Karin Lowachee, The Gaslight Dogs
Sjenn is a member of the Aniw, a nation of hunter-gatherers that lives in the distant, icy North. She is also the ankago, or spirit walker, of her tribe: Through her Dog, the “little spirit” that lives in her body, she is able to communicate with her ancestors and relay their wisdom to her people. When she calls forth her Dog, her human body lies unconscious and unprotected, but her Dog form cannot be killed by human weapons. Because of this mysterious power, Sjenn is kidnapped by the Kabliw, a Southern race that has recently made contact with her people. General Fawle, a powerful military leader of the Kabliw, wants to learn more about Sjenn’s power so that he can harness it for his own ends. But his son, Captain Jarrett Fawle, wants nothing to do with the Aniw woman or her mysterious powers, which seem to him like demon magic. Despite Jarrett’s resistance, however, his fate soon becomes bound with Sjenn’s, as the two of them try to unlock the secrets of her Dog without letting its power get into the wrong hands.
I bought this book when it first came out in 2010, largely because of the interesting premise and setting. The world of the novel is a pretty clear parallel to European colonization of the New World; indeed, Sjenn and her people are explicitly based on the Inuit nation. I also thought the system of magic sounded interesting and different from anything I’d seen before. The book moves at a glacial pace (no pun intended), but the writing is lovely and unique, so I didn’t mind settling in for a slower read. I also found both Sjenn and Jarrett to be very interesting characters, although neither one was developed in a lot of depth. The book doesn’t technically end on a cliffhanger, but there is definitely a lot more to the story. So I would be really interested to read a sequel…except that a sequel doesn’t exist! Apparently the author didn’t have a multi-book contract, and I guess her publisher decided to pull the plug after the first book was released. As a result, I’m incredibly frustrated, because I think this story had a lot of potential as a series! But unfortunately, I don’t think the book stands very well on its own, so I’m not sure I would recommend it.