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The Stone Arrow (1978)

von Richard Herley, Richard Herley

Reihen: Pagan series (1)

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When the men of Burh, settlers from continental Europe, fall upon the sleeping nomad tribe in the depths of the forest amid the Downs of southern England, Tagart is the only survivor, escaping by sheer chance after his wife and young son have been massacred. Twenty-five and heir to the chiefdom of the roving hunters, he sees his only inheritance now to be an overwhelming urge for merciless revenge - of his family, his tribe and indeed of a way of life which in the England of 5,000 years ago is steadily being eroded by these tillers of the soil. Tagart's first objective for his single-handed work of retribution is the fortified village of Burh (in what is now known as the Cuckmere Valley), and the means he uses are more subtle and deadly than any traditional form of attack. This story of his revenge, his subsequent savage enslavement by the new lords of the land and his escape with Segle, the beautiful sister of another captive, introduces a new author of considerable significance. Richard Herley writes with acute sense of place, of wind and weather, of wild life and of the background of Stone Age England when the countryside is in its last virgin state before civilization begins. Extent: 71,400 words (about 238 conventional pages)… (mehr)
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This book was an exhilarating ride, to say the least. It was smartly paced, almost entirely action-driven, and so brutal in spots that I think it would have to be trimmed somewhat to qualify as a rated "R" film. And, incidentally, "this could be made into a very good movie" is what I found myself thinking over and over again. If Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear and Crichton's Eaters of the Dead were able to make the transition from (speculative) historical fiction to successful films, this book probably could.

The book immediately plunges the reader, as do so many of Herley's books, into the day-to-day world of people in another time and place. His skills at research and description allow him to do this more convincingly and more immersively than most writers, and his natural knack for pacing and self-editing allows him to do so without allowing the essential storyline to bog down. He's clearly a author in love with story and place, rather than with his own language.

While The Stone Arrow was a fast, exciting read, it doesn't quite stand up to the quality of Herley's later works, such as The Penal Colony, Refuge, or the incomparable The Tide Mill. That's because The Stone Arrow shows only some of Herley's many strengths: while his amazing vocabulary, powers of research, economy of words, and manifest love of nature are on full display here, his ability to sweep the reader through the full spectrum of human emotion is not, nor is his delightfully bone-dry sense of humor. While the book is nominally written from a third person omniscient perspective, the narrative eye spends relatively little time inside the characters' heads, preferring instead to focus on action and setting, showing how the characters must be thinking and feeling through their deeds.

Those observations are not necessarily fault-finding - this book strikes me as the work of a talented twenty-something writer out to make a big first impression, and that it certainly does! As it is, I'm now excited to sit down to The Flint Lord and The Earth Goddess, the two remaining books in this trilogy. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in pre-historic fiction, anyone who has read and enjoyed any of Herley's later works, or anyone who just wants to sit down and read a ripping tale of honor, vengeance, and ingenuity, with a Rambo-level body count. ( )
  benjamin.duffy | Jul 28, 2013 |
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Richard HerleyHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Herley, RichardHauptautoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
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When the men of Burh, settlers from continental Europe, fall upon the sleeping nomad tribe in the depths of the forest amid the Downs of southern England, Tagart is the only survivor, escaping by sheer chance after his wife and young son have been massacred. Twenty-five and heir to the chiefdom of the roving hunters, he sees his only inheritance now to be an overwhelming urge for merciless revenge - of his family, his tribe and indeed of a way of life which in the England of 5,000 years ago is steadily being eroded by these tillers of the soil. Tagart's first objective for his single-handed work of retribution is the fortified village of Burh (in what is now known as the Cuckmere Valley), and the means he uses are more subtle and deadly than any traditional form of attack. This story of his revenge, his subsequent savage enslavement by the new lords of the land and his escape with Segle, the beautiful sister of another captive, introduces a new author of considerable significance. Richard Herley writes with acute sense of place, of wind and weather, of wild life and of the background of Stone Age England when the countryside is in its last virgin state before civilization begins. Extent: 71,400 words (about 238 conventional pages)

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