Gee, this was an interesting book. Actually, more than interesting.
Did you ever have one of those days, or periods of days, where what you really wanted to be doing was slashing a honking big sword at everybody and everything that annoyed you, and then say to yourself, ‘Well, they needed killing.’ Yeah. Me, too. Well, here’s your chance to do that vicariously through Chiyo Alglaeca, a perfectly normal young mommie with a nice husband and a darling 3 year old child, who wakes up one bright morning to find she has been mysteriously transported to another place, and another time. Maybe even another dimension?
It seems sort of like feudal Japan, but maybe not exactly. We are never told exactly where, but there is a cruel Emperor who lives in a great castle high on a bluff, and the place is referred to as the kingdom.
Anyway, she is right in the middle of a group of conscripts being taken in lieu of money to work in some function of the Emperor. (I forget exactly. If I had a penchant for detail, I could get a real job.) Upon seeing a frail elderly woman being cruelly treated then killed for not moving fast enough, Mz. Chiyo goes into action, and well, the game is on.
Without knowing diddly squat about sword fighting, she picks one up and starts flailing away, to the amusement and interest of a couple of rebel types who have come to disrupt the human caravan, and thus provoke the Emperior, which they have being doing for years. They agree to help the group escape by taking them far away to a river border to a place they will be safe. More swordplay, more slashing and flailing, which certainly gets their attention.
The three become companions, and the two guys, Muhjah and Senka, begin to teach her how to properly handle the sword. She works hard at learning
Abeunt studia in mores (‘zealously pursued practices pass into habit)
and eventually becomes an excellent warrior in her own right, and she and her two companions do a Robin Hood/Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde throughout the countryside, wrecking havoc against the forces of the Emperor.
And if all this weren’t paranormal enough for you, we now introduce you to Kali, the Goddess. She had been worshipped by the animals and humans since time immemorial, but times have changed, and the humans have drifted away from her. She promises to send her Arm to free her people. And it soon becomes apparent that Chiyo is thought to be that Arm of the Goddess, and is becoming revered throughout the land, as tales of her powers and that of her two companions, begin to spread.
What happens to her family back in the Now? Does she finally wake up and say, “Gee, that nightmare really sucked!” And find that all those years were only but a few moments in time in her real life? You all should know better by now to expect me to tell you.
You know how so many sci fi, apocalypse and dystopian stories are about how we humans are destroying our resources and our planet, and how that theme, serious as it is and true, sort of gets tedious after about the 70th book? Well, this is the same, in disguise, and it isn’t until after you close the book and think back on the story that you realize that it is a parable. Kali the Goddess is the Earth, and her devotees and followers who have rather abandoned her are, well, US. And how we are always looking for a savior to get us out of this mess.
Wonderful read, filled with Latin quotes, and lyrical writing. And a real kick-ass female warrior. So get your bad self on, grab a sword, and swing away!
Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit (Perhaps this, too, will be a pleasure to look back on one day).