You’ll probably know Megan Lindholm better as Robin Hobb, the celebrated author of the Realms of the Elderlings series, where we met the Farseer family, the Liveship Traders and the inhabitants of the Rainwilds.
The Reindeer People swaps the high fantasy world of Fitz Farseer and his friends for the frozen wastes of prehistoric North America and a tale of how the outsiders survive in a time where group acceptance can be the difference between life and death.
You might be reminded of the Clan of the Cave Bear series at this point, with the ongoing themes of how the clashing human needs individualism and cooperation can be resolved when survival has to come first. While there are some similarities, the Reindeer series focuses much more heavily on the melodramatic aspects of this lifestyle and there’s much less of the forensic detail for which Jean M Auel is so well known.
The story ostensibly focuses on two main characters. Kerlew is a young boy being groomed by the current tribe Shaman Carp to be his successor, while his mother Tillus fights to protect Kerlew from the ostracism of the rest of the tribe and from the strange demands placed on him by his supernatural training. However, the narrative jumps about a lot to tell the story from multiple viewpoints, especially in the second book when Kerlew and his mother travel to meet a new tribe of reindeer herders.
While this is an interesting change from the usual medieval era fantasy fare, it’s not as good as Megan/Robin’s Elderlings world. Possibly this is because a whole world is crammed into two books, whereas the story of the Farseers has had several very long books to develop in. Nevertheless, it does sometimes feel like the set up to each plot line takes too long. Then the end is rushed with several different plotlines coming together and resolving in a suspiciously neat, convenient way. The supernatural elements sit awkwardly in this story too – they seem to happen almost in a parallel universe of visions and dreams rather than being integrated into the ‘real’ world of the books.
If you’re a Robin Hobb fan who wants to read more diverse examples of her work then this could be of interest, but if you’re expecting a story as rich and involving as Fitz Farseer’s, in a prehistoric setting, then you may find this series a disappointment.
Published by: Harper Collins
Released: 28th April 2011
Buy it from: Hive