Sunday, 30 March 2008

Time of the Eagle Sherryl Jordan

Time of the Eagle Sherryl Jordan, Simon and Schuster [NZ agents: HarperCollins], 464 pages, paperback, $21.99
ISBN 978-1-41690-447-2

“Never lift your voice to me again!” the chieftain shouted, “From this time forth, you are a slave.”

Sherryl Jordan has returned to the world of Secret Sacrament (1999) to tell the story of the next generation in Time of the Eagle. The narrator Avala has become a Healer, just like her mother Ashila (of the Shinali people) and her late father Gabriel (from the Rome-like stone city of Navora). Since the Shinali have been defeated by the Navoran Empire, they have lost most of their land and live a nomadic existence. Now Avala finds that she has the power of seeing the truth about people – ‘the sight.’
Although she believes that the time has come to fulfil the prophecy of ‘The Time of the Eagle’, with a tribal uprising against the cruel Navoran Emperor Jaganath, Avala is unable to act. Instead she finds herself a slave among the Igaal people. Sherryl Jordan is better at describing the actions of a few people than large groups, so the story of how Avala succeeds in escaping, using her talents to unite the various tribes and then leading them to battle against Jaganath contains a few logical gaps. (A comparison with Maurice Gee’s recent novel Salt makes the point.) Nevertheless this is a stirring tale of a triumph over great odds, and Avala is a plucky heroine. Her final confrontation with Jaganath (who has special powers of his own) makes exciting reading. There is even room for a romantic subplot.

Sherryl Jordan has drawn the map and internal illustrations as well as creating a useful list of tribes and main characters.

Trevor Agnew

This review first appeared in The Press, Christchurch NZ, on 16th February 2008.

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