Raised a warrior in the harsh winter country, Ryo inGara has always been willing to die for his family and his tribe. When war erupts against the summer country, the prospect of death in battle seems imminent. But when his warleader leaves Ryo as a sacrifice -- a tuyo -- to die at the hands of their enemies, he faces a fate he never imagined.
Ryo's captor, a lord of the summer country, may be an enemy . . . but far worse enemies are moving, with the current war nothing but the opening moves in a hidden game Ryo barely glimpses, a game in which all his people may be merely pawns. Suddenly Ryo finds his convictions overturned and his loyalties uncertain. Should he support the man who holds him prisoner, the only man who may be able to defeat their greater enemy? And even if he does, can he persuade his people to do the same?
Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead.
She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part-time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.
The reason I bought this book is that I read a review of it from somebody who was extremely disappointed that it was about an epic friendship that never became sexual, so of course my first reaction was SLAM THIS INTO MY EYEBALLS.
I am pleased to report that, while not perfect, this book totally lived up to my hopes and dreams: there is an EPIC friendship that flourishes despite EXTREME enmity and culture clash and BRAINWASHING. The entire storyline is super melodramatic and therefore super satisfying and validating to me, personally.
This book literally ticked every box I can think of in an epic fantasy. Strong character arcs, detailed setting and world building, culture, enemies to friends, family bonds, political motivations, military strategy, magic, and even one super snarky stallion.
Ryo is left as a sacrifice and ends up a captive, guest, translator, of the warlord for which he was left. Ryo experiences a massive amount of culture shock when he is thrown into life with the Lau. So much of the narrative is Ryo comparing the Lau to his Ugaro people, and it’s just an unbelievable character arc as he learns to judge men by their actions, not their birth. I loved the grand theme of overcoming cultural differences to fight larger enemies.
Aras, the Lau Warlord, is a great character too. He, in turn, isn’t familiar with many Ugaro customs, and it’s just a very character driven read as the two men, then two nations, learn about their common enemy and forge a working bond. The friendship bonds are even better!
The setting and world are closely detailed as well. From the frozen mountains and forests of the tribes to the summer lands of the Lau, I thought the author did a phenomenal job tying each group’s culture and legends into the climates that so define them. To quickly touch on the magic: think psychological warfare on steroids, with some light elemental skills as well.
One of my favorite aspects was how she went deep into cultural customs on both sides. The over politeness and certain rituals of the Ugaro tribes struck me as extremely well thought out, and the Lau had their own norms. Some of my favorite scenes were the great meetings towards the end, but part of that was how much I just loved Ryo’s family. Especially his father. I let out a few “HA”‘s courtesy of the family dialogue
Family and honor among friends played a huge role too. Without going into too much more detail, I will just say again in general that the relationships in the book are so intricately started and built upon, until the end result was something really special.
In short: I feel like I’m rambling and not doing the book justice at all. If you like strong families, culture, overcoming cultural biases, enemies to friends, setting and relationships, and magic throughout…. You need this book. I definitely plan on checking out the author’s works too.
What an unexpected and pleasant surprise this book turned out to be! The writing style was immensely appealing. Smart, sparing and just all-around delightful. The prose reminded me of that of The Tally Master, which I've read twice. And like that book, this story accentuates the characters rather than action. As a matter of fact, there isn't much action at all. But my gosh, the story just mesmerized me.
There were so many fascinating relationships and cultural conflicts to explore! And the extreme climate disparity between the two main cultures was nicely done. It was like North vs. South on steroids. Aside from the climate, the predominant themes dealt with honor, loyalty, honesty, courage, friendship and family. I should mention that if you're expecting any romance and/or sexual situations, you won't find them here.
Excellent, excellent book by a brand new-to-me author. I intend to jump from this first book to number three, which picks up where this left off; number two is apparently a prequel. I love finding a book that hits my reading sweet spot so well!!
A very typical Neumeier novel: extremely enjoyable, comforting, "old-school" fantasy. It's marketed as an adult fantasy novel, but -- except for the length -- it feels more like older juvenile-fiction novels from the 70s and 80s, the oddball obscure books I searched out as kid by browsing row by row on the library shelves and took home in stacks and devoured.
Neumeier's forte is an interesting worldbuilding premise that is entirely secondary to the characters, to the point that the details are often sketchy and the whole edifice is a bit shaky if you stop to think about it. Again, this is an older style of fantasy novel, a throwback to a simpler age, before "worldbuilding" and "socio-historical accuracy" were the watchwords of the genre. I quite enjoy it, for that, but it also sometimes runs into difficulties.
So, here, we've got a premise that is basically a world where climatic bands and environmental determinism are literally true and exist in literal bands of clearly delimited space, to the point that people from the "Summer Lands" are physiognomically incapable of surviving in the "Winter Lands" just across the river for any extended period of time, while people from the "Winter Lands" are at risk of succumbing to heatstroke within a few days journey of the border; meanwhile, even weirder and more storied peoples live in the far far North and distant South. It's all extremely Herodotean: the Ugaro people of the Winter Lands, to whom Ryo, our protagonist, belong, are more or less Scythians (with a good admixture of Inuit culture), the Lau of the Summer Lands ought to be more or less the Persian Empire (and in some respects (names, courier service, standing army combined with feudalism) they are, although in most respects Neumeier falls into generic Euro-fantasy descriptions. The rumored peoples on the "edges" could come word for word from the Ethiopian digressions in Herodotus and the end of Tacitus' Germania respectively. Still, while writing a story about radical cultural difference that is partly a reflex of climate and physical difference, Neumeier mostly manages to depict a world where -- despite cultural prejudice -- shared humanity is not ever in question.
