RogerBW's Blog

Ravenwood, Nathan Lowell 14 May 2024

2010 fantasy, first in a series. Tanyth Fairport is a travelling herbalist, planning to learn all she can before writing a book about it. Then the villagers she's visiting ask for her help.

Well, unlike Lowell's SF Quarter Share there is opposition here: it's not the only problem that needs to be solved, but there is a group of bullies who are aspiring to banditry. Moxtly, though, what Tanyth is here to do is to fit the classic wise woman role, offering good common sense and a bit of knowledge much more than herbs or magic.

Good stuff: Tanyth is somewhere in her fifties or sixties, and this is a severely under-served demographic for protagonists. Less good stuff: you'd think by now she'd have some idea of how often to urinate in order to avoid desperate urgency.

Mostly what's going on is herb lore, and pseudo-Wiccan worship, with very little that looks like actual magic. The herb lore is detailed but mostly unrelated to herbalism in the real world, for all there's mention of willow-bark tea. (Perhaps Lowell wants to avoid anything that young readers might imitate.)

In spite of the forest setting and the low technology, this is basically the standard American frontier fantasy: without natives, but with land ready to be claimed and plenty of natural resources to be exploited.

It's all right. It's quite fun. But it seems to have very little actually to say.

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