Monday, June 23, 2014

The Days of the Deer (Saga of the Borderlands) by Liliana Bodoc

Mulluane | Monday, June 23, 2014 | 12 Comments so far

It is known that the strangers will sail from some part of the Ancient Lands and will cross the Yentru Sea. All our predictions and sacred books clearly say the same thing. The rest is all shadows. Shadows that prevent us from seeing the faces of those who are coming.

In the House of Stars, the Astronomers of the Open Air read contradictory omens. A fleet is coming to the shores of the Remote Realm. But are these the long-awaited Northmen, returned triumphant from the war in the Ancient Lands? Or the emissaries of the Son of Death come to wage a last battle against life itself?

From every village of the seven tribes, a representative is called to a Great Council. One representative will not survive the journey. Some will be willing to sacrifice their lives, others their people, but one thing is certain: the era of light is at an end.

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The Day of the Deer by Liliana Bodoc

| Source: Won in a Tor Sweepstakes
| Author: Liliana Bodoc 
| Genre: Epic Fantasy
| Content: Alternate history, Mythology
| ISBN-10: 1848870280
| ISBN-13: 9781848870284
| Publisher: Atlantic Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2014)
| Translated by Nick Caistor and Lucia Caistor Arendar
| Mass Market Paperback: 318 pages
| Cover Artist: Ghost
| Rating: 3/5 Stars
| Affiliate Links:
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The Days of the Deer (Saga of the Borderlands, #1)

♦ Mini Review ♦
Tired of Epic Fantasy set in medieval times? Looking for a change of scenery that is familiar and yet different? This book may fit the bill. Set mainly in South America, in the 15th century, this tale takes a familiar era and turns it upside down and inside out.

Epic Fantasy Book Review by Mulluane

♦ The Story ♦

Imagine South America in the 15th century. Great stepped pyramids, tropical jungles, fertile plains. A peaceful land where conflict is restricted to the occasional clan dispute. Now stop right there because that is where history as we know it ends and Liliana Bodoc's magical world begins. Alternate history barely describes this story. This is a new world, a world ruled by magic and stalked by evil.

♦ My Thoughts ♦

I read this book from cover to cover and honestly I'm having trouble reviewing it. Either I have been just too distracted lately or I missed something because I just didn't get it. I spent the whole book pretty much confused and detached. But that is OK because most of the characters had no idea what they were doing either.

Part of the problem was the over-hype. This author is being referred to as the "Tolkien of the Americas." I don't see it myself. I lived Tolkien's works. I was a distant observer at best in this book.

Throughout events felt so distant. There is a definite storytelling feel to this story. Problem is, it also felt like the players were learning their lines as they went along. Emotions were observed but not felt. Characters had personalities but they felt dry and lifeless. There is a solid story here but if you love character-driven fantasy, this definitely isn't it.

♦ What I Liked ♦

I liked the mythology behind the story. I enjoyed the straight forward conflict of good versus evil. And I had a great admiration for the natives who not only lived off the land but treated it with respect and appreciation.

The worldbuilding was, at times, beautifully portrayed. Liliana Bodoc obviously loves her home and takes great pains to recreate its past only with lots of magic.

♦ What I didn't like ♦

Almost the entire story hinges around the fact that the astrologers can no longer determine the future. They know ships are coming but they have no idea who occupies those ships. It could be the ultimate source of all evil, or it could be the North Americans returning from the "ancient lands." Since they have no idea who is coming, they don't know what to do; prepare a homecoming or prepare for war.

The majority of this book is spent in endless debate, talk, doubletalk, hidden agendas, secret meetings, then more debate. I was just as lost as the characters were. I kept waiting for something to be resolved and the debate just kept running around in circles. By the time there was any action, my brain was numb. But I was still looking for the promised Tolkien quality so I kept reading. I never found it. Closest I got was the one Earth wizard who appeared to be the only guy with a clue but he spends very little time in the foreground. Everytime he shows up, he saves the day then rushes back off to do who knows what somewhere else.