I apologize for this long digression on the worldbuilding when I just said that the worldbuilding wasn't the point-- it's not just that "my learnings let me show you them" but that one of the reasons I picked up this book was the reviews promising a "Roman-inspired" culture. Which is absolutely not the case. The Lau aren't Roman in any significant way, apart from a few tactical references. Neumeier has actually written a book with very good fantasy Roman antagonists, though: The Floating Islands!
So it's a nice set-up. But many of the details don't hold up even just to the extent that you need them for the story. Example: there are several forms of magic in this world, but the primary plot-relevant one is "Sorcery" which involves the ability (really, a sort of sixth sense that the sorcerer cannot turn off) to "hear" the thoughts of people around you and, in the case of more powerful sorcerers, to manipulate them. We're also told that among the Lau people, about 1 person in 20 is a "weak sorcerer" who, even if they cannot perceive thoughts in detail, does perceive general emotions. But this "physiognomical fact" of the world appears to have no effect on any aspect of the culture: one might expect there to be pretty strong cultural norms about concealing one's emotions (given that this is functionally impossible to do from 5% of the population, would it ever be acceptable?), lying (surely it's much harder to lie to a weak sorcerer than to an ordinary human) or/and certain mental techniques that help mask one's feelings and thoughts -- these exist, but are treated as skills in which people only train if they know they will be around a powerful sorcerer.
Ok, but like I said, the point of a Rachel Neumeier book isn't the worldbuilding; it's the characters against the backdrop of the world. In this one, the point is the epic friendship between our protagonist Ryo, left as a truce-sacrifice according to the custom of his people, and the enemy commander Lord Aras, who decides to keep him alive rather than kill him, in the hopes that they can work together to root out the Sorcerous plot that has stirred up a war between their peoples. At first, Ryo's rigid sense of honor and duty bind him to Lord Aras, but gradually he begins to form bonds with some of his soldiers, while his oath-bound obedience to Aras turns into genuine loyalty, respect, and friendship. This culminates -- naturally -- in a long sequence where he and Aras must flee across the Winter Lands in a desperate bid to unite their peoples in preparation for a final showdown, and where the tables of power and dependence are turned.
It's all very The Eagle of the Ninth, and I enjoyed very much. And yet, I found this plotline frustrating in some ways, as well. Plainly put: there should have been an erotic component to the relationship. Neumeier goes to some lengths to cut off this possibility with various asides, even as we hit all the tropes of such a story: sharing a tent? Yes. Huddling together for warmth in a snow cave with only one blanket? Yup. One endures a brutal beating while the other is forced to watch? Absolutely. "You can kill me, but please wait until after his magically-induced illness is healed because I'm the only one here who knows how to cure him. Afterwards, I swear I will willingly go to my death and not fight at all."? Yes.
Of course there's no reason that intense homosocial platonic friendship and loyalty relationships can't exist; I really enjoy stories about such intense friendships without any romantic or erotic component (as I genuinely enjoyed this one) and I wish there were more of them. BUT. I am sick and tired of (cis-)men being the only people who get to have these platonic bromances. There are very nearly no women in the first 3/4 of this book. And, indeed, the story of two people overcoming radically different cultural norms to be fast friends would be far stronger if they were also overcoming ingrained assumptions about gender: there's no reason why Aras couldn't have been a woman, and this be another radical difference between the Ugaro and the Lau. Except that I suspect the author couldn't imagine intense platonic loyalty and friendship of the "I would die for her" variety between a man and a woman that never tipped into romance, and that no characters particularly assumed would do so.
Yet it was so important to her to make sure we understood that there was going to be nothing erotic or romantic happening between these two men. Neumeier does in fact nod to homosexual relationship being unexceptionable between men in both Aras' and Ryo's cultures-- it's just that theirs is not (of course) one of them. These patterns of narrative -- which relationships are assumed to be inherently sexual and which ones aren't ever allowed to be -- are so tired and so overrepresented. It's very dispiriting when authors of fantasy novels can't imagine something different.
Me picking this book up: Okay. Cover's kinda cringey, but the description seems interesting.
Me after reading it: *foaming at the mouth* AMGHFMHGFJGJHGKFG I NEED THE REST OF THE SERIES
Listen. Listen. This book has what I most adore... that thing which I have always unhelpfully called "loyalty dynamics."
Ryo is an Ugaro, a warrior from the winter lands, given as a ritual sacrifice to a general from the summer lands to buy his clan's safe retreat from battle. He is meant to die, only he doesn't. The general, Lord Aras, instead wants to use Ryo in a different way: as translator, and teacher of the customs and political landscape of the Ugaro.
Then everything goes wrong, roles reverse, and they both find themselves facing a shared enemy at great disadvantage. There's danger, magic, adventure, pain, etc. etc. That's not important. What's important is the LOYALTY DYNAMICS between Ryo and Lord Aras. They develop a trust and friendship, despite their peoples' long enmity, that is tested and twisted but still holds strong. It was great. It was amazing. I loved it.
