I was provided a copy of this book by the author for a fair and honest review.
The Drowning Land is prehistorical fiction, set in northern Europe a little over eight thousand years ago. It combines adventure, a romance, and disaster against the setting of a land that literally is sinking beneath the sea.
It is based on an event that UK archeology teams described in 2009, where a huge underwater slide created a sudden and catastrophic tsunami that engulfed Doggerland. Doggerland connected Great Britain to the European continent and was a rich habitat for the Mesolithic populations. It is now submerged beneath the southern North Sea. When the author heard this description, his mental image of peoples looking up at the onrushing wave triggered his desire to write a story about it. The author describes all this at the end of the book, and I wish it had come as a prologue. My lack of knowledge led to some confusion in my reading of the story.
Edan, one of the two main characters, is the member of a Mesolithic tribe, dark-skinned, blue-eyed, short and wiry. For millennia, the tribe has migrated with the seasons between the coastal ‘Summer Lands’ (Doggerland) and the highlands in the winter, following the rigid rule of tribal tradition and despite the fact that the Summer Lands are gradually being poisoned by rising salt water. Edan rescues a ‘troll’ named Tara from another predatory tribal group with wolves as their totem, led by a war-chieftain named Phelan. Tara is at least partially Neanderthal, based on her description. She has foreseen the drowning of their lands and is on a quest at the direction of her tribes’ elders to discover if the spirit world can be aroused at a sacred place – a site about which Tara has only minimal information. In rescuing her, Edan accidently kills one of Phelan’s followers, and he and Tara become separated from his tribe as they flee from Phelan’s people and the rising seas everywhere, while trying to find the place Tara seeks. Their odyssey through increasingly drowning lands is one of growth and change, and, not surprisingly, of love, and will determine their fate and that of the Summer Lands.
The author has done considerable research in making his historical fiction plausible – the living spaces, the food, the implements used and the weapons. The humans that populate this world are also very believable. Edan and Tara are compelling characters with weaknesses and strengths, and after the first few chapters, which are slowly paced, I became completely engaged in their saga. His descriptions of the different lives of various tribes – hunters, gatherers, fishermen – ring true, as well as the zeitgeist of this prehistorical time, a tribute to the author’s ability to imagine himself living eight thousand years ago. It reminds me a great deal of a favorite of mine, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel.
Issues for me:
The author describes the history of Doggerland and the peoples who populated it at the end of the book. I wish it had been placed at the beginning, since my lack of knowledge led to some confusion.
The map at the beginning shows the land described by the author with the names of landmarks in the story, but I had no clue what I was looking at and where it was located relative to the larger picture of the land at that time. I badly needed a compass on that map!
There were some slower parts to the book, which might have been eliminated with some judicious editing.