When the Neanderthal band led by the old matriarch, Elder Woman, ventures out to the edges of the Great High Plains, Raven’s tranquil life with the Wind tribe is turned upside down. Her life mate, Leaf, and her oldest daughter, Wren, have suddenly gone missing, and Raven suspects that Elder Woman is behind their disappearance.
The Braided Stream picks up Raven’s story as she, her mate Leaf and eldest daughter Wren were living with the Wind tribe. Leaf and Wren had gone to check the fish traps but were late returning and Raven was worried as night was almost upon them.She wanted to mount a search but the band’s leader, Fin, was dismissive of her worries. Leaf and Wren still hadn’t returned by morning and, convinced they were in danger, Raven set out to search for them with two of the camp’s trackers, Long and Short. Eventually they came across signs that showed lots of footprints were mixed in with those of Leaf and Wren. Footprints that Raven recognised.
Long glanced at Short. “I’d say that two full-grown men came upon them in these bushes. One had on moccasins, and the other was barefooted.”
“I agree,” Short said. “Big men.” Clearly awed, he squatted down beside the prints. “They have feet larger than any I’ve seen.”
Raven’s hands strayed to her mouth as she stared at how the toes of the barefooted man had splayed in the sand. Those feet were indeed large—and very wide. Beyond that, they were familiar. She’d seen prints like those before.
Raven and her two companions followed the tracks into a canyon but the trail was leading them into the heart of a storm. Long and Short were lost in the deluge which flooded the canyon. Raven was badly injured and saved by someone she never thought to see again.
There was another tribal band living on the grasslands. One that Leaf and Raven had lived with for a while. The much depleted Longhead, or Neanderthal, band was lead by Elder Woman. Desperate to carry on the line, she had devised a plan to help her people to survive and was prepared to do whatever was necessary to achieve her aims, even if it went against their customs and involved Early Humans.
The Braided Stream could be read as a standalone but much of Raven’s backstory, and how she survived to arrive at this point, would be missed—from the time she was left, alone and childless when her mate died, banished from her tribe, putting her at the mercy of the leader of her sister’s tribe. Eventually she was driven out to fend for herself. Raven faced many dangers and an uncertain future. Now she is a mother of three, but still constrained by tribal laws and the fact of being female.
I’ve enjoyed, and been fascinated by, each part of The Replacement Chronicles. Together they make an epic tale of prehistory and how Early Man and Neanderthals could have met and interacted. At the same time, pointing to the fact that Neanderthals didn’t become extinct and have their place taken by Early Modern Man, but that the races interbred for survival, which would explain how many people today have traces of Neanderthal DNA.
It’s an intriguing theory, and a credible portrayal of how life could have been thousands of years ago. Imaginative and well written, with a narrative rich in detail and relatable emotions. The characters are realistic and easily visualised and I loved how the story concluded.
I chose to read and review The Braided Stream based on a digital copy of the book kindly supplied by the author.
Harper Swan lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband and three sweet but very spoiled cats. Her interests include history from all eras, archaeology and genetics. She especially enjoys researching ancient history and reading about archaeological finds from Paleolithic sites. As well as writing stories with plots based in more recent times, Harper is also following a longtime dream of writing books that include the distant past, her inspiration drawn from Jean Auel. Harper is the author of The Replacement Chronicles, a three-part series. The series titles in order are Raven’s Choice, Journeys of Choice and Choices that Cut. The series is now available as an omnibus issue containing all three parts going by the title, The Replacement Chronicles. This novel is available in both paperback and e-book. Raven’s Choice is also published as a standalone e-book and is free on iBooks and Amazon for as long as the latter allows it to be so. Journeys of Choice and Choices That Cut are both contained in an e-book entitled Journeys of Choice.