“Mind your caste”, Rani is told several times both by people who wish her well and those who do not. But what is your caste when you family is killed along with most of the guild you were apprenticed to and you, yourself, are wanted for a murder you did not commit? Add to that being thirteen.
Being a thirteen year old girl in a medieval society was different to being a thirteen year old girl in a lot of countries today. One’s place in society was ensured from birth and one did not step outside of that area. Rani’s place is more fluid due to the circumstances of her life. Needing to hide enables her to cross caste-lines that she might not otherwise. Some of those lines include what the different castes think of as “good” and “bad”. It turns out that if you are a member of the Soldier caste your idea of what may or may not be done can be quite different to what the Touched caste thinks (not to mention the Brotherhood).
So! How does a girl know what to do? She doesn’t. To begin with her choices have to do with her brother. Later on her focus changes. Knowledge is part of that change. But there is also the matter of Rani having grown up in a religious and political system that encourages certain types of behavior.
Mindy L. Klasky‘s writing style was fascinating. It was as if the words snaked in and out of themselves. To me the intended audience seems to be Young Adults. There is violence, death, mystery, adventure and family choices. I liked it.
This adventure story is about 56 pages long. It is about two mercenaries who make their living selling their services to people Kozef and Ceinan feel deserve it. These two guys live for the fun of fighting. I am definitely not that kind of person. Fighting scares me and that seems to be the problem in Thieudan.
You know, it is interesting how a large group of people is willing to be dominated by a smaller one if the smaller group utilises some form of violence to rule. We do it all over the world. Our governments are one example of people letting others rule on behalf of themselves and the rulers having potential violence as a tool to enforce that rule. If that rule is more or less of a benign character, then hey – I’m one of those being ruled. But if we had moved to Thieudan at the time Kozef and Ceinan arrived there, we might not enjoy life a whole lot.
Using the Tanner’s Guild as our baddies shows us some of their trade. The Tanner’s Guild rule with terror. Punishment meted out to those who do not obey are line with the Tanner’s trade. Water-boarding takes on new meaning when a tanner does it to you. But their trade can also be used against them. I particularly enjoyed Ceinan’s cow-trick.
I have placed Leathern Men as a young adult novel. I kind of feel that the target group is among the younger ones of that age group. There is some violence I would hesitate to allow a child to read, but I’m really not certain about my judgement on this one. Predictability and the clear “good vs. evil” angle is my main reason for placing R.J. Creaney’s story in this age group. I had fun with it.