There is one other little thing, barely worth mentioning but it bugged me for some reason. Sometimes the terminology used felt off. For example, when introduced to horses for the first time the natives decided to call them "animals with manes." Really? How exactly would they even know what a mane was? I could be wrong but I don't believe there are any animals native to South America that had manes. But, in defense of the novel, maybe something got lost in translation. Maybe they made up a word on the spot to describe manes. The phrase just felt off and unwieldy to me.

There were other things that threw me off stride but I'll be pushing into spoiler land if I discuss those and I really try not to do that.

♦ Conclusion ♦

Unfortunately I have to rate this book as OK but nothing special. I know Liliana Bodoc made this world her own. However, while I recognized some connections between our world and hers, I feel like there were more I just didn't see. It could be that the disconnection I felt was due to a lack of knowledge on my part and not the fault of the book at all. But, as I discussed before, that wasn't my only problem. The characters felt one dimensional. The most interesting character made only a few appearances and I really believe I would have enjoyed this story more if I could have tagged along with him instead of all the others.

This may be worth checking out as an alternative to medieval based fantasy. There are other reviews besides mine that thought it was wonderful. All I can say is it just wasn't my cuppa tea.

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books, Affiliate Links

Librarything 4/5

Amazon: 5/5
(2 customer Reviews)

What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: The Days of the Deer (SAGA OF THE BORDERLANDS)

Audible: No

Buy Book: AbeBooks ~ Books-A-Million

Book Depository

Amazon: US ~ Canada ~ UK
♦ About the Author ♦

Liliana Bodoc is an Argentinian writer whose narrative works, including the fantasy trilogy Los saga de los Confines, became bestsellers in Latin America.

Already read the book? Please share your own opinion!

Epic Fantasy Book Review of The Days of the Deer (Saga of the Borderlands) by Liliana Bodoc - Reviewed by Mulluane - on May 16 2014 - Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Mulluane is a 55-year-old proud grandmother of 4, who is passionate about her pets, blogging, traditional fantasy, and tinkering with webdesign. She is obssesively photo shy but she uses an avatar that accurately represents her dreams. ♥ You can also find her on:

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Dragons, Heroes and Wizards


  1. That does sound like the promise just didn't deliver. That's usually frustrating. {Sympathetic Smile}

    I've learned that when folks compare a work to Tolkien, I should expect fantasy, and that's about it. Stronger parallels are nice when they show up, but too often they don't. I think that analogy is popular in fantasy simply because Tolkien is popular, and is particularly famous for his fantasy. {lop-sided Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. The lack of strong characters makes a book weak, indeed, because even the most promising story cannot hold without characters we care for (or even hate, why not?). What we ask from a book is to lose ourselves in it, and this one seems to fail in that respect. What a pity, because the premise sounds interesting!

  3. I'm going to answer you both at once since the answer is the same.

    I wonder though how much is lost in translation. I'm not knocking the translators mind you but I don't think a translated work ever matches the original exactly. From what little I remember of Spanish from elementary school, they phrase things differently than we do. A translator would have to completely rearrange the words, plus use words or phrases we can connect with. A daunting task to say the least.

    This is the second translated work I've read and both felt flat so maybe I'll just steer away from those from now on.

    1. You have a point. Translations can work - I've seen some which do - but I think they markedly reduce the success rate of stories. Both the original story and the translation have to work to make a story really enjoyable.

