Thursday 4 March 2021

Swallow's Dance

Finished February 24
Swallow's Dance by Wendy Orr

This middle grade book takes us back to the Bronze Age in the Aegean Sea. As the book begins, an earthquake shakes the small island that Leira and her clan live on. Leira is about to start her initiation as a priestess and her mother is next in line to become the head priestess, or Lady. But her mother is badly injured in the earthquake, and is left unspeaking, in a state of disorientation, unable to walk or reason. Leira's father is the owner of a ship that trades goods all around the sea and their family is one of the leading families. Many homes are damaged and the population retreats into the hills and countryside, taking over the homes of others and struggling to find a way forward. 
After a short while, Leira's father decides to take her, her mother, and a servant along on their next voyage, to the large island of Crete, where they will request help and healing from the leaders there, and stay with her older brother who is acting as a trader for them there.
But even Crete has been affected by the earthquake and there are things that don't seem right in the relationship with the leaders there. Despite misgivings, Leira's father feels he must leave them there and return after his trading voyage. But things quickly go from bad to worse when another earthquake hits, and Leira must grow up quickly, taking charge of her small family unit and finding a way to survive that still honours her clan and provides the small group of women with a livelihood. 
Leira is a kind girl, relating to people of all classes even from the beginning, and this empathy and willing to connect serves her well in her challenges. She has pride, but also recognizes what she must do to survive. She finds a way to be true to her Swallow Clan, honor her origins in the priestess class, and accept a new way of making a livelihood in her situation. She asks for help in a respectful way, both from the people she meets and the gods, and she finds unexpected answers. 
The more I read, the more this story and the character of Leira drew me in. 

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