Tuyo #1 by Rachel Neumeier: feel-good fantasy
Tuyo #1 by Rachel Neumeier
Published 2020; 412 pages
First Sentence: "Beside the coals of the dying fire, within the trampled borders of our abandoned camp, surrounded by the great forest of the winter country, I waited for a terrible death."
THE PLOT SYNOPSIS
This unnamed fantasy world has two countries: the Summer Lands in the south and the Winter Lands in the north. Aptly named, the Summer country has year round sunshine and gets hot most days; the race of people (Lau) are dark in color, tall and lanky. The Winter people (Ugaro) live in colder, harsh snowy weather, are shorter and stocky, pale of skin. Within each country there are various tribes.
In recent years tribes of the two countries have been battling along the borderlands. After one such encounter, a Ugaro warrior, Ryo, is left with the enemy as a tuyo - a sacrifice. It is tradition and the expectation that he will be killed by the Lau warlord and that will cease the battles. However, Aras, the warlord, does not kill Ryo, and instead begins to learn about the Ugaro culture and traditions from him.
Sorcery does come into play - the Ugaro tribes have a natural antipathy toward sorcery / magic and feel threatened and that all sorcerers are evil. On the other hand, many of the Lau people have low level magic abilities (they can start a small fire or cast an air-cooling spell) and there are a fair number of sorcerers of varying skill levels. This story revolves around one strong well-intentioned, peace seeking sorcerer, and one power-hungry, controlling sorcerer who end up vying for control of the borderlands.
The story moves forward and loyalties are tested, friendships formed, long held beliefs challenged, sorcerers discovered, and battles fought.
There's something about Tuyo that just captured my attention and made it such a pleasure to read. I loved the tribal feel to the world building instead of a medieval setting which is much more common. Such successful world building! Neumeier very deftly defined the Summer and Winter people (and kudos to her for keeping the country and people names simple!!) There's a fair amount of time spent learning about the subtle differences between cultures, most interestingly the role of women.
I think the book starts a little slowly, but by 30-40 pages in, I was thoroughly invested. Tuyo is a quietly paced story - there are some battles here and there, but it's really more of a character driven story. The Lau warlord and Ugaro prisoner learn about each other and discover that though their customs are different, once they get past the unusual situation of co-existing with each other, they are able to become friends. I love the language and way the various tribal members disagree and resolve their differences. There are lessons there for today's society!
I found this book well plotted, full of great characters, a thoughtful yet action filled story that won't quickly fade from my memory. Highly recommended. (content warnings for some torture and average battle scene injuries)
Challenge: Coyer 28/54 (27 is successful completion)