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A Telling of Stars by Caitlin Sweet

A Telling of Stars (2003)

by Caitlin Sweet

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It is always a pleasure to delve into the detailed, gorgeous story-telling of Caitlin Sweet; A Telling of Stars and Silences of Home are no exception to that experience.

In these two linked novels Sweet reveals an epic story spanning centuries, with actions that echo through generations with devastating effect.

In the first, A Telling of Stars, we are introduced to the young woman, Jaele, who has suffered a terrorist attack on her fishing village, with the terrorists a long-accursed race from across the sea. In her quest for vengeance, she crosses her country to the sea, following in the footsteps of a legendary queen, the author of the curse which brought terrorists raiding Jaele’s village.

The story, however, is so much more than a blood-debt. Sweet examines the rejection of contentment, acceptance, and peace in the face of irrationality and shattering grief. The writing is lyrical without being purple, the environmental detail precise and revealing without hampering the narrative. This is, frankly, storytelling at its best.

Silences of Home is the prequel to A Telling of Stars, and the framework of the story deals with the origin of the curse brought down upon the Raiders. It is a complex and compelling story, examining power, deceit and the ambiguities of love. There are shattering moments. And there are moments of redemption.

If you like fantasy which pushes the boundaries, which makes no excuse for intelligence and imagination, I urge you to consider these two novels by Sweet. You won’t be disappointed. ( )
  fiverivers | Jun 1, 2016 |
This story is gorgeous. I mean that quite literally--the writing is lush and lovely and jeweled, like Dunsany, or Clark Ashton Smith, or Patricia McKillip when she's in the lovely-mode. The world of the story is full of prodigal invention, without being overwhelming or confusing.
The plot is very nearly anti-fantasy. Jaele is the daughter of a fisher family, enraptured by stories of the warrior queen Galha, who defeated and banished the Sea Raiders. When a party of Raiders murder her family, she takes her father's dagger and goes for vengeance, trailing the outcast Raider who cut her mother's throat. Along the way, she meets strange peoples and strange people. She tells them of her quest, and they feed her, sympathise, bind her wounds, tell her their own stories, befriend her and sometimes fall in love with her, but none of them join her quest or follow her banner. When she finally confronts the man who's been her target and (in a way) her companion all along, it doesn't go as expected, and that isn't where the story ends, either. The resolution isn't about her revenge, and it isn't about her falling in love (though she does both).
Not everyone will enjoy Telling (gosh, as if there's any book that everyone enjoys). Some readers will find it frustrating, and Jaele isn't easy to like, in her single-minded absorption. It's beautifully written, it's thoroughly imagined, and it messes with the reader's expectations. So much will depend on your tolerance for being messed with.
  bmlg | Feb 24, 2011 |
Last night I finished A Telling of Stars by Caitlin Sweet. It was a book club book from sffworld.com. I had picked it up against my first thoughts, as the reviews weren't very good.

This is a story of bitter heartbreak and revenge. Jaele sees her mother, father and brother brutally murdered by a band of Sea Raiders. One Raider remains and instead of leaving by sea, he heads inland. Jaele had been told story after story of their warrior queen from years ago, and she decided to follow the Sea Raider in the Queen's footsteps and kill him. Her quest is to take an army to the Sea Raiders land and kill them all. She ends up travelling across the land, coming across many different kinds of people and cultures.

I didn't really care for this story and here are the reasons why:

1. Jaele wasn't an overly believeable character. She was hell-bent on revenge after hearing stories of a woman who had already cursed the Sea Raiders and their land. She meets a boy, Dorin, on her beach many many years before the story takes place, and ends up being in love with him to the point of distraction. I found this irritating because it is very rare that a woman (not just a girl anymore) will hold on to a childhood crush. Most women's tastes change, and although she may have a soft spot for that specific person, she wouldn't throw away two perfectly good men for the one that she hardly knows. The other thing that I didn't like about her is how egotistical she is! She felt like she had to be involved in everything! SHE had to free the people under the rock! SHE had to help Keeper. I found her overly selfish with a one track mind.

2. I had a hard time with the world in which she was travelling. Jaele spent a fair amount of time on the road alone, but there was very little talk of her travels. If one would only "know" and believe what was in the book, she met almost no one on the roads. This to me seems entirely incongruent with human nature and life in general. All sorts of people travel. There is no bloody way that she would have been alone all that time. I can't believe that she didn't fear for murderers, rapists, theives. I know that she had a single minded purpose, but she should have run into things along the road.

3. I don't really like the theme of revenge. I can't relate to it, unless it is a believable situation. I don't think that hers was.

4. I didn't like the writing style. There was too much supurfluous crap. I felt like I was reading someone's NaNoWriMo submission that they had beefed up just for the word count. I suppose that many people would appreciate the "lyrical" style, but it just annoyed me like crazy. I just wanted to scream "Get on with the story!"

There were some things that I did like about the book. I liked the different cultures, the different types of people. I liked her diving under the lake to meet the Fisher Folk, and the sea snake. I liked the sourfruit grove, and the people by the river. I liked the story of Keeper and what he had to endure. I liked the tree scene with Dorin.

I think that Ms. Sweet has great ideas and great people (minuse the character that I didn't like). This was her first book, and I would be interesting in seeing what else she produces is like. I know that she is doing a sequal to ATOS, but I think I will check her out if she writes something that isn't related to Jaele.

This book would be rated PG13. It's not overly brutal, sexual and doesn't contain bad language. Early teens will enjoy this book if their reading comprehension level is high enough. ( )
1 vote Katiebear | May 30, 2006 |
  victoriahoyle1 | Dec 22, 2005 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Caitlin Sweetprimary authorall editionscalculated
Springett, MartinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Alison Frances Shand and Brent Arthur London - absent, present, beloved.
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"Telling is magic": she hears this somewhere, before or after, as sparks coil.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141007281, Paperback)

At eighteen, Jaele's life is shattered when her family is murdered by a band of Raiders, members of a long-accursed race. Overwhelmed by rage and grief, alone for the first time in her life, and fuelled by childhood myths of a warrior queen, Jaele sets out on an epic quest for vengeance. Traveling through a kaleidoscope of cultures, some compassionate, some fierce, all remarkably fantastic yet potently real, she sheds her innocence, but none of her experiences prepare her for her ultimate confrontation with her enemy.

A Telling of Stars was recommended by the jury panel of the 2004 Sunburst Award and included in Locus Magazine's top 10 first novel recommended reading list in 2003.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

At eighteen, Jaele's life is shattered when her family is murdered by a band of Raiders, members of a long-accursed race. Overwhelmed by rage and grief, alone for the first time in her life, and fuelled by childhood myths of a warrior queen, Jaele sets out on an epic quest for vengeance. Her journey takes Jaele through a kaleidoscope of cultures, some compassionate, some fierce, all remarkably fantastic yet potently real. As she makes her difficult way, Jaele sheds her innocence, but none of her experiences can prepare her for her ultimate confrontation with her enemy. The novel explores the nature of love, grief and mourning.

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