A Woman Worth Ten Coppers (Shadowed Path Series #1)

( 33 )

Overview

Seer, healer, goddess, slave–she is all these things and more.

Yim is a young woman suddenly cast into slavery, a gifted seer with a shocking secret–and a great destiny. Honus is a Sarf, a warrior dedicated to the service of the compassionate goddess Karm. A Sarf’s sole purpose is to serve a holy person called a Bearer. But Honus’ s Bearer has been killed by the minions of an evil god known only as the Devourer. Masterless and needing someone to bear his pack, Honus purchases ...

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A Woman Worth Ten Coppers (Shadowed Path Series #1)

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Overview

Seer, healer, goddess, slave–she is all these things and more.

Yim is a young woman suddenly cast into slavery, a gifted seer with a shocking secret–and a great destiny. Honus is a Sarf, a warrior dedicated to the service of the compassionate goddess Karm. A Sarf’s sole purpose is to serve a holy person called a Bearer. But Honus’ s Bearer has been killed by the minions of an evil god known only as the Devourer. Masterless and needing someone to bear his pack, Honus purchases Yim for the price of ten coppers–and their fates are forever entwined.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Howell has created a fascinating, believable world and a compassionate, kick-ass heroine.”
–Booklist (starred review)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345503961
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2008
  • Series: Shadowed Path Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 528,876
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Morgan Howell is the author of the Queen of the Orcs trilogy: King’s Property, Clan Daughter, and Royal Destiny. A graduate of Oberlin College and the Rochester Institute of Technology, he lives in upstate New York.
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Read an Excerpt

ONE

The wagon resembled a tiny house on wheels. Pots and other wares dangled from its eaves and clanked against the rig’s wooden sides as it slowly ascended the mountain road. By dusk, the driver reached his destination, a lonely hut perched near the edge of a cliff. A circle of half-buried stones surrounded the structure, marking it as a Wise Woman’s home. After halting the horses, the driver remained seated and chanted under his breath. The verses were supposed to bring tranquillity. They failed, for the man was convinced that the hut didn’t mark the end of a long and arduous journey, but rather the beginning of a far more perilous one.

The man stopped chanting when he heard a door close and footsteps on the frozen ground. He turned to see a white-haired woman approach. She halted and scrutinized him. “The wagon looks right,” she said at last, “but you don’t look the peddler.”

The man bowed his head respectfully. “I’m a Seer, Mother.”

“Aye, you have that temple softness to you.” The woman sighed. “So, no skill with arms?”

“None at all. The goddess will protect her.”

The woman shook her head. “Nothing’s certain. As a Seer, you should know that better than I.”

“I’ll do my utmost,” said the Seer. “I was told I’m to play her father.”

“Aye, so show her no deference. That could betray her.

And you should leave the morrow. When spring comes, the roads will turn to mud.”

“Where shall I take her?”

“South.”

“Toward trouble?”

“Aye, indeed. But that’s what’s been revealed.”

“And nothing more?”

“Not yet. Until then, best you pick the road. When she makes choices, her heart sways her overmuch.”

The man turned his gaze southward before descending from his seat. The ground dropped just a few paces away, and from his perch, the ridges of the highlands looked like crumpled garments cast from the peaks above. Below, a small village nestled in one fold, its homes already shuttered for the night. The plains beyond were obscured as the world turned dark.

The hut’s door opened, spilling light and catching the man’s attention. Someone peered from the doorway. “Is that her?” he whispered.

“Aye,” replied the Wise Woman. She raised her voice. “Yim! Come here.”

The Seer studied the advancing figure. She’s only a girl! he thought, judging her age as eighteen winters. He feared her appearance would draw attention, for she was lithe and comely, with large dark eyes and flowing hair. She wore a shift of gray wool, a matching cloak, and sturdy boots. In peddler fashion, her cloak was festooned with ribbons, each lightly stitched in place to permit quick removal and sale. They fluttered as she walked.

“Yim, tend the horses,” said the Wise Woman. “This man will show you how.” Then the elderly woman sought the warmth of the hut, leaving the two alone.

“Have you ever fed a horse?” asked the Seer.

“Only goats and sheep,” replied Yim, regarding the animals warily.

