by Julie Esbaugh
I bought this book – pre-ordered it, in fact – manths back, when I heard about how it was a YA set in the prehistoric era. Woopee! Honestly the concept alone was what got me: I don’t think I know of any books like that, not what to expect from them. I went into this book knowing only one thing: we’ve travelled back to the age of the mammoth…
Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.
As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.
My first thought while reading this book was: wait, this is a little like Pride and Prejudice! And it turns out that’s what the author intended, I just avoided reading any blurb so as to avoid any spoilers, and didn’t see that until I was done. So I have to give cuddos for the author for having made that subtle enough to not be super evident, but enough for the reader to catch.
However, this version of Pride and Prejudice is told with the genders reversed, and entirely in second person. The main character, Kol, is telling this story to you, Mya, for reasons that become apparent in the last third of the book. As of such, Kol is un unreliable narrator, because he just jumps to conclusions so quickly. Remind you of anyone?
Set in the Neolithic era (10,000-4,500 BC), we follow the lives of a hunter gatherer society. Kol’s clan is small, but they act as a unit, a family. They hunt mammoth and seal together, one of his brothers is a musician, they have art, basic medicine, and lead rather happy lives. Their interaction with other clans is limited, so when they meet their neighbors to the south, they’re desperate to get along. But their past is not easily put behind them.
One of the main things people fault with this novel is just how this all revolves around misunderstandings. Why don’t people just come out and say what they mean? Honestly that’s something that bothered me in the original P&P, so i think it’s an excusable plot point here.
While the pacing is slow until the last third, I quite liked the world building, and it didn’t stop the novel from being a fast read. It felt incredibly immersive, and the author has a style that’s really evocative. It played on the senses, making me see and feel the things that were there.
Now there was a bit more romance than I was into, but it was really well done. Kol and Mya’s relationship mirrors that of Darcy and Elizabeth, only with the genders reversed. Mya is a mystery, and we’re excited to learn more about her. And this is far from being a traditional take on a love story – I mean, we’re 12,000 years before the regency period, so life is a little different: a little more equal, a little less homophobic, and with a whole lot more hunting.
All in all, a very good read. I enjoyed being brought into the story, and will very likely read it again, knowing what I know now. A great piece of YA fiction.