cover image White Mare's Daughter

White Mare's Daughter

Judith Tarr. Forge, $27.95 (496pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86112-4

Culture clashes, war and goddess worship set the stage for Tarr's well rounded and lively prehistoric epic set in Eastern Europe circa 4500 B.C. Among the nomadic White Horse tribe, tomboyish Sarama is the servant of the White Mare, the incarnation of the Horse Goddess. Because of her station, Sarama is allowed freedom denied to women of the White Horse, but she never feels truly comfortable in the tribe. So when the Goddess wills her to seek out the legendary civilization where women are rumored to be kings, Sarama is relieved to follow her duty. Her quest brings her to the western land held by the Lady (another representation of the Goddess), a place that has never seen a man in power, a horse--or war. Sarama soon realizes that her destiny is to teach this peaceful society to fight against the inevitable advancement of the tribes. But she doesn't know that it will be her twin brother, Agni, who will lead the invasion. Tarr's skillful juxtaposition of two vastly different yet spiritually similar societies gives a sharp edge to this feminist epic. She focuses the plot on the personal struggles of Sarama, Agni and the Lady's people as they struggle to understand each other's cultures, and she delves into the implications of the societies' inescapable meeting--the destruction of matriarchal society. Although the narrative is somewhat encumbered by frothy narration, Tarr's fully fleshed-out characters and solid, intricate plotting add depth to an entertaining saga. (June)