Waterbornby J. Gregory Keyes
The River flowed through all the land, deep and unstoppable, a god in his own right. His head was in the mountains; his arms embraced the outlands; his body lay at the core of all the civilized realms; and his legs stretched on to the distant sea. Dark and sluggish, he rolled unchallenged, dreaming his own invincible might and glory into stark reality.
Everywhere he touched, the River God held dominion. And in Nhol, the fabled city at the heart of the world, an emperor ruled as the living aspect of the god, presiding over the splendors and intrigues of a prosperous land and a glittering court.
Hezhi was an imperial princess; her blood carried the seeds of the River's power. When her favorite cousin disappeared, Hezhi searched throughout the sumptuous palace with its ghosts and priests, giants and courtiers, and frightening creatures of wizardry. And the magic within her began to grow; soon it must attract dangerous attention. Hezhi's anxious quest ripened into a desperate fight for her own lifea battle she could not hope to win alone.
Small wonder that the princess wished for a hero.
And far away, a hero's journey began...
A well-constructed, perky, imaginative debut that, even if the details aren't always rigorously worked out, manages to avoid the usual fantasy stereotypes.
Meet the Author
When J. Gregory Keyes was a small boy, his father's job took his family to live on an Arizona Navajo reservation; he quickly became bilingual. At four years old he didn't find it difficult to learn another language, and Navajo became as much a part of him as English. Keyes's early experience in the Navajo culture was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with linguistics, rituals, myths, and legends. It wasn't only the Navajo reservation that had an impact on his imagination; equally important were the long evenings his extended family ( some of Choctaw ancestry ) spent spinning stories. These early experiences produced in him an emotional connection to other worlds that indelibly marked Keyes's memory and his impressionable soul, a connection that now culminates in the thirty-two-year-old author's first fantasy novel, The Waterborn.
To Greg, writing has always been the window through which his imagination is released. "The written word has been compelling to me since before I could read; my mother used to read to me, but it was when I realized that I myself could see stories in the ink of a book that I wanted to create such stories myself," Keyes said.
Years later, after Keyes had married Nell (a maker of jewelry whom he supported while she got her degree in metalworking), he began writing (not fiction, but a retelling of Southeastern Indian myths and legends produced in the hours after he returned from his mindless day job. Soon he earned an M.A. in anthropology at the University of Georgia at Athens and began teaching. His research expanded from the usual journals of eighteenth-century travelers and Franciscan monks, of killers and of scholars, to global folklore and mythology. Much of the material he read was unusable for his class, but he stored it away until it blossomed into a rich landscape on which he has painted his fabulous stories.
The Waterborn evolved from a world history class Keyes took as an undergraduate. The class discussion centered on civilizations, like Egypt and Mesopotamia, that arose from the organizational demands created by flood control and irrigation. Keyes's imagination began to race, until he was obsessed by a vision of a city upon a river that was actually, rather than metaphorically, alive. This city, as he dreamed it, had a dominating or even vaguely malevolent relationship with its "children." He held this powerful glimpse in this head for over twelve years until it forced itself onto the page and became The Waterborn.
In many fantasies, there is a circular movement to the stories. And Greg Keyes's life has imitated the genre in which he has chosen to write. At nine years old he read his first real science fiction book, Moon of Mutiny by Lester del Rey, in the shade of a hogan on the Navajo Indian reservation. From that first step he set out on what was to be his life's path. It is with no small amount of awe that he welcomes the publication by Del Rey Books of the first book of his trilogy. "The fabric of my world was woven from imagination. In my work, opposites attract. Between these two contradictory places a story sprang up and characters whom I could scarcely control were born to populate it." And this is just the beginning...
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I was surprised when I picked up this book! I had not heard of this author, but now I will check out what else he has to offer. This was a totally original book, something that is hard to find in today's fantasy clones. The author's writing was so refreshing and filled with detail. I felt like the world he described actually existed. I was taken away this world every time I opened The Waterborn. It's basically about a girl named Hezhi, who's a princess in the imperial city of Nhol. For years she has been ignored by her parents, only getting occasional glimpses and even fewer visits. When her friend D'en disappears, Hezhi makes it her mission to find out what happened to him. She has a feeling his disappearance and the area known as The Darkness Stair beneath the city have something in common. Meanwhile, on the otherside of the world we have clumsy Perkar, who gets his first sword and becomes a man after he indulges himself with a local stream goddess whom he loves. A few years later we find Perkar leaving on an expedition with the king of his area to the Forest Lord to gain more land for the Cattle People and to stop young foolish men killing Mang to gain their lands. After the mission ends in disaster, mainly his fault, Perkar escapes with the only survivor of the mission, Ngangata, down the River. Around, or a little before this time, Hezhi makes a wish for a hero to come save her. Little does she know about the magic in her very blood that causes the wish to come true. After being attacked by a demon that looks like it was summoned from the River, Hezhi decides to find out about the Royal blood in her. She goes to the library and discovers the grumpy librarian that works there. At first he doesn't like her being there, but eventually teaches her to read the old glyphs and comes to like her. When Hezhi starts getting mysterious visits from the Priesthood something awakens inside of her. She later on develops a scale on her arm after she realizes what happened to her friend D'en and all of the Royal Blood when they have too much of the River's power in them. With the help of Ghan and Tsem, her bodyguard/friend, they make plans to escape the city. After floating down the River for some time, Perkar drops Ngangata off on an island in the center of the River, to stay with a strange Mang man named Brother Horse. Eventually Perkar gets attacked by boat, meets a lady on land and makes it to Nhol, the city he's been dreaming about. Soon he meets Ghan and Tsem who realize he is the person Hezhi dreamed would save her. Perkar, Tsem, and Hezhi flee the city, despite being attacked by the Priesthood, a Jik assasin Hezhi once though was her friend, and a demon. Even as they are running away Hezhi almost succumbs to the River's power. I won't say anything else! This book is great, with many good qualities. Also read the excellent conclusion to this story, The Blackgod! Read it, you won't regret it!
One of Keyes' greatest works, The Waterborn is an absolutely wonderful story! The characters are well written, and the story itself keeps you from setting the book down. No matter what your age, read this book and it's sequel, you won't be sorry.
I picked up the book just to have something to read in class ended up never being able to put it down. The story switches back from a young princess to her saviour, Perkar. And with each chapter you will get deeper and deeper engrossed in The Waterbron.
This book is a tale worth reading. A young prinncess struggles for her life against the elements. The seeds of a river are in her blood. Read to see how this river tries to get what's rightfully years.
You really should read this. Don¿t for a second think you won¿t like it just because a bunch of kids did. Let me tell ya something. These kids know what they¿re talking about.