Tuyo - a young warrior's journey through a divided world
North of the river the Moon watches over the Winterlands and her people, the Ugaro. Its a harsh land but the nomadic tribes of the Ugaro are a tough people of strength and endurance. To the south live the tall slender Lau in the Summerlands where the Sun is stronger, the Moon weak, and the Stars are only a faint glimmer in the night. After four years of war things are not going well for the Ugaro. Each of their warriors is a match for three Lau but the Lau fight in shielded formations and have far greater numbers. After a devastating battle his tribe leaves Ryo inGara behind as a tuyo, a kind of sacrifice offered to the enemy in the hopes of appeasing their desire for further bloodshed. If a tuyo is accepted the enemy may kill them in any manner they wish and won't pursue the defeated warriors. In return the defeated tribe and their allies will no longer make war with them. Ryo expects to die horribly with no guarantee that the Lau will actually honor the custom of his people. Lord Aras, the Lau commander, sees in Ryo an opportunity to learn more about his people and why they started the war so he spares his life. Unfortunately, what he learns confirms his fears that a powerful sorcerer has been manipulating both sides and probably plans to seize power over both lands.
In Tuyo, Ryo is taken into the Summerlands and travels with Lord Aras and his army. Nothing is more terrifying to the Ugaro than sorcery which steals a man's will and makes them the sorcerer's slave. Among the Ugaro they have always killed children with magic so it died out among them. He is horrified the first time he sees Aras use a simple cantrip and learns that many Lau can do basic elemental magic and that one in fifty is born a sorcerer. Using sorcery on another is forbidden but occasionally one is powerful enough they are a danger and this isn't the first time Aras has had to take one down. Ryo watches as Aras leads his army against the Ugaro, a different tribe not allied with the inGara who will no longer fight Aras, and struggles to reconcile his loyalty to his people versus his honor which demands that he obey Aras. But everything changes when Aras seriously underestimates the sorcerer and they fall into his power. Ryo must save Aras if he can and convince his people to help the Lau defeat the sorcerer.
The second book, Tarashana, addresses one of the reasons the Ugaro started raiding the Summerlands. North of the Winterlands are the Starlit Lands of the peaceful Tarashana people where the Sun never shines. One year the Ugaro went north to trade with the Tarashana and found their villages deserted with no sign of where everyone went. Now that they are no longer at war with the Lau some of the inGara went to investigate. What they saw was an ominous sky empty of stars and moon so they retreated but on their way back they found a terrified Tarashana woman who doesn't speak. The mystery will lead Ryo, Aras, and their companions through the Land of Shades, the underworld, as they fight enemy warriors made of shadow to stop the Starless Sea from spreading across all their lands.
Rachel Neumeier has written several good books but Ryo's story is particularly compelling. His is the only PoV and his thoughts strongly reflect his cultural identity as well as his personality. Experiencing the world through his eyes is a deeply personal journey. The first book is primarily a military fantasy while the second has the feel of an epic quest out of Norse mythology. Its set in a world that can only exist in fantasy or myth populated by different peoples whose appearance and cultures are adapted to their environments. Ryo and Aras are deep characters who develop a strong bond of friendship despite their different ages and cultures. There is also a prequel novella about a minor character in Tuyo and the good news is Neumeier has promised another book about Ryo and Aras, this time to the desert south of the Summerlands, and side novella for 2022. The bad news is...2022.
Tuyo, Tarashana, and the novella Nikoles are all available in eBook and paperback from Amazon. For some obscure reason B&N only carries Nikoles. Tuyo is also available on Audible narrated by Patrick McCaffrey and from reviews it looks like his performance is decent but not great which is disappointing in a story with such personal narration.
One word of caution: The common form of discipline among the Ugaro and Lau army is whipping and while not graphic in nature some of the beatings could be upsetting for some people.