What adds to this is the intricate work that went into the customs and norms of both peoples. The Lau, from the summer lands, have their own culture and rules of behavior that Ryo has to learn. But the Ugaro have a much stricter, ritualistic, society which prizes honor above almost everything. Ryo loves his family and has an unshakable tie to them, as well as to the values of his homeland. I loved seeing the politics that went into negotiating these rules, as well as the way Ryo worked to explain and interpret them for Lord Aras.
The magic was also interesting, and there were many secondary and tertiary characters that stood out. All of it was great. Nothing was nearly as great as the dynamic between Ryo and Aras and, as I said before, I cannot WAIT to go on to the rest of the series.
If Rachel Neumeier chose to self-publish this lovely novel because no publisher wanted it, shame on them. That would be a sad commentary on the state of the publishing industry and its demand for works that push certain popular buttons: Romance!! even better, a love TRIANGLE!!, homo-erotic tension!, dark and bloody!! Present tense! Short chapters! multiple points of view. ETC ETC ETC.
I'm happy to report that with the possible exception of bloody and a wee bit of darkness, this novel contains none of those popular but oh-so-boring elements. Instead, it's a quiet, character-based, and - yes - old-fashioned, work, if by that you mean like that written in an earlier time before YA tropes became unavoidable and everyone is trying to out shock everyone else. Neumeier writes some of the best, in my opinion, fantasy around today. I've enjoyed everything she's written, and loved some of it. This is one I loved. Ok, as another reviewer here has mentioned, you have to take the world-building on its own merits; at least, you are expected to take as a given a world where winter and summer are quite literally on either side of a river-border, with two different cultures developing to adapt to those extreme climates. Hey, it's a fantasy. The two cultures are kind of old-fashioned, too: very masculine, although women at least in one culture are depicted as strong and powerful in their own right. I liked that it all felt very organic and that there are things that have been worked out at the edges that we don't necessarily see (for example there's a most intriguing appearance of a jackal-headed woman near the end that is presented as, oh yes, there's the jackal-headed woman that no one is surprised to see).
But the focus of this novel is on character, and there it shines, and things do not work themselves out easily or necessarily in ways you might expect. But Ryo inGara is SUCH a great character. He is the narrator, and his voice is distinctive (I really liked the way that Aras, the leader of the opposing peoples, has such a different way of speaking, although equally formal). At the opening of the novel he has been left as a sacrifice - a Tuyo - to save the lives of his tribe, of which his older brother is the war leader. I don't want to say anything about how things work out because spoilers, but the emphasis is on decent, honourable people behaving, um, decently and honourably, but not without cost. It's about the uses and abuses of power; it's about loyalty and its limits; it's about friendship and the overcoming of differences. It's great. You should read it.
I went into this knowing that it's an enemies to friends story, but I severely underestimated just quite how epic, for the lack of a better word, that enemies to friends part would be. Fantasy as I love it best - distinctly character-driven with worldbuilding that shapes the story instead of overshadowing it, a magic system that creates compelling tension for the plot, and just deeply satisfying in its execution.
Ryo captured my heart from the moment we meet him kneeling in the snow tied to a stake, and I was unable to put the book down after that. I'm a huge Rachel Neumeier fan, so I was excited about the book and predisposed to like it, but I was surprised by the intensity of my feelings about it. The relationship between Ryo and just got me where it hurts, I guess. If you're a fan of heroes with integrity, if you like exploring what honour is and the conflict of characters determined to do the right thing but not sure what that is, this is your book.
Rachel Neumeier shines when it comes to both world-building and relationships, and Tuyo is possibly her best example of both. The winter lands and the summer lands are both fascinating, in their landscape and their culture, in the hints of the different ways magic works (the fengol was so cool!). Two military societies, one tribal, one sort-of Roman (there's probably a word for a Roman type of organization but I don't know it), each with their version of honour, their values, their way of treating women, and entirely believable suspicion and prejudice between them. I loved that we learn about both through the fish-out-of-water experiences of the main characters, each being competent and respected in their own country and hopelessly inept in the other.
I can't really tell you anything about the relationships without spoiling a number of important plot points. Let's just say loyalty, trust, friendship, taken to painful, brilliant heights. (The bromance to end all bromances, unless you hate that word, in which case forget I mentioned it!)
Have I mentioned how much I love Ryo? He's a big puppy, and he's so strong but he has so much to deal with, and he's got this sort of innocence that gets broken and then he rebuilds it, and he just tries. so. hard. I also loved his family. Aaaaaand I can't say anything else about them. But they're awesome.
I don't know what else I can tell you without spoilers: I really want to convince you to read this, but I refuse to ruin even one of the awesome reveals (even though I know most reviewers will anyway). I wouldn't say plot twists so much as information doled out at the exact moment of most impact, and I love it when books do that.
Read this novel if you like character-based action stories, if you love it when conversations are more intense than sword fights, if you like war stories because of the opportunities for heroism, if you have a fondness for winter landscapes (there's a great scene with a snow cave, which I appreciated because I slept in my first snow cave last winter!), if you like families and friendship, if you enjoy lovely, assured writing.
