The Leopard's Daughter
Yard Dog Press
DESCRIPTION: In the long-ago days when verdant grasslands covered the Sahara and demons walked the world of Men, the warrior-woman Jeneba struggles to find acceptance in her small village. Though her mother's brother is the tribe's honored chieftain, her father was a leopard-man, tainting her warrior blood with an animal spirit. Desperate to prove herself the equal of the men and women who look at her askance, she tries to deny her heritage... until a leopard's unasked-for advice saves her life and the lives of her kinsmen. Even then, when she should be hailed as a hero, the others turn their shoulders as they would to a witch, a distrust that only grows when she accuses Tomo, one of her uncle's bravest warriors, of cowardice in battle. But Tomo disappeared in the chaos; only Jeneba believes that he ran away, instead of dying a hero's death. Determined to clear her slandered name, Jeneba sets out from her village to track him down and bring him back to stand for his crimes. Only the world is much, much larger than Jeneba could have imagined, with troubles far greater than her wounded pride. If she is to survive the journey the gods have in store for her, she will need every drop of her warrior's skills, her mother's bravery - and her father's preternatural, predatory gifts.
REVIEW: Stepping away from the usual quasi-medieval European setting, Killough establishes a brightly diverse prehistoric world, where magic is real, inhuman demons prey on unwary travelers, and animals wield mystic powers. The many beliefs and tribes named, each with a distinctive appearance, dress, and scars or tattoos, grows a little overwhelming, but it's easy enough to keep track of the main characters. Jeneba finds herself in some very unusual company, traveling to the far-flung corners of her world in the name of honor - a word that she comes to re-evaluate during her adventures, as she experiences more of the world beyond her own people. She must also, as one might expect, re-evaluate her relationship with her father's people and her own leopard spirit, learning to walk a fine path between animal and woman. Along the way, she encounters plenty of fights and demons and magic, even walking into the underworld of the dead... which varies from her own people's tales because she goes in search of a ghost from another tribe. It only lost a point because the ending feels a bit abrupt, and because the tribe-tangle grows distracting once in a while. There are also some editing errors that, while minor, were subtly annoying. Overall, though, I enjoyed this journey into a long-lost prehistory that never was.