The first book in the Chronicles of the Cheysuli spins a tale of magical warriors and shapeshifters as they battle the sorcerers that threaten their existence
They were the Cheysuli, a race of magical warriors gifted with the ability to assume animal shape at will. For centuries, they had been allies to the King of Homana, treasured champions of the realm. Until a king's daughter ran away with a Cheysuli liege man and caused a war of annihilation against the Cheysuli race.
Twenty-five years later the Cheysuli were hunted exiles in their own land, feared for their sorcery, their shapeshifting.
This is the story of Alix, the daughter of that ill-fated union between Homanan princess and Cheysuli warrior, and her struggle to master the call of magic in her blood, and accept her place in an ancient prophecy she cannot deny,
Over a 40-year career (so far), Jennifer Roberson has published four fantasy series, including the Sword-Dancer Saga, Chronicles of the Cheysuli, the Karavans universe, and urban fantasy series Blood & Bone. Other novels include historicals LADY OF THE GLEN, plus two Robin Hood novels, LADY OF THE FOREST, and LADY OF SHERWOOD.
New novels are percolating in her always-active imagination.
Hobbies include showing dogs, and creating mosaic and resin artwork and jewelry. She lives in Arizona with a collection of cats and Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
I can't even finish it! The heroine annoyed the hell out of me. Why can't anyone write a heroine who's as smart as I am! Looking at my grades I'm not asking much so why is it so hard to write a smart heroine now adays!?
I'm soo tired of heroines who find that they have magical powers then started acting like it's a damn curse! The girl can freaking shift into an animal, why can't she be like a normal teenager and start jumping up and down yelling AMEN! but noooo! God forbid a heroine that's actually excited by the prospect of having magical powers. They just dive in to self pity because you know- making good fusses about it robs the heroine a chance of playing the 'buhuhuh I'm the victim, my life is ruined'Oh shut up!!!
She starts by acting like a love struck teen which is disgusting. Romance is fine by me. I adore romance but do you have to lose your head too?. She defends something 'That's unfair! Don't judge!blah blah blah then suddenly loses conviction and abandons all her cries of justice and fairness when it face to face with the real deal . Where's your conviction now you little hypocrite?
She spends half of the entire book hating, then denying, then submerging into self pity, and being stupid all over again.
This has so much potential. The plot is fantastic and very interesting. Why ruin it with a bitchy heroine!? Why?
This is a re-read of the first book in a series I absolutely love. Unfortunately, I do not like this book. I'm not sure if this is Roberson's first book (and subject to the First Novel uneven-ness that can happen) or if I'm just reading it again with older eyes. After all, this book was first published in 1984. I've read many, MANY books since 1984 so I have more to compare it to. A lot of life has been lived between 1984 and now too, so a person's entire frame of reference can switch focus. It isn't so much when the book was written but the experience of the person reading it at that time. I was a tween (just barely) and in love with fantasy novels. I'm sure there was much I didn't get at the time, but I understood most of it and it fascinated me. Now, I focus less on the story and more on the words used to tell it; on characterization, and they both fall flat. Maybe, if this book were released today, it wouldn't be classified as an adult novel. Maybe the magic of it is at the YA level.
I hated the heroine. She was spoiled and stubborn and incredibly ill suited to heroine-ism. She wanted what she wanted and to hell with the very real consequences. The hero was marginally better, even though he was supposed to be older and wiser than her. Secondary characters (who star in Book 2) were better, but don't quite reach three dimensional status until The Song of Homana (book 2 in the series) The plot? Not as thin as the characters, but this is really a set up book. There is A LOT of world building to do, and if anything about this book is excellent, that is it.
Because, even though I don't have much good to say about this book, the fact is that it has been with me for over 20 yrs. Roberson created an entire world that has lived in the back of my mind; especially the language. I've always liked languages. It isn't to the point where I've translated Hamlet into Cheysuli, but a few words do stick out. Favorite characters from the series remain as well. The series is great, it just needed a better start.
This was one of the first fantasy books I ever read, so though by today's standards it probably doesn't deserve much of a score, it retains a nostalgic fondness for me. I loved the original cover, which sadly GR doesn't have on its database and as my ability to do anything with my laptop is laughably low, the best I've been able to do is provide a picture of the original 6 books (plus later editions of the last two) in my profile pictures. Go and take a squint if you're curious. They range from meh to pretty dire (number 5 is the worst; seriously, WTF?) but I liked this one: a girl on a horse, fully clad in decent clothing (although barefoot for some reason) with what looks like a sword hilt in her right hand with a wolf and a bird of prey - I mean, what teenage girl wouldn't be interested in this book?! Now I'm an adult I can see the problems: namely, the horse has no bridle, much less reins, and her saddle doesn't appear to be fastened onto the horse at all; the minute that horse starts running, she and that saddle are going to be lying on the ground wondering what happened.
