Rutejìmo is labeled among his clan as a useless teenager, and is considered lazy, temperamental, and cowardly. He’s jealous of the much-admired Chimípu, who seems to be able to do anything–she’s more athletic, clever, and better liked. And he wants to be like his brother, Desòchu, who is a warrior and protects the clan; no one believes Rutejìmo is capable of such a thing.
But Rutejìmo gets his chance to prove the naysayers wrong when he, Chimípu, and three other boys are taken into the desert as part of their rite of passage into adulthood. He knows that when he becomes a true member of the Shimusògo clan he will inherit the clan magic that allows him to run faster than a horse and use sunlight as a weapon. The adults, including Desòchu, take the youth into the desert to begin their rite…and leave them to fend for themselves by disappearing during the first night. Rutejìmo can’t believe Desòchu would abandon him. While Chimípu tries to find help, Rutejìmo is left with the three other boys, one is Pidòhu who is even weaker than he is, and the other two who are well-known bullies. And everything goes wrong.
So begins Rutejìmo’s rite of passage.
D. Moonfire’s novel SAND AND BLOOD takes us to the desert where the clans of day like Rutejìmo and those of night clash in violence. This makes their rite of passage even more dangerous as the teens break into two groups and one of the boys investigates the evening fires of a night clan in the desert. Rutejìmo soon discovers that your worst enemy can be yourself.
This book was an enjoyable read. The prose is crisp and fluid. The setting is beautifully described and skillfully melded into the story. Our understanding of the magic and people builds from chapter to chapter. The names threw me off at first, but after a couple of chapters they didn’t bother me anymore; it is Moonfire’s excellent characterization that makes the names easy to tell apart.
Rutejìmo is not your typical protagonist. Told from his point of view, the story describes a teenager who isn’t a bad kid but has a reputation in the clan as being lazy; despite his failings, we can’t help but sympathize with the kid. His home life isn’t exactly pleasant and Rutejìmo only wants to be accepted for who he is. We understand the decisions he makes, even though they aren’t the best ones, and cheer for him when he finally follows his conscience and discovers what it takes to be a man. It’s the changes Rutejìmo undergoes that makes SAND AND BLOOD a remarkable story. But he isn’t the only one who undergoes changes. Despite not being PoV characters, we also get to watch Chimípu as she discovers her true strengths and the frail Pidòhu as he struggles to comprehend his place in a clan that values strength. This is what coming of age stories should look like.
The desert setting fits well in the story, with the clans, how they relate to their surroundings, and how the magic works. Which clan you are part of will affect your magic, and just because you were born into one clan doesn’t mean that’s the magic you will ultimately inherit. Shimusògo run. Tateshyúso are wind and shade. Pabinkue are night and shadows and the herd. We watch as Rutejìmo discovers the magic in him and the joy it gives him. But there’s more to the magic than we see at first, and Moonfire shows us a fascinating world.
SAND AND BLOOD moves forward with excellent pacing clear to the exciting end. The only thing is I still had a few unanswered questions at the end, like how they get the metal for their steampunk-ish items? What was the purpose of the giant scorpion? Who knows, maybe Moonfire will have more to say about this fascinating world. I hope so.
Recommended Age: 13+
Language: A handful of milder stuff
Violence: Fighting, blood, and death, but not intense
Sex: Teenage hormones
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This book was given to us via Mark Lawrence’s Blog-Off and will go on to the next round internally here at EBR.