ON THE BRINK OF SHARDS by NANCY RIVEST GREEN
A REVIEW by MARTHA SHIDELER
But know now and for always, that the Beloved Spirit has a life planned for each and every one of us. Nothing is by chance. We who live in this one small place on our Bountiful Mother may not be able to see or understand all reasons.
Guided by this wisdom from the clan shaman, Kaiya, a young girl from a peaceful tribe in what is now Northern Arizona, follows her life path through many adventures in this ancient land.
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Nancy Green has written a fascinating account of life in the southwest of 1000 years ago. Tying together two cultures—the pre-Aztec Toltecs of central Mexico and the Puebloan peoples of Northern Arizona, Green traces the lives of Toltec Priest Drok and Shaman/Healer Kaiya as they grow from children into adulthood during troubled times for their peoples.
Green’s impressive knowledge of these cultures is revealed in her descriptions of kiva rituals, healing ceremonies, and the cultural practices of two great civilizations. Familiar with such places as Walnut Canyon, Chaco, Wupatki, the Little Colorado River, Grand Canyon, and various other archaeological sites throughout the Southwest, she uses her skill as a writer to turn these facts into riveting adventure.
Another of Green’s strengths as an author is her ability to delve into her characters’ psychology. Drok’s appalling blood lust, violence, and craving for power is explained as the result of the abusive treatment he received at the hands off his cruel, drunken father and others in the city. The orphaned Kaiya, on the other hand, is surrounded by love as she is trained by her clan’s shaman to be a healer. The differences between the two–Drok’s love of cruelty and Kaiya’s love for all creatures–hints at their future cataclysmic confrontation.
Much of the story covers Kaiya’s desperate attempts to escape this confrontation–running from her homeland as far as the distant Grand Canyon–but it is there in the Mother Canyon that the two finally meet as has been foretold.
The book, similar in many ways to Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, is at once a depiction of the perennial battle between good and evil and an exciting adventure story. This novel also gets high marks for its sensitive and sympathetic portrayal of gay men and the physically disabled.
Definitely a page-turner, I highly recommend On the Brink of Shards for anyone liking fast-paced adventure or having an interest in the magnificent cultures of the Ancient Southwest.
BOOK REVIEW FOR ON THE BRINK OF SHARDS – by Margie Erhart
In her first novel, On The Brink Of Shards, Nancy Green deftly weaves the stories of Kaiya and Drok, her two protagonists, into a powerful tapestry that brings to life the Toltec and Ancient Puebloan cultures of Mexico and the American Southwest. This book is about loss and love, about journeying forth and coming home. Ultimately, it is about the choices we make that decide our very human fates.
The arc of storytelling is one of Green’s greatest strengths. The narration is shaped like a pair of folded hands, two separate stories coming together—interlacing—to create a dramatic climax and resolution. Her choice to set the novel at the end of the first millennium C.E. seems almost arbitrary, given the fact that it is a very modern tale—the tale of corruption of power that finally meets its match; or the transformation of loss into love and healing; or the forces of dark and light in a deadly clash; or a woman, a seer, whose great love is sightless; or an abused boy who becomes a man who abuses.
The themes of the novel are perennial, enduring, as is the setting of the book: the Colorado Plateau and the Grand Canyon. This is Green’s home country, country she can navigate blindfolded—or blind, as does her character, Kayko. This familiarity is apparent in her comfortable portrayal of Kaiya’s journeys through that land with her two companions, her mentor and her uncle. Days of walking and observing the natural world remind us that Green herself, a millennium later, has done this observing and walking, and writes about it with ease.
If there is any place On The Brink Of Shards falls short, it is in the rush to move the story along and the subsequent sacrifice of depth of character. It is a difficult task to portray two ancient civilizations in terms we readers of the 21st century can understand, but Green has done it. This is a book you can dive into and appreciate not only for its intent to bring history to life, but its accurate illustration of the unchanging nature of human concerns.
– Margaret Erhart
ON THE BRINK OF SHARDS, a prehistoric novel by Nancy Rivest Green
Review by David Seals
An epic contrast of good and evil in prehistoric Meso-America, ‘On The Brink Of Shards’ by Nancy Green is an educational novel full of information.
Kaiya is a peace-loving woman in the northern reaches that would become New Mexico and Arizona, and she is a traditional healer too. Drok is a violent Toltec priest and warrior who performs awful human sacrifices in the name of Tlaloc, an unresponsive rain god. Inevitably they clash in a surprising, dramatic climax somewhere around the ‘Mother Canyon’ to help determine whether the course of subsequent indigenous history will turn out bad or good.
It also questions what effect mankind has on the balance and flow of Nature and the many gods, or Spirits, who populate their cultures.