And perhaps that's a decent metaphor: as a teen, the problems in this book weren't so apparent.
The basic plot: the Cheysuli are a race of magical shapechangers; originally living in relative peace with the other people of the land, the Homanas (normal humans like you and me), who arrived much later. But twenty five years ago the king's daughter fled a marriage she didn't want with her father's Cheysuli liege man and in revenge the king ordered the Cheysuli wiped out. Now the Cheysuli are regarded as demons, hated and feared in their own land, on the brink of annihilation. Our main character, Alix, is apparently a humble crofter's daughter who's kidnapped by a Cheysuli warrior along with the prince, and forced to deal with the shocking revelation of her own true heritage and her place in an ancient prophecy.
The back of the book will tell you more than that, but maybe you have a different copy and don't want any surprises spoiled. I want to start with the things I liked about this book:
The Cheysuli. I loved, and still love, the Cheysuli race. They are described as a tan skinned race, with black hair and yellow eyes ('beast eyes' they are often called) and live in tents in the forest. The men, who all seem to be trained as warriors, wear leathers and gold - an armring and an earring which shows their lir beast. So they may have an obvious Native American vibe, and the story has a distinct 'how the west was won brutalized' slant, but I find it none the worse for that. The lir. Every Cheysuli warrior has a 'coming of age' moment when they wander off into the wilderness and acquire a lir beast. This is an animal they can talk to mentally and shows the beast shape they can transform into - usually this seems to be a bird of prey or a wolf, fox or mountain cat. This beast is the other half of themselves; a man without a lir is regarded as only half alive and shunned. If a lir is ever killed, the warrior seeks death in a ritual suicide. Only men can have a lir (boo!); women are neither warriors nor lir bound.
What I didn't like: Alix. Poor Alix; I'm sure if she was written today she'd be a feisty fantasy heroine who would discover her abilities and follow her own path, but this book was written in 1987, and as it has a heavy romantic vibe (as romance was written back then) Alix is stuck between three men, two of whom are a bit dodgy for various reasons (one of whom was planning outright kidnap and rape, so yay, romance!). Thankfully she ends up with the least rape-y of them, but the way she has her choices curtailed by the men around her and her reaction to her circumstances are incredibly frustrating and I can understand why a lot of readers find her whiny and annoying.
The worldbuilding is also pretty poor, with only brief mentions of other countries and no clear idea of what's where. I think this improves throughout the series, though (including a map in the next book).
If you are curious about this series but are finding the main characters in this book annoying, my advice is push through it quickly and move on to the next book in the series before deciding to ditch it.
There may have been some good plot underlying this book (and by good I mean a slight variation of most other sci-fi fantasy series I have read, one that over-uses the term prophecy and references to dualing factions of gods), but overall, this read to much as General Hospital with swords and magic than an actual science fiction fantasy book. The phrase "but I am carrying his child" was used by all three female characters in the book, often multiple times.
I thought the author chose to dwell on some un-exciting aspects (the first 140 pages or so repeats the same conversation several times over, and would have had me putting down the book were it not recommended to me by someone I know), while then skipping years and months at a time and glancing over nations won in a matter of a few paragraphs. Not that I want the book to read like a list of military conquests one after the other (this would be boring), just that there was superfluous detail in some sections and an utter lack of detail in others.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
When I was a teenager, I found all four omnibus editions at a used bookstore and snapped ‘em up bc I liked the covers. I loved this series from beginning to end and remembered crying with Alix. God, how embarrassing. This is awful. Alix is a spoiled self-righteous brat who flips allegiances like pancakes. There are all sorts of colloquialisms like “What do you say?” (Whaddaya mean?) and “I have ever loved him.” (I’ve always loved him.) that sound like lines from a bad ren fair scene. Not to mention the allusions to Cheysuli as Native Americans are so thinly veiled it’s actually kind of gross. Let’s also romanticize attempted rape while we’re at it and using a pregnancy to trap a man into marriage. Both of these things are positive(!) preludes to the star relationship of the book. I’d give the whole thing up as a bad rap, but all the reviews say the rest of the books are better. I sure hope so. I’m so mad at my teenage self right now. But those omnibus covers sure were purty.
I had a lot of issues with this book, and I'm not really sure where to start. I bought most of the books in this series for really cheap at a used bookstore, but it was definitely not worth even that much money. The series did not age well at all, and I will not be continuing with it. (Full disclosure, I did not finish the book, but what I read was so bad that I decided to leave a review anyway--I don't think anything that happened later could redeem it for me at this point.)
