Friday, October 24, 2014

Serpent on a Cross (Book 1) by Wendy C. Garfinkle

 Dennah grew up with the power to control the weather.  She was a weather magus, like her mother.  However, her power was much stronger than her mother's and because of that, they were both hidden away in a small village of Drovania for a very long time.  All the while, Tarkan Maksimov was gaining power and a black reputation while looking for his daughter and granddaughter (Althea and Dennah).  Althea hid Dennah's power from everyone, including herself.  It wasn't until the day Tarkan came and raided her village and kidnapped her mother that Dennah found out about her powers.  They were overwhelming and at the moment, hard to control.  It was important that she find Miraum (Baba Yaga) to help finish her training.  On her journey there she and Jeth run into trouble with Skallon, a Nemxes and captain of Tarkan's army.  He was unpredictable and ruthless, but enamored with Dennah and determined to have her as his own.  The journey they take is dangerous and Dennah must eventually go head-to-head with Tarkan to save her mother.  She is the only one able to stop him.  But among the anger she has for Tarkan, other emotions swirl for another.  While she loves Jeth and always pictured a quiet life with him, she is drawn to Skallon like a moth to a flame.  She doesn't understand it and doesn't have time for love while trying to exact her revenge.

   This medieval fantasy was different and cool in a way.  I liked how different it was.  At the same time, some of the differences also slightly hampered the story.  The fact that the author put in so many words in a different language kind of disrupted the flow of the story at times.  They were just kind of thrown out there it seemed.  However, the translation was usually right there after the word or phrase.  Otherwise, it was a lively and entertaining story with that witchy and Jewish element to it.  More importantly, it showed Dennah's struggle over self-control of her power and her temper.  Self-control is something that most of us struggle with.  It was important that she get a hold on herself unless she wants to destroy herself, or worse, become what she hates the most.
   There were some loose ends in this book that I am hoping to see explained in the next one.  Such as:
-What happened to Ivan?
-Who was the person behind Tarkan?  It is suggested that there was someone else funneling power to Tarkan.  If that is the case, then this fight is far from over.
-What about Skallon?  As much as he is a bad guy, you still have to wonder if there isn't some little bit of good in him.  You can see subtle shifts and change in him during the book.  Maybe there is more to this guy than we think.  He will probably turn out to be some weird exiled prince or something.
-Does Dennah choose to be with Jeth?  If Dennah thinks that she can have a normal life now, that's just not possible.  Her power is like none they have ever seen and Jeth seems to be quite afraid of it.  He would rather take her and hide her away, safe and secure.  Dennah is anything but like that.  She is untamed to say the least.  As much as she wanted a regular domestic life before, she can't have one.  Her future is that of Baba Yaga and it has its responsibilities.  Jeth doesn't and probably won't understand this.  I just don't see them having a future together unless something drastic happens and he suddenly has some kind of power.
   One other thing; while it doesn't seem immediately obvious why the book's title is Serpent on a Cross, you will find out about that later.  Those crosses are some dangerous stuff too!
I have had a hard time deciding exactly what stars to give this book because it's not quite a 4 but it seems better than a 3.5 so I will be sticking with the most in-between I can get and say that this book is a solid 3.75 out of 5!

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