I loved the world and all the characters, and I'm so happy to know she intends to write more about them. Might just go reread Tuyo in the meantime!
this is easily one of my favorite books this year. this is a world that's built as a part of plot - gently and carefully, where people have honor and duty and respect and the good stuff like friendship that makes fantasy a comfort to turn to.
the two main protagonists start as enemies and the person in the position of power, the enemy, decides violence is meh so be my guest and i will treat you with respect. that's the start of an epic friendship, an intrigue that's bothering both their kingdom/countries and the reveal at the end of book is incredibly satisfactory because the two have earned it and it has happened because they have chosen peace and hope and working together instead of violence and killing and torture.
i loved it. absolutely wonderful way to spend an off day during middle of the week and i read it in one setting. an epic platonic friendship - i am all for it.
This is full of buttons and tropes that I love - enemies to not quite friends yet, being left as a tribute (Tuyo), expecting death and torture but mostly finding kindness, working together even though they don't trust each other quite yet, saving your "enemy", heat exhaustion, platonic huddling/cuddling for warmth, being forced to watch someone being tortured to get you to spill your secrets, being mind controlled and set upon to kill your not quite friend, managing to overcome the mind control at least partially and saving your not quite friend and so on and so on. I mean. Hook. Line. Sinker.
I love Ryo and Aras so much. The way the slowly begin to trust each other (yes, Aras knew) and build something that will be, IMO, a lifelong friendship? The way Aras is so gentle with Ryo in the beginning? They way Ryo later on trusts Aras even though he is terrified of what has to be done? OMG.
I also love the side characters we get to know - the Guard. Ryos family and people.
I love how the two magic systems are shown and explained even though we barely get to know about the second one. I love that the women of winter lands sing their magic (even if they don't think it's magic).
I love how some twists are foreshadowed and some are surprising. I love that this reads as the one big adventure that it is.
While I love Ryos POV, there are some scenes I really, really, really wish we could have gone into Aras head and see what he thinks.
Yes, there are some things that are predictable. There is a typo or two. And so on. But, the story managed to capture me so much that I basically read it in one day. It's been a while since that happened. So, yeah, I love it and this one will be re-read a few times.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Right from the start of this engrossing story, I was pulled right into the middle of Ryo’s plight. He has been left as a sacrifice in the hopes that their enemy will exact his revenge upon the young warrior, allowing the rest of the warband to escape into the wilds of the forest. So we start with Ryo waiting for his fate and wishing he could take back his angry words to his older brother, who’d made the painful decision to leave him. While also hoping that he doesn’t disgrace himself by buckling in the face of torture and trying to prepare himself for the upcoming encounter. However, in the event, he isn’t remotely ready for who he ends up facing…
This thoughtful, beautifully written fantasy adventure explores a clash of cultures and does a fabulous job of fully unpacking what it actually means to be in the hands of a sorcerer capable of going into your mind and altering your mental landscape, seeding false memories and changing your loyalties. While I’ve seen this form of magic used before – I cannot recall such a clever and thorough examination of the consequences of it. I was completely convinced of the threat and genuinely gripped as the stakes continued to be raised. Neumeier’s pacing and handling of her cast of characters, in addition to her wonderful worldbuilding – something she excels at – held me throughout. Very highly recommended for fans of intelligent, well written fantasy that is genuinely different. I received a copy of the ebook from the author, in return for an honest review. 10/10
I didn't expect to love this so fiercely, but I sure do. I picked this book up because it was on Kindle Unlimited. I don't go into Kindle Unlimited books expecting complicated interpersonal relationships and terrific character development, but once again, here we are.
It is absolutely mind boggling how much I love this.
The cultures that are involved in this book are extremely well developed, and there are a variety of ethnicities included. Not everyone is white and god I love it. Some of the cultures have influences that can be traced to modern cultures, but only if you squint real hard.
The author has created a terrific world here and somehow managed to avoid what I consider the bane of good worldbuilders. Info dumps. Nuemeier is content to tell you the relevant details only. We don't get a huge explanation of what a Talon wife is, and we don't get a lot of in depth explanation on how Ryo's culture handle marriage either.
I'm very curious about the prevalence of 2nd and 3rd wives. Is it mortality rates? Are they polygamist? Who knows!!
But Nuemeier has only told us what a soldier actually would be likely to stop and explain to a younger man who is a war prize essentially. In that situation, the soldiers are likely only to explain enough to let Ryo avoid mortal offense. And that's what we get here.
I really just love this book and I am so excited that the direct sequel should come out in the next couple of weeks. I have good timing!
Definitely going to buy a copy to support the author.
I picked this up, intending to just check out the first few pages to see where to place it on my tbr...and next thing I know, it's fifteen minutes to midnight and I've finished the whole thing!
If someone had tried to pitch the premise to me, I wouldn't have been interested - hence it taking me three years to pick up, despite being a long-time fan of Neumeier's. But Tuyo swallowed me whole. The *way* it was told, the characters and the twistiness of the plot, made a story that shouldn't have interested me completely entrancing. Will definitely be reading the rest of the series!
I haven't been good at reading book books for a few months and this really hit the spot for me. Tense; a lot of (mis)communication across cultures; extremely strong world building across several dimensions. Some very strong Left Hand of Darkness vibes. A great way to get back into reading!!