The writing was weird, like it was trying really hard (too hard) to be old-timey. Characters were constantly doing things like using "ever" in place of always, and it just made everything sound stilted and odd.
Also, a lot of problematic content that I found really hard to stomach.
Firstly, the men were generally very rapey, even the ones I think we were supposed to like. The main character is literally almost raped, and we get to hear all kinds of lovely justifications about why this is a necessary practice. And, to make matters worse, the rapey attitudes are treated as if they're something to be taken lightly. For example, there's this gem:
"'You would have me think you no better than [my attempted rapist]--ordering me this way and that!'
He grinned at her. 'Then perhaps he has the right of it. What else can a man do when a woman defies him, save force her?'"
And then the main character does what he told her to. And her father is sitting right there yet says nothing about her going off with a man who had just said that nonsense. SMH.
It was also really gross that the main character and her almost-rapist were brother and sister, and after he learns this, he still makes unwelcome sexual advances toward her and calls her his "mistress." And then this is justified by his brother (not related to the main character, thankfully), who also constantly minimizes his brother's rape-y actions.
Finally, I'm pretty sure the Cheysuli were supposed to be Native Americans, and their portrayal was kind of questionable on several levels, but especially in the emphasis the author seemed to want to put on their practice of kidnapping and raping women in order to impregnate them.
I feel like the story had potential, but I just can't stand pretty much everything else about it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Overall, I would call this a fairly good fantasy, but I do not feel committed to following up the series it begins. While there is a certain amount of hard fighting, the basic plot is more concerned with the romantic competition for the heroine among three men; unusually for that sort of situation in adventure romances, all three of the men turn out to be a) reasonably sympathetic b) alive at the end. One aspect I found testing my suspension of disbelief is that twice the heroine encountered a powerful evil mage who twice let her go free and unhurt; the first time, he did at least explain that she was not important enough to be worth killing, bt the second time he explicitly revokes that excuse (since she has just taken out one of his chief allies) but still lets her and her friends go for no reason at all (except, I suppose, that they all needed to be around for the sequels). One point in favor of the book: the heroine and two of her three men are shapechangers, and the author does go to the trouble of explaining that they are magically able to change to beast form with their clothing conveniently vanishing, and change back with it conveniently reappearing, thereby eliminating a problem that has troubled lycanthropes since Marie de France's Bisclavaret.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Alix has been raised as an ordinary country girl, but after she coincidentally becomes friends with a prince she is kidnapped by exiled shapeshifters and drawn into their struggle against oppression.
I enjoyed the adventure/magic aspects of the story but had some serious problems with the attitudes toward women and sexuality presented in Roberson's world-building. I couldn't feel too indignant on behalf of the shapechangers expulsion from the kingdom since they themselves were kidnapping women and forcing them to bear their children. The couple later books in the series that I tried had even more rape and oppression so I gave up on it.
I have been revisiting some of my old favorites and this series was one of them. While re-reading this first book, I remember that the series got much better starting with the second book. This isn't a bad book, but I think that this was the author's first book and it shows. She keeps reminding you of the same things over and over.
If anyone has read this book and found it a bit lackluster, I would suggest that you give the second book a try regardless. This book was written in the period when the whole "people form magical bond with an animal" thing was popular. If you really hate that kind of thing then you might want to avoid this series.
Really enjoyed the growing storyline. The main female character is overtly selfish but everything else is great. Too few pages to develop a good supporting cast but I hope the rest of the series open the descriptive capabilities.
Alix is young, naive, and in love---with Carillon, heir to the throne. She's aware that he's destined to marry a princess to forge alliances between nations, and a commoner girl like herself can't hope for more than a position of mistress. Still, she can dream. Until the Cheysuli come, and drag her forcibly into their world. They insist she is one of them and refuse to let her go back to her home. Is she? And what of Carillon, whose uncle has sworn to eradicate every Cheysuli?
The book is, in large part, more about who Alix will sleep with and whether or not that will be her choice than the eventual struggles between Cheysuli and the majority Homana populace and the war between Homana and a neighboring nation. And after she joins the Cheysuli the tribe still insists the best way she can help them is by bearing a lot of children. I can commend Alix for pushing for a position as wife, not mistress, and for demanding her husband's fidelity to her alone. I am less convinced by the very open marriages common to the Cheysuli; it's an idealized society where everyone can have the freedom to come or go in these relationships without issues like rejection or jealousy coming into play. Or at least that's what's said, and then there are hints that marriage is kind of a "until death do us part" deal after all, and it gets a little muddled.
