This review first appeared in Goodreads on 24th November, 2020.
As is always the case with books by Golda Mowe, I like how Iban culture and customs, beliefs and superstitions are described in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner, without exotification.
The details Mowe provides of weaving, hunting, building and other aspects of Iban life, including ritual practices, are riveting to me. Some readers would probably prefer more action than description, but that’s personal preference. I was rather relieved that the battle scenes were brief. When Ratai harvests her first head, I felt pity for the victim because Ratai observes he’s a young boy. I feel this was an interesting way to remind the reader that Ratai is aware of herself and hasn’t been swept away by the excitement of the moment. However, although she feels compassion, her priorities (the well being of her people as well as her pride as a warrior) don’t allow her to give in to it.
Another thing I found interesting was the slave whose life was spared during the battle and his eventual fate. This plot strand raises questions that I must present to the author. So very interesting.
On the whole, I love the way the story unfolded and the intense exploration of Ratai’s struggles to balance her femininity, what was expected of her as an Iban woman and her natural inclinations and talents.
The inter-weaving of Iban folk beliefs and dreams of gods and goddesses with life, and the way the supernatural aspects of the story manifest themselves in the characters’ real-life is quite beautiful, and presented so naturally that there is no question of not accepting the part played by the divine in the affairs of humans.
This is definitely my favourite of the Iban Trilogy. However, as much as I love the happy ending, I wish to know more about Ratai’s life and hope Mowe will write another book in this series.