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In the Land of the Vultures*

Beautifully Written Tale of Love and Death

Samara is the priestess of the goddess of death in her small community, which is now on the move after no rains and the river drying up. Her people seek a better land that can sustain them after many of their numbers have died. When a child appears to be at death’s door, the head of their village asks her to do her duty and take the child’s spirit to the land of the dead while they continue forward. Samara knows that this most likely will mean her own death, as survival in the desert in a group is hard enough, let alone on your own. After performing her duty, Samara is rescued and brought to a palace to be healed by the queen. The queen herself has suffered a significant loss and is grieving, and Samara’s rescuer believes that Samara will be a good distraction and may perhaps help bring the queen back to herself.

I quite enjoyed this story. The author’s description of Samara’s difficult journey through the desert was palpable; you can sense her thirst and feel the burning soles of her feet. Her time at the palace was fascinating. She never expected, as the priestess of the goddess of death, to fall in love, but she does with her rescuer. But all is not simple. I love how Samara could see the dead child’s spirit still hanging around his mother. It sounds morbid, but it was actually beautifully done. There is a truly evil villain in the story in the form of the king’s illegitimate brother. The road to true love was not easy either, as the hero had issues with a very essence of what Samara was and represented.

The only things that I didn’t like about this book were some sexual aspects. The king’s half-brother was particularly vile in this area, and perhaps this is one instance where more could have been told than shown (and the “told” parts done so in less detail). I thought, too, especially considering that Samara is a maiden, that things progressed rather quickly with Samara and the hero in their sensual scenes. Especially in the one after she deals with the villain; I don’t think she truly would have been ready for consummation after that.

The author’s description of the palace settings is vivid so that they can be easily imagined. The queen’s grief is very real, and the resolution of it gave me great satisfaction. Part of what Samara sees in her last crossing (in the book) of the bridge between life and death was a surprise, but looking back, I could see hints of how this could be. So the author did an excellent job of delivering an expected and fitting end but with an element of surprise.