I have written extensive notes for Tuyo, because I knew already while reading that this book was going to be one of my all time favourites. This is a very strick small little list of books that I love to add to, but usually don't get the opportunity to for several years at a time and many forgettable books in between. Good books too, cause there are many good books, but rarely do they have such a combination of excellency and hitting all my favourite elements and surprising me with many others that work so well.
First I loved the first person pov for Ryo. First pov for men is especially rare in fantasy where third dominates and first seems to be reserved for girls most of the time. I forgot how much I love the intimacy and closeness that is created with first person. It's just a completly different relationship with the character, knowing them so closely, watching them go through the story, feel the fear to trust, admire them while understanding their flaws and their decisions. Ryo really wrote himself into my heart. Not only did it feel so believable, this is how I imagine men think, he was so unique as a person. So honorable, intelligent, earnest, young and prideful. It was so cool watching him come into his own, showeall the quite strenght and sense of justice he had in him to the world.
Second this book has one of the most underrated and little seen elements I have so much trouble finding. Epic bromance. Absolutely stunning pure friendship between two very different men, that goes from enemies to friends no less, other of my favourite tropes. Watching their bond begin, from the first impression and wrong readings, to curiousty and growing on each other, the work their invest into understanding each other, the slow and well-earned mutual trust and respect that develops was an incredible experience and I'm very grateful to the author for writing it. It was exactly what I was looking for and lots of things I didn't know I needed all in one and I savored every page. I always highlight great quotes and parts, but I would have had to highlight something from each page to do the book justice.
Third the characters are amazing. Unique, characterized with such little things so early. The author knows how to make you invested in these people, how to make you care about them so quickly. I thought there had to be many scenes and development for each character to develop, but she needed so little to make me invested in each one of them. Sujet, Geras and Essau were side characters I didn't expect to fall for so quickly and love so much. I loved how fair, distinct and caring they were about Ryo and I loved how Ryo observed them and got to appreciate them one cute moment at a time.
Gotta say I loved this enemy relationship. The reasons were believable, the whole dynamic between the different cultures of Lau and Ugaro was organic and realistic- they felt so real with all their different customs and ways, I enjoyed finding more about them as the story progressed. The world and cultures are a big part of the overall charm of the book, so it was great it all happened so naturally.
What I loved about this and that was totally unique was the POLITENESS. Like these enemies have manners and there is so much self-control in politely explaining to the guy who is meant to kill you, about the various ways he is entitled to do so...it was amazing how polite and fair Aras and Ryo were to each other and to their customs. So much pure respect going on here, but with the tension of them being careful of each other and basically being on opposite sides of warriors trying to find their way to each other.
This was so refreshing in contrast to the grimdark cursing antihero trend dominating the fantasy bestsellers these days. Like imagine people being nice, greeting each other, treating each other well and caring about big ideals and honour. Shocker right. With theives and assassins that love to be selfish and insult each with vulgar words every two pages, this was like a breath of fresh air.
Spoiler alert, I loved Aras's power and the question that came with someone being able to read minds and take your will and if such person can be good and trustworthy. While I know the question of mindreading like those in Twilight with Edward, he still had an exception with the protagonist. But what if you are not the exception and you can't shield your mind like in Eragon, and you just have this friend you came to like and respect and trust, who can read your thoughts all the time? I also think this worked particularly well with th first person pov, because I imagine Aras was seeing what I was reading. It's just such a giant intrusion in your private space, so much potential judgnent involved...it's horrifying. I loved Ryo's fear, I loved how Aras hurt to see him afraid and how they both worked hard to teach Ryo to trian his mind with mundane things to protect his thoughts. Deflecting, thinking of something else, focus on unrelated things, all easily understandable but requiring hard discipline. Amazingly done.
I also loved the plot, which is a rarity for me. I read for the characters, for the themes and tropes, for the relationships and the vulnerable moments. If the story has this I couldn't care less about the plot, it's the most forgettable part. But here the plot was so tightly woven with the characters and addressed everything that was setup before. The main villian was basically Aras's evil counterpart and the main conflict in the middle was the worst thing he could have done to another person with his power - the very thing Ryo was the most afraid of. Gotta say Ryo fooled me with his thoughts when he resisted the compulsion and the attention of a mind-reader, knowing his memories were manipulated even when convinced it was truth. That was amazingly powerful and hard to watch.
Ryo's strenght and struggle were so hard-earned and I couldn't breathe on his journey with Aras through the winter country as he fought himself the whole time. And the final having that impossible obstacle of facing that horrible man again? It was excellent low point, incredible stakes, and I felt so much for Ryo every step of the way.
I loved Aras. They say the key to memorable characters lies in contradictions, and his of being so gentle and generous, but ruthless when needed was amazing. It's an internal dilemma that wins him battles and tears him up in the process, and it's understandable, but it is forgivable? It came down even harder to this in Tarshana, the sequel I jumped to right away.
I didn't like Tarashana as much, so I'm going to review it here. The whole starlit people and the land of shades broke my suspension of disbelief in this setting. I can get behind people of the story believing in Gods, but I can't believe them to actually be there based on that alone and on spirits and people randomly coming to life.