“I’ll show you what to do. Follow me.” The Seer walked to the back of the wagon, opened its door, and retrieved two cloth sacks with straps attached. “These are nose bags,” he said. “They fit on the horses’ heads so they can feed in harness.” He uncovered a large barrel affixed to the wagon’s rear. It contained oats and a scoop. “Put two full scoops in each bag.”

After Yim did that, the Seer demonstrated how to attach a bag. Then he observed Yim carefully as she affixed the other one. While she appeared intimidated by the horse, she didn’t shrink from it. That was all he could observe, despite his heightened powers of perception. Realizing that Yim’s inner qualities were veiled against his gaze, he sought to probe her through conversation. “Your guardian said we should leave tomorrow. Are you familiar with the roads?”

“I’ve never been more than a day’s journey from here.” Yim turned her eyes toward the plains, which were black beneath the fading sky. Her gaze lingered there as though she saw something within the shadows. The Seer noticed that Yim froze as a fawn does at the scent of wolves. After a moment, she stirred and said, “So, you spoke with my guardian. What did she say about me?”

“Very little.”

“Did she tell you I lack sense?”

“No.”

A wry smile passed over Yim’s lips. “She will, ere we depart.”

They headed out at first light after receiving a terse farewell from the Wise Woman, who retreated to the hut before the wagon reached the road. The Seer drove the team from the broad seat at the wagon’s front. Yim sat next to him, bundled against the cold in her cloak and gazing at familiar scenery that she would never see again. It was a long while before she spoke.

“I know that I must call you ‘Father,’ but is your true name Theodus?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“That name was revealed to me. I’m supposed to follow his footsteps. Since you’re my guide, I thought my vision referred to you.”

“The goddess is your guide. I merely drive the wagon.”

“My guardian said you’re a Seer. Doesn’t Karm speak to you?”

“I find children for service in the temple. I’ve never had a vision.”

“So how do you know where to take me?”

“I don’t. Karm will tell you what path to take.”

“But my vision only said to head southward. I thought that you would . . .” Yim’s face reddened. “If you don’t know where to take me, why did you bother to come?”

“The Wise Woman sent for me. She said you were ready.”

“Well I’m not, if I’m supposed to know the way. You’re a Seer. Why didn’t you foresee that?”

“The future’s not ordained. The most a Seer can hope to foretell is what’s likely. I can’t even do that.”

Yim sighed. “Then what’s likely is that we’ll wander for moons. I haven’t had a vision since autumn, and my visions often make little sense. Sometimes I’m shown things I don’t understand. Even when Karm appears to me or I hear her voice, her guidance isn’t always useful. How can I follow Theodus if I’ve never met him?”

“Time often reveals a vision’s meaning,” replied the Seer. “Time and contemplation.”

“That’s not much use nigh sunset when the road forks and you must choose which way to take.”

Yim resumed gazing at the landscape. Though it remained in winter’s grip, patches of bare earth had appeared beneath the barren trees. The palette of gray, brown, and dirty white matched Yim’s pessimistic mood, and it was a while before she made another attempt at conversation. Turning to the Seer, she asked. “Have you done this often?”

“What?”

“Delivered girls to their destinies.”

“There have been no other girls. There will be no others.”

“But the Wise Woman said I’m no one special.”

“You’re Karm’s servant, as are we all, and humility befits a servant,” replied the Seer. “Yet the goddess chose you alone for this task. You mustn’t fail.”

“If the goddess wants me to succeed, how can I fail?”

“Karm’s benevolent, but the world is not. If men are to be free, then they must be free to choose evil, and many have. It’s always a struggle to fulfill the goddess’s will.”

Yim sighed. “I’ve heard that talk all my life. I thought I was leaving it behind.”

The Seer gave Yim a sympathetic look. “Was it hard living with the Wise Woman?”

“Hard enough.”

