The people of Orak cherish their peaceful village but it has had a violent past. They has been raided time and time again by the Barbarians. Though these people are not fighter, they have the unique ability of coaxing food from the ground. The Barbarians believe this way of living dishonors their own culture and spend their lives raiding and destroying, those who they call the "dirt eaters". It has been 10 years since the village of Orak was last raided and it has prospered into a large village. The Barbarians hear of this village and make ready to plunder and kill once again. But there is a different attitude in Orak, the Want to save the village, but the people have no experience in fighting. Their only hope is an outcast Barbarian Eskkar, who wants to help achieve the impossible, stop the Barbarian hoard from destroying the people and peace of Orak.
I have been wanting to read this book for sometime now, and I finally picked up off my TBR shelf, it some how got pushed to the back. This book took me a bit of a process in order to get. I have discovered that it is no longer in print in North America, even though it was originally published in 2006, so you may have trouble finding it at your regular book store. I recommend that you search for this book at a used book store (though I was not able to find it there I had to order if off of http://www.biblio.com/ ), but it was worth the work and wait to get this book.
This book takes place at the beginning of the bronze age, and I will admit that I have limited knowledge of this time in history, so i'm unsure of how accurate some of the information that Barone used within the story. For the most part the book seemed plausible about what could occur in those time, except for the way that Eskkar treated Trella. I'm pretty sure that the master and slave dynamics would not have been close to what their relationship was, but for the sake of the story it really works.
Barone has created a rich world that I believe would hold true to what that time was like, people always worry if they will survive each year due to weather, lack of food, and the inevitable raid by the Barbarians. I enjoyed how Barone portrayed the Barbarians. He did not portray them as stupid or unwise, but as warriors who are strong and yes egotistical but a warrior and clan who has never lost a battle before would always gain a little bit (or a lot) of ego. The are portrayed tactical individuals who were able to solve problems and had been surviving years through a migration pattern. I also liked that there were a few chapters that were told from the Barbarians point of view to show part of what their culture was like and the way in which the view and think of things.
I enjoyed Trella and Eskkar as the main characters in the story, they are well matched for each other and you can really tell who is the brains and who is the brawn in this novel, though Eskkar does develop into a somewhat complex character as he tries to be both the thinker and a fighter (like any good general should be). Trella's manipulation skills are like those that I have never read before, from not only manipulating Eskkar, but the town Nobles and inhabitants. Trella was the true master planner of everything that occurs. Though some of her ways were subtle, there is no doubt that she was a force to be reckoned with.
There are several battles and action scenes within the book, which helped make up some of the mundane points, like when Eskkar was learning about farming. The battle scenes were well done and I was not left scratching my head, wondering how each event happened. They were also fairly realistic, in my opinion, as each time a battle was fought there was not always as big of a gain to favour the protagonist as you would expect. There is also a lot of questioning who is truly loyal to Eskkar and who is just waiting to stab him in the back. This added to a bit of suspense in the novel as you did not know who would be next to betray Eskkar or Trella.
The one thing I would have wished that Barone would have done, was takes some more risk with his main few characters, or described the toll that the battles took on the people of Oark. I think there was a lack of a human aspect on this part, The Barbarians are at the gate, I think that the villagers will start running away or try to escape even though they have been forbidden to.
All and all a really good read. I have not read too many prehistoric novel really only Jean Auel's books (which I think that everyone should read and I am very excited for the newest book to come out, 10 years is a long time to wait), but I found this book really entertaining and a nice change from everything that I have been reading lately. I look forward to reading the another book by Barone.