Adventure, seeing the world and new people is what trader apprentice Laki anticipates as the boat from Otter Village makes its way to Cow Village. Once there she is intrigued by the quiet Bokka who stays on the fringe of every group, but when her precious necklace disappears she can think of nothing else but finding it.
Bokka is captivated by the newcomer Laki and wants to be close to her but doesn’t know how. Between hunting for limpets to eat and shaping her newest carving stone, she manages to stay somewhat close to her. She sees that Laki is very distraught by the disappearance of her intricate bone necklace and isn’t sure what to do about it.
The women are drawn together as they navigate new love, village politics and huge decisions that will shape the course of their lives.
I wondered how the author would portray the enormous cultural differences between our time and an inconceivably long ago age and was not disappointed. Only remnants of houses and a few hundred carved stones like the one Bokka works on is what remains of that long ago culture, so a good deal of conjecture is needed to give the story a solid setting. Without falling into the trap of using too much modern language, the author portrays what we would consider a hardscrabble life but to the characters is just the way things are, and sets a sweet romance into it.
There is also the issue of Bokka being on the autism spectrum. With no name by other characters for how she is except “weird”, the author gives her a strong voice and an interesting, creative and loving personality. For the modern reader, knowing Bokka would have little to no aid for this difference creates an added suspense hanging over the whole story. The stone ball she works on throughout the story intrigued me and with a little searching I read about Towie Balls, which made the story even more personal.
Pros And My Favourite Parts
The story is absolutely different than anything I’ve read before. The Orkneys are an especially interesting area for early peoples because the environment is so harsh. There aren’t many novels set in the stone age, I suspect because it’s difficult to do without modern tropes popping up to trip the reader, while maintaining a balance with enough modern tone to make the story palatable. There are a lot of similarities between stone age cultures wherever they were, so with a little research an author can create a believable scenario and I found this one fascinating and solid for a romance.
The seamless setting allowed the author to play around a bit, using ey/eir pronouns for some of the characters, not all of them queer. We don’t know for sure how queer people were treated back then, but I assume it was different than today. I like how the author uses that license to create a safe space for the women to fall in love, even as their lives weren’t easy in other ways.
On the surface the tale seems really simplistic but I was quickly sucked into the women’s lives and their way of life and how surprisingly intricate their predicament became as they had to make some huge decisions about their future together. I found myself wondering how I would proceed given their circumstances. It made me think about some serious issues for longer than just reading the book and that’s always a pleasure.
There is some bullying and attempted assault.
Laki and Bokka are from two different villages in long ago stone age Scotland, but when they meet they’re immediately drawn to each other. As a creative person, and because she’s smitten, Bokka is especially interested in Laki’s intricate bone necklace and is distraught by Laki’s distress when it goes missing.
Though this is a sequel, the book absolutely works alone. An intriguing and well-crafted setting sets the stage for a sweet romance in a surprisingly complicated story. Sexuality is not as much of an issue in this story as Bokka’s autism and how the world reacts to her. I enjoyed every aspect of the book and was pleased with how much thought it stimulated even after I was finished reading.
Excerpt from Carving a New Shape by Rhiannon Grant
“How many are we after?”
Bokka shrugged. “As many as we can find. Eight, maybe? Eight would be good. If we eat one each, that’s you and me and my parents and Aiso and Aiso’s son and a couple to give away or save for tomorrow. One crab this size is a good meal. I don’t like sharing them.”
“Okay, let’s try.” Laki felt awkward following Bokka’s nimble steps over the rocks, and not only because she was carrying the jar as well as trying not to slip. There was a lot demanding her attention: the rocks, her feet, the jar, Bokka’s feet, Bokka’s hips, the confident way she hopped across the uneven ground, the relaxation in her shoulders now they were away from the village. Laki liked to see it and she watched appreciatively –but only for a moment, because her toes slid across a patch of seaweed and she had to jerk her focus back to her own balance before she fell.
By the time the waves began to come up the rocks towards them, they had seven crabs and Bokka said they should turn around. “We might find one we missed on the way back, but we don’t want to get washed into the sea here.”
“No –one thing to swim by the sandy beach…”
“A few years back a man was killed because the waves washed him off these rocks.” Bokka didn’t say it dramatically, simply as a fact, but the image still made Laki shiver and pay renewed attention to her steps. Bokka was carrying the jar now, and Laki had begun to feel more confident to choose the safe places to put down her feet. Not anymore. There wouldn’t be any blood left to see, of course, but Laki’s imagination was happy to fill it in. A body swept back against the rocks and thrown down on these sharp points.
She’d stopped walking. Bokka looked back. “Are you okay?”
Laki took a deep breath. She could smell seaweed and salt, the normal scents of the water’s edge.
“Yes,” she said. “Yes, sorry.”
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Series: Lesbian Love in Neolithic Orkney
Between Boat and Shore
Carving a New Shape
Bits and Bobs
ASIN number: B0C9XK3F2V
Publisher: Indie Author
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Note: I received a free review copy of Carving a New Shape by Rhiannon Grant. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site