Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: 'The Shepherd Girl's Necklace' by Watson Davis

Texas born author Watson Davis earned his degree in mathematics and now lives in Spain where he fluently writes novels of fantasy, science fiction, magic and technology, swords and sorcery and military space operas. This book is one of the four of The Windhaven Chronicles – the author has elected not to number tem individually.

Good fantasy demands a fine proscenium arch that displays an image rich backdrop before which the imagination will evolve. Watson provides this with then following descriptive stage setting – ‘A drum pounded a steady rhythm, keeping the beat for the rasp of the pokbo horn and the angelic chords of the harp. Ka-bes Pyaj rocked back and forth to the music at a table in the corner of a crowded pub. The tips of her fingers touched the golden embroidery on her graduation robes, caressing the white and blue stripes symbolizing her strengths in the magics of both air and water. Around her people danced and cheered, but she reveled in her sense of peace, a weight lifted from her shoulders, a burden she hadn’t realized she was carrying until it no longer existed. “Ka-bes!” Ja'ast shouted, grabbing her arm, his trademark smirk on his dangerously handsome face. A splotch of beer stained his graduation robes, robes with the brown stripe of earth magic. He dragged her from her stool. “Join the dance!” She twisted out of his grasp, shaking her head. “No, you go ahead.” “Aw, come on.” He spread his hands, bending toward her, bouncing with the beat of the music. “What’s wrong now? We made it. We passed.” “Not now.” She slid back into her seat, a wan smile on her lips. “Later.” He rolled his eyes and eased back into the mass of dancing and shouting graduates, her classmates and friends for the past five years. Ka-bes lifted her crystal goblet of red wine and swirled it, studying the crimson streaks left along the inside of the glass. “Not dancing?” Lunan Pyaj, her elder brother, slipped into the seat next to hers, his dour face serious as always, wearing the simple robes of a priest without the embroidery proclaiming his talents or his rank. “Thank you for coming,” Ka-bes said, patting his thick forearm. “I wish Mom and Dad could have seen the ceremony, seen me accepting my degrees.” Lunan pulled away and crossed his arms over his chest. “They didn’t come to my graduation either. Sailing from Tuth-yoo to Basaliyasta is a long way, and would drag them from their nets for too long. The fish will not catch themselves.”

And once the mood is established the plot falls into place regally: ‘A Necklace, A Geas, and a Girl with Horns - Ka-bes’ life is in front of her. She has graduated from the academy and will join the priesthood as a mage of wind and water. Except for one mistake, one lapse of judgment, and her bright future shatters leaving only regrets. And then even that is taken from her when something else is given to her and bound to her soul so she can’t refuse. Sifa plays with a branch imagining it to be a sword and imagining herself as a hero from the tales her protector reads to her every night. But brigands come and steal her herd and all she can do is flee to town, to try to find her only friend, her protector. When she gets there, everyone stares at her, whispers about her, like having horns on your head makes you less of a person, and in the end she learns a lesson about the heroes in the story books. Following your heart can lead you straight into the hands of those who want you dead. Be prepared for a magical romp through the underbelly of the empire where your only hope might be someone you can’t trust.

For those who love dark fantasy this book is sure to delight. At times the strange names of people and places and concepts get in the way, but Watson has provided a richly designed glossary at book’s end to aid the committed reader. There will be more. Grady Harp, April 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.