Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
This is a fantasy novel set during the American frontier period. The author in the interview at the back of the book describes how she wanted to combine the American west with an Inuit character. This makes the novel a little bit different. It creates an alternate history which combines steam technology with magic. The magic is spirit magic. This is the first book in a trilogy.
The settlers in this novel are a bit different. They are driven from their homeland because of religious persecution. However, they are not greedy for land so much as power. The Ciracusans have a motif of seven gods. The seven gods represent seven paths to heaven or seven paths to hell. They wish to convert all of the aborigines to their religion and way of life. The Ciracusans consider the aborigines uneducated and irreligious.
The novel starts with a young Aniw spirit walker, Sjennokirk, being taken prisoner after she kills a Ciracusan soldier who enters her home unbidden. She then kills a Ciracusan priest at the bidding of her fathers spirit. She is not executed, but instead is forced to teach a Captain of the Ciracusan army, Jarrett, to take on the form of a dog. There are quite a few dog motifs in this novel, the Aniw husky of the far north, the plains dog, and the native coyote.
The novel is written from a number of different perspectives. I like how Sjennokirk, the Aniw spiritwalker describes the Ciracusans as being horrendous because they eat cooked meat and don't wear furs. I also like the harsh military edge which Captain Jarrett experiences.
The history and belief systems in this novel are well worked out. It is refreshing to read a fantasy story based on the conflict between natives and settlers. Karin Lowachee does a very good job of creating unique characters in an interesting setting. Karin Lowachee has a website at http://www.karinlowachee.com/