      I know I have three translations of Hans Christian Andersen's stories because of the problems of translations. One is by a translator who produced very enjoyable stories, but didn't translate that many. One is by a translator who didn't do as enjoyable a job as the first, but still produced readable stories. There is overlap, but some of the stories are different, and there are more stories in the second book in any case. The third book is as dry and dull a translation of Hans Christian Andersen's stories as I've found. However, this book includes every single story HCA ever wrote, including the ones that aren't usually mentioned. It's no good for sitting and reading, but if I need to look something up, it will have it, so I can at least see what the story says. I think the main time I used it was several years ago when a literature-analysis article used "The Girl who Walked on Bread" as an example, that's the only book that had the thing. Seeing what it said helped me see the points the author of the article was trying to make much better. {Smile}

      So anyway, translations can work, but don't always. I certainly don't blame you if you decide to look at works that don't need both a good writer and a good translator to work. {Smile, wink}

      Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    2. Ah translations... This is a sore point for me, because I gave up on translated works long ago, after discovering that most of them are essentially flawed: on one side there is the difficulty of maintaining the original's word flow (a daunting task, as you call it, that's true, but not impossible), and on the other there is the problem of time and money.

      I've heard from people who work as professional translators that publishing houses give little time and money for what is a very delicate job, and this can sometimes result in disasters.

      So I'm not surprised that the translation felt "flat" or that you might have read a very different book from the original, at least where the "music" of the language is concerned. This might have made a huge difference....

  4. Oo, I am always excited about fantasy that takes place somewhere different, but I don't think I could handle the slow plot line.... Oh well!

    1. Hi Anya!

      Yeah I had some high hopes myself. Especially with the Ursula K. LeGuin endorsement. The promise was there, the execution not so much. :>(

  5. HI, I want to invite you to see some art inspired in these books.

    1. Thanks for the link! The artwork is stunning :>)

  6. I realize this is and old post but I thought I should give the Latin point of view :) I'm from Argentina and I've read the whole saga in Spanish and then, little bits of Days of the Deer in English. The translation sounds a bit strange to me and I can tell that something is definitely lost in it (but that's inevitable with any translation). It doesn't sound as fluid or musical as it does in Spanish. Regarding the "animals with mane", the original word used is "cabellera", which only applies to human hair, so it doesn't sound strange in Spanish.
    As for the characters, they do develop more throughout the rest of the saga, but perhaps you should think of them as part of a community, which is how they see themselves, rather than a group of individuals. This is a retelling of the Conquest of America by the Spanish, so I think you would more likely understand and enjoy these novels from a Latin American point of view. The sense of community and collective work is very strong among natives in South America (which is where the saga is mostly placed, but it does include Europe in books 2 and 3). I recently attended a lecture Bodoc gave at mi university; she talked a bit about comments made to her by the editor of the first book, and she claimed that what's important in the Saga is the sense of community and that the work left unfinished by someone will be completed by someone else, so characters by themselves are not that crucial to the story.
    I can totally understand what you mean when you say the characters felt lifeless to you, because that's what usually happens to me with Tolkien. I cannot relate to his characters nor feel anything for them, however I cried with this whole saga. I think this is probably has to do with cultural differences. If you read Hernán Cortés' letters, for example, you would connect the prophecy that aztheques had, about their God's return, to the confusion surrounding the arrival of the sideresios in the book. But that kind of literature is not widely read in the English-speaking world (not here either, by the way, at least not in schools), so a lot of connections like this one will be lost.
    I did enjoy books 2 and 3 more than the first one. I think it's worth giving them a chance.

    1. I suspected that alot was lost in the translation and lost on me for not having a wealth of historical knowledge to back the story up.

      I am enlightened by your observations about the importance of community as opposed to individuals. Being a "sympathetic" character lover, I was looking for individuals to love, hate or cheer for. Not finding any, my review may have been harsher than the book deserved.

      Evidentually, I should have been looking for groups to get behind.

      Your well thought out comment is priceless and points out the reason why I think a wide variety of views/reviews is vital. What I enjoy differs from what others enjoy and if my perception is flawed by the limits of my own expectations, I love having that pointed out.

      Thank You!

  7. Just a little thing: it's not only latin america it's the entire american continent (north, central and south) before 1942 and columbus.


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