What I did like was enjoying Ryo's pov again, the whole subplot with Tano and how he took care of him and the whole heartbreaking conflict and forgivness going on with Aras in the last third. It was an impossible situation, an understandable decision, but it was still so deplorable to go through that with Ryo, to feel his loss of will and trust. That conflict was excellent.
What I love about both books was the emphasis on generosity, customs of different cultures and their understanding and the fluffy moments between the characters. The friendships here are so pure and cute. I am so happy to find an author that understands and utilizes the hurt/comfort moments so much! No better way to show vulnerbility, building trust and the kindness characters can show each other. I loved how Suyet cared for Ryo when he got sick in Tuyo, I loved how worried Geras was and went to defend him, how Essau treated him and wanted to stay with him in the heat at the start of Tarashana, how hurt Aras was to see him afraid or in pain. I loved how Rakasa helped Tano stand during the whipping, how Ryo's father, despite the seriousness hyped out by Ryo, was so protective and proud of him and how he comforted him in his tent, after what Aras did to him in the land of shades. Geroyo being so ashamed for leaving Ryo to die he cut his hair and treating his wounds after the inTasiyo jerk attacked him, his worry and sense of responsibility. Ohhh and not mention Hokino being smart and awesome, testing how far would Ryo go to protect Aras in the first book and shaking Ryo out of his depression after his fallout with Aras in the second.
Ryo's family in general is so sweet. No sad everyone is dead backstories needed, their relationships are so grounded and real and nice. Especially Ryo's younger sister Etta was so cute and watching her find a husband Ryo was testing in the second book was hilarious. Ryo's brothers also have small meaningful roles and I enjoyed all their appearances.
There are so many favourite parts I have here, where characters are gentle and vulnerable and hurt while being strong and incredible in others. I'm going to be rereading these for a long time. This is going to very much be my comfort book and I am looking forward to Tasmakat. I jumped over Nikoles cause I couldn't stand the thought of not being with Ryo there, but I do keep my eyes open for an Essau centred book. He is one of my favourites, and his cold distrustful but totally protective and perceptive personality will be fascinating to follow.
I'm so glad I found the author's blog with regular updates about the process, writing tips and life updates. Amazing to be contact with such wonderful person, who has written a book so much to my tastes and desires. Can recommend to check out!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This was so good! How come I haven't heard of this book before?! It was just randomly generated as a rec for me on Amazon and I'm so glad I picked it up! The world was really well formed, as were all the characters. And the story is so great. It wasn't a sweeping epic. There wasn't a super complicated magic system. But the character growth! So great. The relationships that develop between all the various charcaters was so lovely and interesting to read. I laughed. I cried. I loved it.
An unexpected pleasure! I wish I could recall how I came to download the sample chapter for this one. Have I read other books with a war hostage at the center? It sounds like it ought to be a familiar trope but nothing comes to mind. (Edit: oh! Paladin’s Strength https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5...) Aras reminds me a bit of Bujold’s Aral Vorkosigan, though not quite so emo I guess.
It’s hard to decide what to rave about first when it comes to this book. I was moping around my house feeling sad all weekend and didn’t know why. Then it occurred to me that I had a severe book hangover. I hadn’t wanted the story to end. I wanted to read on and on and on.
The story is about Ryo, a young man from an unforgiving winter world. He’s left as a sacrifice—a tuyo—to the victor of a battle with the summer country. In his enemy’s hands, he expects to be brutalized and slain, but finds himself spared by their leader Lord Aras. Aras has other uses for him, forcing Ryo to rethink old notions about his world.
The driver of the magic and much of the conflict in this story is a form of sorcery that allows the reading and manipulation of thoughts. That’s powerful stuff and a huge advantage for those with the gift/curse. Neumeier manages the power differential with skillful control. She does a superb job of weaving the plot around this ability that strikes fear in most men, including Ryo who struggles to unravel truth from planted memories. This deftly crafted magic system is logical, complex, and the source of numerous plot twists and turns.
On top of that, the world-building is exceptional. I was charmed by the differences between the winter and summer countries, which were beautifully drawn, but it was the fully developed culture of Ryo’s people that had me mesmerized. It was profound in many ways, hard and tender, occasionally humorous, often dangerous, and rich with tradition and honor. I believed it completely.
It was Ryo’s first-person narration that created the link and revealed the depth of the culture and character-building. The POV is up close and personal, which immersed me in his story and didn’t let go. I think it was the deep connection to this character’s heart and soul that gave me my book hangover. The book works great as a standalone, but there are more stories in this world, which I’m sure to read.
I highly recommend this book to fantasy fans for sure, to readers who enjoy character and culture-driven tales, and to anyone who loves skillfully crafted stories with mesmerizing characters.
Made it 31% in before giving up. There’s nothing really bad about it, but there’s nothing that interesting about it either. And it’s reached a point that continuing is a chore and I was almost dreading lunch because then I have to continue reading.
So, the characters are all right. It’s got why should be a decent plot. But everything’s just a little too perfect and simple and easy. There’s no tension to hold me here. While there are the occasional moments, they're quickly resolved and then it's back to a cultural study with all the time in the world. Also, we're spending a lot of time in Ryo's head. The more interesting bits are where he's, you know, doing something, or at least talking to someone. But those bits are buffered by significant time in Ryo's head while they march along from one place to the next or while he sits in a tent.
