totally lost at the beginning. It wasn't until the fourth chapter that I began to feel comfortable with the terminology and could jump into the plot with both feet. Perhaps a bit more explanation of native customs and language would have helped.

Assigning a rating to this book was difficult. I was impressed by the unusual and richly detailed setting. This is without a doubt the book's strength. Unfortunately, the romantic elements suffered by comparison. While I believed Tall Dancer's love for Cara; Cara's focus was, by necessity, on survival.

Although I have a few reservations in recommending Raven's Bride, I do know I will seek out more of Kathryn Fox's richly detailed writing. And if you're in the mood for a bit of gritty realism with your romance, you might want to give Raven's Bride a try.

--Karen Lynch

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