The Braided Stream follows on The Replacement Chronicles, and as with the previous tale of an early Homo sapiens woman named Raven, it is a meticulously researched story. Raven, known as a healer, had mated with a Neanderthal man she calls a Longhead, who was captured by her clan. The Longhead was released and returned to his family.
Now Raven has taken a young brave of her tribe called Leaf as her mate, and when her half-Neanderthal, half-Home Sapiens daughter, whom she names Wren, is born, Leaf agrees to be her father. She has two children with Leaf, Sky age six, and Windy, three, and they live with the Wind Tribe in what was Ice Age Eurasia. Raven is now considered the healer for her tribe, and on a day while she treats a young woman covered with bruises for tension and headache, she is confronted by a large raven. Raven considers the bird a harbinger of some event, which she feels is not good, and she wonders where Leaf and Wren have gone to hunt. Neither has returned, and when they are still missing the next day, Raven persuades the chief to give her some men – only two trackers as it turns out – to try to find where they’ve gone.
Raven and the trackers discover Leaf and Wren have been taken by several men with large footprints that Raven believes are those of Longheads. When they follow the tracks, they are swept away by a flash flood and Raven is severely injured. A man from Raven’s distant past – Chukar, the Longhead father of Wren — appears to take care of her.
Leaf and Wren have been taken by Chukar’s mother, Elder Woman, a wily and devious old woman who is a healer and leader of her clan. She has devised nefarious plans to use both Leaf and Wren to rescue her tribe from extinction. When Raven returns with Chukar to Elder Woman’s clan, the reader becomes immersed in Neanderthal culture and custom.
The story is told from shifting points of view, so you can see the panorama of the story through the eyes of Raven, Leaf and Elder Woman. Their stories blend effortlessly, a somewhat easier transition than that of the previous book, which wove back and forth from the present to the past.
Will Raven and Leaf escape with Wren to return to the Wind River tribe? Can they outwit Elder Woman? Is Raven Chukar’s mate or Leaf’s or both?
The details of the landscape, food, herbal remedies, animals, hunting, and clothing are both fascinating and rich. The concern for tribal survival is a constant undercurrent, which comes to the forefront with the after-effects of a nearby asteroid strike that devastates the land. The characters are so well-described you can easily see them and the historical detail is on par with Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series, enhancing the strong story line.
With all of the recent research into Neanderthals, this book hits the mark – they coexisted with modern humans for over 5000 years and were not the ape-like creatures they were originally thought to be: Neanderthals had very complex social structures and used languages to communicate. Some evidence reveals they were able to play musical instruments too. The author has used all this new information to create a great book.
I strongly recommend The Braided Stream to anyone who has ever wondered about our prehistoric ancestors, and to readers who like tales of strong women!
PS I think the cover is fabulous!
About the author
Harper Swan lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband and two sweet but very spoiled cats. She is the author of has Gas Heat, a story of family angst taking place in the Deep South, and found the inspiration in the books by Jean Auel. She has drawn on her interests in archaeology, genetics, ancient history and archaeological finds from Paleolithic sites to create the world of The Braided Stream.
You can find Harper Swan
On Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/10769023.Harper_Swan
The Braided Stream is available on Amazon
Stay tuned for my next review: the origins of Robin Hood!