This is not a perfect book, but it did work very well for me. It fell at times, into the fantasy problem of too many people and places and too many names, but I was able to follow along when I needed to.
It was a very kind book at its heart, and very romantic (but sadly, not a romance). I enjoyed myself greatly, and I look forward to reading the sequel.
DNFed at 21%. Firstly, the story is ‘overcoming cultural differences’ lite if anything. The differences are at least 50% physically driven not culturally driven; the language barrier is conveniently non-existent; both heroes save each other’s lives near the start of the story so goodwill is flowing; both cultures share a deep abhorrence of the same thing - sorcerors, etc.
In fact, military tactics aside, the only major cultural difference is the position of women — which runs the gamut from pseudo-powerful (women are only allowed women’s roles, but those roles have some power) to appalling (women are chattel and if rich put to childbearing in a dowered marriage, if poor, made to ‘serve’ groups of soldiers, yes it turned my stomach.) Our young hero mainly thinks about the physical differences between the women - sturdy vs thin - and how that affects his attraction to them. Because, yeah, when women are living in near-slavery, the important thing is are they cute?
Many reviewers have raved about the friendship between the heroes and what a relief that it’s not sexual. One is 19, the other 50. If anything this is not a friendship but rather a mentorship. A kindly uncle-type relationship. Between an older adult and a young adult whose cultural differences are not that huge at all.
Lastly, the whole physically different people being unable to live in each other’s countries seemed unbelievable given our young hero’s only light discomfort upon doing it, plus physical differences being tied to (or standing in for) cultural differences seemed vaguely racist.
I saw Tuyo on one of those lists of All Time Great Fantasy novels, and since I had never heard of the book nor its author (Rachel Neumeier) I looked in the library catalog to see if it was available. Although the book is self-published, I did find a trade paperback in the Seattle Public Library system. So I checked it out and gave it a try.
Neumeier constructs a fantasy landscape with two different environments. On the north side of a river is the land of the Ugaro - nomadic, barbarian tribesmen who live in a frozen terrain of ice and peaks, the snow apparently never melts there. Sometimes an especially deadly cold front called a "fengol" will descend upon the land, freezing anyone who is not protected and insulated. The Ugaro are light skinned, short but burly and powerfully built.
On the south side of the river (I don't recall if the river was ever named) is the land of Lau. The Lau are tall, thin and dark skinned; theirs is a land of dry arid landscape, with farms and towns and civilization. It was an unexplained mystery how two such different climates could exist on either side of a narrow river (the river is so unimposing that it can easily be swum across). There isn't any hint of magic dividing the land, keeping all the cold on one side and all the heat on the other bank - the reader is meant to just accept that this peculiar climate is how the land of Tuyo works. The front cover depicts this strange ecosystem.
The Ugaro fear sorcerers, and rightly so. In Tuyo, powerful sorcerers have the ability to read your mind, place false memories into your head, make you see illusions, or compel you obey their every command. A powerful sorcerer can apparently do all of these things to many people simultaneously. The most powerful sorcerers can control an entire army over large distances. How the sorcerer can exercise these powers is never explained, there are no spells nor exhaustion nor magic devices nor supernatural aides. The sorcerer seems to want something to occur, and it does. Weaker sorcerers can do "cantrips" such as start a fire or they can heat or cool the air over a small area.
The hero of Tuyo is Ryo, a Ugaro barbarian of the inGara tribe. Ryo has been left behind by his fleeing tribesmen - they are about to be overwhelmed by the superior Lau troops, and so the Ugaro offer a sacrifice to their enemies - take this victim, known as a "Tuyo", and let the rest of us escape. A Tuyo can be killed in any manner that the superior force desires, though hopefully it will be mercifully swift and his skull will be returned so it can sit on the same shelf alongside the skulls of his ancestors. But the Lau general, Lord Aras, does not kill Ryo, instead he makes him a special guest. For the next 200 pages, Aras and Ryo talk and apologize and make oaths and explain and apologize some more. Even worse, everyone in the Lau army talks this way (and later, when we meet up with some Ugaro barbarians, they talk in the same tiresome manner). Everyone is so damn empathic and trying to make themselves clear and working through unintended insults and on and on. It is quite tedious. Although there may indeed be a society that talks like this, it does not lend itself to snappy dialogue. Rather than being captured by an army of Lau soldiers, it seems as if Ryo has been captured by an army of therapists and counselors.
For some reason, Lord Aras spends hours and hours every evening talking to Ryo. Aras has been tasked with searching for a mighty sorcerer who is said to be prowling the borderlands - so shouldn't he have bigger concerns than one unimportant barbarian?
One thing that annoys me in novels is when the villain acts in a way that makes no sense except to throw up obstacles for the protagonist. I feel Tuyo was guilty of this flaw, as I shall explain in the spoiler section. A believable antagonist ought to be work to his/her own goals, seeking to advance whatever evil scheme they have in mind. When I read about a villain acting in a manner that apparently is merely to thwart the hero, I think that is lazy plotting by the author and I don't enjoy it.
Tuyo disappointed me; I will not search for the next book this series. I think I will skip Neumeier's books in the future.
