2/19/2011 ** With this book, McKinley seems to be going back to the roots she explored with the Damar novels, The Blue Sword & Hero and the Crown. There are a number of similar motifs - A sea of dreams that serves as a form of oracle, cultural dislocation so strong that the main character feels physically ill, the thrill of riding, a strong female lead, a young woman growing into her leadership role, the way in which a landscape can call to some deep element in a person's psyche/soul.
I am fascinated by the exploration of language as well - what does it mean to communicate with those from another culture? In what ways are cultural differences reflected in the very language we use to communicate? How do those differences block understanding at deep levels? Likewise, what power do we give to those who translate/interpret across the language? What happens when they use that power for their own ends, rather than for the good of their societies?
And, referring to my comments of 1/17, yes, reading this book now was a very bad idea...not only did it end on a cliff hanger, it ended at the very top of the narrative arc. This book isn't just waiting for a sequel, it's waiting for the second half of the story! I understand McKinley's decision from a financial standpoint, BUT...for the sake of her readers, I'd have preferred to know that she'd at least finished writing the sequel.
1/17/2011 ** Well, I guess that I've seen enough comments by McKinley and others on blogs that I'm going to add this to my 'to read' list. I requested it from the library today; I'm 8th on the list and there are 8 copies, so I'm guessing it will be at least a month. Of course, I'm going to decide that reading it now is an incredibly bad idea, since it apparently ends on a cliff hanger and the sequel isn't yet written - sounds like book three in the Chima series. Ugh.