Yim’s thoughts turned to her upbringing. It had been not only hard, but also unusual. She knew the name and virtue of every herb, where each grew, and when to harvest it, but she had never played a game or had a single friend. Yim had been a small child when she was given to the Wise Woman, and for a long while, she had believed her life was normal. True, she had never known her mother, and her father vanished after the Wise Woman took charge, but being young and living in isolation, she took her circumstances for the way of things. Thus she thought all girls were taught to read and learned secret arts that they must never mention. She even assumed that everyone had visions.
Over time, Yim shed those illusions. As she grew older, Yim accompanied her guardian not only when she gathered herbs, but also when she practiced healing or midwifery. Through those excursions to nearby farms and to the village, Yim made contact with girls her age. They had some things in common: Like them, Yim had been taught to cook, mend clothes, and tend animals. She also knew how to make cheese, a common accomplishment in the highlands. However, none of the girls could read, and Yim doubted they had late-night lessons in even more arcane arts. But the girls differed most from Yim in that they would spend their lives in the highlands and Yim knew that wasn’t to be her fate.

“You’ve been singled out,” said the Wise Woman when Yim reached her twelfth winter, “and all your life has been preparation for one task.”

“And what’s that?” asked Yim.

“It’s your duty to bear a child.”

Yim knew better than to laugh, but she had witnessed too many births to see any uniqueness in that. The Wise Woman seemed to read Yim’s thoughts, for she added, “The goddess will choose the father, and you will go to him.”
Since parents arranged marriages, the Wise Woman’s revelation seemed only a twist to the common custom. Yim imagined that she would be matched to some holy man and saw her secret lessons as preparation for her role as his spouse. At twelve, the prospect of marriage didn’t enthuse Yim, and it still didn’t when she grew to womanhood. Having received no love from her stern and taciturn guardian, Yim had little expectation of receiving it from a man. She felt that only the goddess loved her. Karm seemed like the mother for whom Yim had always yearned. It was for the goddess’s sake that Yim acquiesced to her duty.

Yet after her conversation with the Seer, it was starkly apparent that she had embarked on a journey with no concrete destination to find someone unknown to her. It was a distressing prospect, and duty seemed a poor reason for doing something so rash. I never chose this path, she thought. I was raised to follow it without question. Yet Yim did question what she was doing. She knew she couldn’t go back, but she didn’t have to go forward. Wavering, Yim considered her alternatives.

Women without kin had no standing, which was why she was masquerading as the Seer’s daughter. A lone woman might become a servant, but being in no position to bargain, she’d end up little better than a slave. At least I’d be safe. When Yim imagined such a life, she thought it wouldn’t be any harder than her former one. But by choosing it, she would be thinking only of herself, and Yim found that hard to do. She had pined for human contact throughout her lonely childhood and had tasted it only when she began assisting the Wise Woman with healing. Yim’s role had been to comfort the sick or injured through simple acts of caring– preparing a meal, cooling a feverish brow, or holding a trembling hand. She soon discovered that such deeds sustained her as much as they did those she comforted, for compassion created bonds with others.

That compassion made Yim consider the Seer beside her. He had a drawn look, with skin that hung loosely on his stubble-covered face and eyes that possessed the vacant gaze of the weary. Yim surmised that he was unaccustomed to hardship and the road to the highlands had worn him down. He’s ill suited for this journey, but he undertook it. In envisioning his disappointment if she abandoned her quest, Yim found a reason to continue it. She could make the Seer’s sacrifice worthwhile by striving to fulfill its purpose. Additionally, she could ease his hardship on the road by gathering wood, tending the horses, and cooking. It was a meager rationale, but since it involved giving comfort, it seemed more compelling than mere duty. In the end, it helped Yim decide to go on.

Having made up her mind, Yim felt she should speak to the Seer and say something that assured him that she appreciated his efforts. As she tried to find the words, he began chanting softly in some archaic tongue that was mostly nonsense to her. Yim waited for him to stop, but he kept at it. Eventually, she tired of waiting and retreated inside the wagon. There, she wrapped herself in a blanket and slept to escape her boredom.

When Yim awoke, she rejoined the Seer. He was still chanting. Yim gazed about and found the countryside unfamiliar. Having entered strange territory made her decision seem irrevocable. Yim’s apprehensions heightened, and she wanted to know what she faced. To that end, Yim studied the chanting man who was taking her onward. She sensed he was hiding things from her. Just like my guardian, she thought. But Yim had the skill to see beneath surfaces and discerned that the Seer had some inkling of what lay ahead. Underneath his calm exterior, she glimpsed fear.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 33 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2012

    Mediocre at best

    Too slow and no depth of character

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing opening for a planned trilogy

    What an incredible opening book for Mr. Howell's planned Shadowed Path trilogy! While the concept of a hero's quest is an old one, Mr. Howell's heroine is what makes this book fresh. I, like the character Honus, am in awe of Yim. I can't wait for the second book to see what further destiny awaits both Yim and Honus. Definitely a book worth keeping!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2011

    Extremely slow

    I really was excited to read this but am disappointed it is a slow read

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  • Posted June 22, 2011

    MUST READ!