I bought this book because one of Neumeier’s previous books (The Floating Islands) is one of my favorite books. Neumeier is very good at creating characters who come alive and keep a reader engaged in their story. In this one, Ryo is left as a sacrifice meant to make an enemy leave his people’s warband alone. Instead of killing him, Aras, the enemy’s leader, decided to use Ryo as a translator of language and culture as he tries to defuse a border war between their two peoples. There’s lots of action in this story, but it seems to me that what it’s really about is understanding and overcoming our fear of people who are different. It’s examines how we can ever know if what we think is true or, in some way, distorted. I was absorbed throughout.
This is my first experience with Neumeier's work, and I am so happy to have come across this book! Tuyo is an adult fantasy novel, and while the length is true to this description, it does have the feel of the classic epic fantasy that I grew up reading. The language, tone, and overall progression of the characters lend itself to more of a NA categorization, but this was not a detractor by any stretch.
Character is the primary focus of this work—we follow Ryo inGara after he is left as a sacrifice—a tuyo—as is the cultural norm of his people and is spared by Lord Aras, the warlord who comes upon him at his abandoned camp. Aras spares Ryo in the hopes that they can join together to defeat a plot that utilizes sorcery and threatens both of their lands and peoples. Initially, Ryo feels bound by honor to follow Lord Aras, although they are technically enemies. But as time progresses, their bond grows to genuine friendship and loyalty. Neumeier makes it a specific point throughout that this is a platonic relationship, to the end of being a bit heavy-handed, in my opinion. Despite these jarring insertions, the book's primary focus is on male platonic relationships and exploring the growth of these two men as they prepare for their goal's culmination.
World-building is secondary to character, but that doesn't mean that it isn't substantial. There is an interesting interplay of environmental determinism where cultures are quite literally defined by their geographical locations. Ryo is from the Winter Lands and the Ugaro people who are the people of the moon. Aras is from the Summer Lands and the Lau people. It gets particularly interesting because these tribes have explicitly evolved to only survive in their home climates—if a person from the Summer Lands were to travel into the Winter Lands, they would die of extreme frostbite and hypothermia. Similarly, those from the Winter Lands would die of heatstroke and sun damage if they were to venture into the Summer Lands.
Some other fascinating groups live in the North and South's further reaches, but it is clear that the focus is primarily on the Summer and Winter. The descriptions of the world and all of these various tribes felt a bit euro-centric, and I find that to be a frustrating trend in epic fantasy in general. However, Neumeier does not succumb to the common pitfall of resorting to thinly veiled prejudices that reflect real-world biases. Despite cultural prejudices that exist, the fact that humanity is shared across all groups is not ever in question.
The writing itself is where I had the biggest hang-ups. The sentence structure and dialogue is formatted in a clipped and formal way. This lends itself to that old-school fantasy feel, but it also made for reading that could be tedious for me. There was a general lack of varied descriptions. Because the novel is so character-based, most of the descriptive energy focuses on these people, and dialogue occupies a considerable part of the narrative space. I also would have liked to see some women in more prominent narrative positions throughout the novel's entirety. The main thrust of this story is a relationship between two men, but there was a lack of exploration outside of that, and I found it to be a noticeable drawback for me.
All in all, this is an excellent first entry in a series, and I am excited to see how this world is expounded upon and how the storytelling grows.
The winter and summer countries have been on and off at war for a long time. When things heat up again, Ryo inGara, the son of an important war leader from the winter country is left behind as a Tuyo, an offer, to be sacrificed by Lord Aras from the summer country. Ryo is ready to face the end of his life in the most savage way, but Lord Aras has different plans for him.
A character-driven tale, Tuyo is a story about sacrifice, honor, and the honest friendship between two men with very different upbringings. A clash of cultures, the learning of respect, and a story about the broadening of one’s own horizons.
The book is written in first person from Ryo’s point of view, and it shows how shocked he often is at how the people from the summer country do things. Also, Lord Aras is not your typical power-thirsty lord, and his laid-back ways, empathy, and respect make him an admired and loved leader.
Both Ryo and Aras evolve in this story, and their relationship gets shaped by the many events happening in the book, in a world where the greater good and honor are more important than life itself.
The writing style feels clunky at times, but this is done on purpose, as the story is told by Ryo, from the winter country. Considered more rudimentary and primitive than the men of the summer country, they have a different set of values and ways of doing things. I have to say that the illusion of listening to Ryo’s thoughts was very well done, it was like listening to a real person’s thoughts. I think I got to know him quite well, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes, making the clash of cultures very palpable. None of both cultures was the best in every aspect, and both Ryo and Lord Aras realize this after the many challenges they face together.
This was a fine work of epic fantasy that reminded me of the classics, with a complex world-building but without going into much detail, as it’s just a backdrop for the main characters to shine and show their respective cultures.
Patrick McAffrey’s narration felt a bit hesitant at first, with unexpected pauses in the narration. The rhythm improved after a little while, but there were some details that we often see on not very experienced narrators, like background noises and some voices that sounded too similar. The two main characters sounded quite different though, and McAffrey’s interpretations were vivid and expressive, which made for an overall enjoyable narration.
In general, I was impressed by this story and I’m looking forward to the second book.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.