The book felt a bit lopsided to me. Alix gets virtually no backstory other than a few sketchy details; the city of Homana-Mujhar in particular has very little description; there are more than two warriors but we don't even get to see what kinds of animals other Cheysuli have taken as lir. Nor, for that matter, do we ever get more than four or five of them named.
Once Alix settles down the book does get a lot more interesting, as it shows the disastrous consequences to the genocide against the Cheysuli. Finn gets props for moving out of the stereotypes he starts in. It's a pretty quick read, and relatively engaging, but I'm not totally sold on reading more of the series. I rate this book Neutral.
35 years ago I discovered this book in paperback as a freshman in high school as the clerk was putting them onto the shelf for the first time. I returned there many times to the same spot with different clerks waiting to get my hands on the next book in the series! This book and series enhances you and draws you in so quickly that next thing you know you are on the last page screaming for more! Strong feminine characters back then were rare but Alix fit the bill and gave girls a dream that they could follow a dream with determination and stubbornness. Add in gorgeous men, teasing brothers and a dashing prince and the beautiful lit, how can a girl resist? I highly recommend this author and series for all. It’s everything you’ll desire in a book to whisk you away to another world. I’m very thankful to Bookbub to have had this pop up or I’d never have rediscovered a first love a second time around!
I started this book at least three times, and finally gave it up. I felt the writing was awkward, uncertain, and the characters rather unpleasant. Because of this I didn't finish any of the Cheysuli books, though I have them all. What a waste. Sadly, I enjoyed Roberson's Tiger and Del series so much. I have since learned that the Cheysuli books were her first, or at least the first of her books to gain her some prominence. I have a first book; we all do. But I just couldn't find any life in this first book, and so I couldn't finish it. It's a pity, because no doubt she grew as a writer all the way through the series, given the quality of her writing in the Tiger and Del books.
Als ich das Buch zum ersten Mal las, fand ich es herausragend. Dann kam ich aber irgendwie doch davon ab, die Reihe weiter zu lesen. Nun rücke ich meinem SuB zu Leibe und habe das Buch erneut gelesen. Dieses Mal bin ich kritischer, mag die Idee aber trotzdem und habe das Buch verschlungen. 08/10 Punkte und hier könnt ihr meine Meinung nachlesen: http://sunsys-blog.blogspot.de/2015/0... .
I actually first read this back in the 80's, but never finished the series thanks to no time and no money as a student. So, I'm going back and finally finishing the series.
The basic plot is this: Young farm girl gets kidnapped by a shapechanger (one of the Cheysuli) and then learns that she's one of them, and has all kinds of superduper special powers. The problem is, they Cheysuli are being hunted to extinction by the Homanans (the people in the land where they used to live) and the people who raised her.
The world is interesting, the plot's pretty simple and straightforward, and I defnitely can see why I liked it when I was younger. The protagonist is a young woman! She isn't just a doormat for the men (well, sort of)! I'd have rated it higher then. But as an adult, I can only give it an "it's okay" rating.
Re-reading it now, as a grown woman, I can't ignore all the really problematic bits which I apparently wasn't as bothered by back in the day. I suspect it's because it was pretty standard fare for 1980's fantasy. It's definitely got a lot of Old Skool rapeyness going on, even though no one actually gets raped. There's a lot of threatening it, but it doesn't actually happen. And our heroine, Alix, calls them on it, which is great - at least for a while, then she decides she's in love with the hero (Duncan) and it's all good, even when he's a jackass. Which is most of the book. And she makes some pretty rash decisions, which endanger a lot of people she now claims to love.
By the end, the only person I was really still rooting for was Carillon, the young Homanan prince. He seems like a sensible fellow, and not rapey. I'm afraid it'll go horribly wrong as the series goes on - I just cannot remember how.
Książkę przeczytałam po raz pierwszy chyba z 10 lat temu. wtedy naprawdę byłam nią zachwycona przez fantasy, romans, motyw zmiennokształtnych. Teraz wszystko się zmieniło... Zauważałam wady, których wczesniej nie dostrzegałam. Jestem świadoma, żę książka ma swoje lata i ma prawo posiadać cechy, które dzisiaj zniekształcają odbiór, ale kurcze... Książka jest pełna bubli, okropnych i niemal żałosnych zbiegów okoliczności (jesli książę spotyka się z jakąś wieśniaczką to na 100% musi być ona 1. zaginioną księżniczną 2. jego siotrą, no kurcze! Ale przypadek). Bohaterowie są nudni, ich rozmowy są nudne. Przez wiele stron przewijają się niemal te same zdania "ja nic nie wiem, ja nic nie rozumiem", "nie wiem, co robić" itd. Zaczyna, rozwija i kończy w sposób, który można przewidzieć po przeczytaniu pierwszych 50 stron. Slabe, naprawdę slabe. To jest książka jedynie dla osób, które chciałyby poznać klasykę, podstawy fantasy, może zaczynają dopiero z tym gatunkiem i chcą na początek coś lekkiego, bardzo bliskiego współczesnym książkom dla młodzieży... Ale na 100% nie dla fanów fantrastyki, bo ci się tylko wynudzą!
