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Bear Daughter    by Judith Berman order for
Bear Daughter
by Judith Berman
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This coming of age story takes a most unusual slant. Its young heroine, named Cloud by her protective aunt Glory, spent her early life as a 'four-legs', a bear cub born of the forced union between an immortal king of the Winter People, 'people of darkness, hunger, and storm' and princess Thrush of Halibut House. At the age of twelve, the cub lost her 'spirit mask', woke up one morning as a girl, and then had to learn how to be one - from walking on two legs to talking and eating with her hands.

From her new people, who fish for 'Bright Ones' (salmon) and halibut, and trade for slaves with other communities, Cloud learns that her father abducted Thrush, and killed the princess's brothers when they attempted to rescue her. Her mother's violent new husband, King Rumble, killed Cloud's father and small brothers, and hid their bones, preventing their rebirth, and gaining some of their power. The ambitious Rumble and his powerful wizard, Bone, watch the girl closely, while Cloud dreams often of small boys playing, of their screams, and pleas for her to save them. After Rumble tries to kill her, Cloud flees by canoe, pursued by Bone's spirits.

After a grueling journey, Cloud is helped by her wizard uncle Otter to reach Whale Town, where her aunt Winter is a seer. Though her arrival brings trouble for them, Otter and Winter help Cloud. She is forced to flee Rumble again, and seeks a way to release her brothers' ghosts. This leads to many hardships, anguish, and gripping adventures for Cloud as she explores and discovers the worlds of both parents. She spends time with First People, both Summer and Winter immortals. As the amnesiac Pearlshell, she bears a child to one. And she struggles with her feelings for a prince of the orcas who is kind to her, Black Fin.

In a tale rich in mythology, Cloud sadly acknowledges her mother's weakness as she develops her own strength. Concluding, Judith Berman tells us, 'She thought she had lost the end of her story, but after all it was the beginning she hadn't been able to find.' I highly recommend Bear Daughter to both teen and adult fantasy readers.

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