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The Bird of the River    by Kage Baker order for
Bird of the River
by Kage Baker
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Bird of the River, Kage Baker takes us back to the wonderful fantasy world of The Anvil of the World and The House of the Stag for a very satisfying coming of age adventure that takes place during a river barge journey.

Young Eliss looks after both her younger half-Yendri brother Alder and her diver mother Falena, who is a Yellow addict. When she sees an opportunity for her mother to work on the huge river barge Bird of the River, Eliss pushes Falena into applying for work as a shallow-diver, clearing snags and (rarely) salvaging wrecks.

Tragedy strikes after a headless corpse is discovered in the river (believed to be that of one of the powerful Diamondcuts), but Eliss and Alder remain aboard. Eliss finds she has a talent for spotting snags from high up the mast.

Life improves for Eliss and Alder but there are mysteries aboard the river barge. Why does Captain Glass never go ashore, but rather retires to his cabin and drinks huge quantities of any alcohol available at every stop? Who is the aristocratic boy, Krelan Silvering (who joins the crew soon after the corpse is found), and what is he up to? And why are all the places where the barge docks attacked by bandits?

After a Yendri holy man joins the barge as a passenger, Alder spends all his time with him, hoping to learn of his Yendri heritage, and seeking news of his father. Eliss becomes entangled in Krelan's mission - she keeps his secrets, aids his investigation (with some supernatural assistance), and helps him find his way to a new life.

Sadly, this delightful fantasy was released after Kage Baker's death in January 2010. She will be badly missed, both for her excellent and unusual fantasies and for her brilliantly satirical and long-running Company time travel series.

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