I loved this series back in the late 80s/early 90s, but trying to reread it now was incredibly painful -- it is SO RAPEY. Roberson uses a mix of Sheik-style romance tropes (female protagonist kidnapped by rapey attractive man) and fantasy tropes (magical shapeshifters, imaginary kingdoms, evil sorcerers) and leavens it with a ton of doubtless unconscious misogyny and racism. There is some deeply awful worldbuilding that today reads as white supremacist, with the minority group -- the Cheysuli -- being the original bringers of civilisation and everything good, but since they are now being genocided they need to go around raping women so that there are Enough Cheysuli and their culture doesn't die out. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Will I try any more of these to see if they get better? Probably not, but I might eventually reread the one Roberson I remember adoring, Lady of the Forest, although if it is this awful I'm not sure I want to ruin my memory of it. [Jan/Feb 2022]
Originally read this series as a young teen and remember loving it, but not much else. On the reread, there are several plot elements that don't age well for me. Specifically the constant normalization/threat of rape, and the strictly bound gender roles wherein the magical thing that sets our protagonist apart and makes her special is her ability to do something that only men can normally do. I dunno... I really wanted to love this as much as I remembered loving it as a young girl, but it largely fell flat for me. I still finished the book, I'm not sorry I read it, and I may even continue to re-read the rest of the series, but I think if I do, I'll check the rest of the series out from the library instead of spending the Audible credits.
Just. So. Bad. Stereotypical characters. Stereotypical scenario. No plot development. So many tropes. She loves him, the prince! No him, the rebel leader! She’s almost, ‘taken’ several times, and the rebel leader’s brother loves her, too. High school, or junior high, I would’ve loved this shit. (Which is how old the books are, ftr.) It’s WAY past time we moved on. Honestly, it would be a great outline for a series written today. But that’s all it is. I’m so grateful fantasy has come so far.
Another book that has been sitting on my shelf for years waiting its turn to be read. I enjoyed the premise of the world that Roberson is creating and am looking forward to the continuing stories of the Cheysuli. My primary issue with this book is the way in which the characters behaviour seems to change drastically so many times (Alix in particular). I understand she is young and doesn't yet understand the world/life into which she is being thrown, but her inability to think ahead and stick with a course of action made it hard to sympathize with her as the main protagonist.
So I read this as a ten year old and remember loving it but re-reading it as an adult was a struggle.
I mean, I honestly don't even know where to begin complaining about this because honestly there is a lot here to unpack.
Could you have envisioned a more terrible main character, just simpering and annoying and self-involved. Then there is seeming romance which just felt a little rapey to my mind. And like what is the point of all of this wonderful world building, if you are just gonna lay all the attention on Alix and her annoying point of view.
And I think, possibly, the biggest issue was the Cheysuli. I am not sure what the term is for magical negro but for indigenous people. This novel was just so steeped in this idea of the proud and magical native people teaching and saving and always as servants.
The release of the Dark Crystal series on Netflix had me feeling a bit nostalgic for some of the great fantasy books I read as a kid. Sadly, adult me found this one a bit disappointing. If you're also rereading this series out of nostalgia, make sure to pick up book #2 in the series, which has much stronger writing and, for the most part, significantly less rapey romance.
My favorite series from this author. I couldn't read it fast enough. I loved all the books and was so sad when the series ended. A beautiful love story and all the other elements that make a novel rich like awesome worldbuilding, plot, themes complex and well thought out characters. Imaginative shapeshifting but not your typical werewolf story. I am so bored with those.
3.5 as much as I did enjoy the story and plot of this book, there were troubling things in it. If those things were not in this book it would have been so much better. I may continue on with this series.
I just can't stand it. It's very clunky and old. Nobody explains anything, using vagueries to stay mysterious. And I hate the dialect. "What do you say?" "What do you say?" "What do you say?" I don't care enough to continue. Very annoying.
3.5 I hated how duncan was going to choose another woman over her, just because she was MAYBE 'having his child.' and went back to our h when he realized the other woman was not pregnant. and he had promised the h to make her his wife in the first place.