    This is a wonder start to a great trilogy. Yim is a beautiful women chosen to follow the goddesses path. In this book it introduces her and shows the beginning of her trials. She meets Honus by becoming his slave. They travel through the land together to reach the goddesses temple. Through all their pain, courage, and more tender emotions they slowly come to trust one another. I am excited to read the next two of this trilogy but I must warn you that this first book doesn't have an ending, it is a smooth guide into the next book. I hope the next book is just as good.

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  • Posted April 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautiful Beginning

    I've read this trilogy through at least twice so far. I find it endearing and powerful. A great beginning to an amazing series. It takes off very well for me, slowly bringing in the reader to a rip-roaring adventure. The religion of the goddess Karm is one of beauty, life, love, and peace. Personally I like it very much. The following of the Devourer is it's inimical opposite: violent, blood-thirsty, filled with hatred and death. Yim is The Chosen of Karm. What the true meaning of this is unknown except that she will bring change. As you follow her footsteps into her destiny you're drawn into a world that is slowly turning towards the Devourer you wonder at the complexity of mortal emotions, the strength and the fragility. It's message is powerful. I highly recommend that, whoever is deciding whether or not to read this book, you read it - and definitely continue reading the series up to its amazing ending. It's more than worth it.

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  • Posted October 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Didn't live up to the hype

    I had a difficult time even finishing A Woman Worth Ten Coppers. I found the beginning extremely slow. The characters seemed flat and difficult to connect with on an emotional level. I certainly won't be continuing with the series.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Start

    Yet another great work by Morgan. I loved the first series and this book is a great start to another. Thanks for a great escape.

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  • Posted November 16, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a superb quest fantasy

    The Wise Woman leaves young Yim with the the Seer who takes her South across the Highlands from her home near the Cloud Mountains of the Northern Reach so she can serve in the temple although he knows troubles are worse in the direction he leads them; he has no choice because the vision from the Goddess directs him. She asks if he is Theodus as that is the name of her guide as "whispered" to her; he says no insisting the Goddess Karn is her guide. Yim realizes ¿her father¿ as she is to call him in front of strangers is trying to hide his fear behind a veneer of calm. His fears prove right when they are attacked on the road; the Seer is murdered and Yim bound and raped by he who calls her scornfully ¿Ribbon Girl¿ before selling her to a slaver.<BR/><BR/>Honus, the Sarf warrior dedicated to Goddess Karm, is rudderless. He prefers to die for he has no purpose in life, but is unable to do so. His reason for living serving the holy Bearer ended when the followers of the evil God Devourer killed her. At the slave market, Honus for no reason he can discern decides to buy a back packer to carry his bags. Thus he travels to the village of Durkin where he buys the youthful Yim for ten coppers. He will soon know why the Goddess sent him to buy A WOMAN WORTH TEN COPPERS as their adventures just begin as nearby Lurwic Castle is burning down and its ducal family dead; Lord Bahl is on the deadly march..<BR/><BR/>Following up to the exciting Queen of Orcs trilogy, Morgan Howell starts a new saga with a superb quest fantasy starring two intriguing protagonists who both have emotional issues from recent traumas. The story line is fast-paced filled with plenty of action. However, as with Ms. Howell¿s Orc tales like KING'S PROPERTY the insight into the culture make for a dynamic tale; even the villains seem real. Fans will enjoy the opening gamut, which in many ways is a coming of age tale as the relationship between Yim and Honus change over the course of their escapades.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 8, 2009

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    Posted December 28, 2009

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    Posted November 23, 2011

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    Posted January 19, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2010

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    Posted August 21, 2011

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    Posted July 17, 2010

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    Posted September 10, 2010

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    Posted January 27, 2010

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    Posted November 23, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2011

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