The first chapter of this book can be read here.
At white midnight, on the endless midsummer night of the far north, Kuzma the bear shaman, enters a house in a remote village.
The only person awake is Malyuta, a slave and hunter, who stands on watch over his new-born son.
The shaman demands the baby for his apprentice.
Throughout the long summer night the hunter resists every argument, every bribe, every threat, refusing to give up his son. "I am not a czar, to buy and sell my children!”
The shaman leaves at last, and Malyuta names his son ‘Ambrosi’, meaning ‘Immortal’ – “because, to me, he’ll always be immortal.” When his wife dies, the child is all he has to remind him of her.
Thwarted, the bear-shaman takes out his spite on a family of reindeer-people, threatening to take a child from them. When they defy him, he curses them with ‘everlasting change.’ By day they will have their own shapes; but by night, they will be wolves.
In the far north, the night is six months long.
Malyuta, the hunter, leaves his adored child in the care of his grandparents, in their village. But as the child grows, the villagers begin to fear him. He sings and tells stories with a power that turns them into spells. When the villagers refuse to have the child among them any more, Malyuta is forced to take him into the wilds on the hunt.
In the wilderness, Malyuta learns that the bear-shaman never let Ambrosi go, but walks in his dreams.
When Ambrosi is full grown, Kuzma comes to him again, demanding that he fulfil his destiny by becoming a shaman – but Ambrosi cannot leave his elderly father alone.
Kuzma calls on the people he turned into wolves. He will free them from their curse, if they will become his tools in forcing Ambrosi to his will.
Ambrosi must choose between learning the way of a shaman from a teacher he hates, or letting his father’s spirit be blown to pieces and lost in the wind…
The beauty of the descriptive language of this tragic tale adds to the folkloric quality of the story – which incorporates the Norse myth of the death of Balder – leaving a haunting memory for the reader. –The Horn Book
Like the previous book, this one has the feel and flavour of old folktales, specifically those from northern Europe. There is a purity and a beauty to the language: every word, every phrase, is perfectly placed, like an exquisite ice sculpture.Susan M Harding, Mesquite Public Library.
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