This week, Rainbringer:
- Has two strong heroines
- Subverted my expectations
- Totally blew me away
This is a review of Rainbringer (2021) by Adam Berg and an analysis of the presentation of heroines.
What I was expecting
From the blurb, I thought this was going to be a story about a young woman sitting in a hut and waiting to die.
To an extent, it is.
The blurb didn’t lie. It just didn’t truly encompass everything that this book was.
I don’t want to give too many spoilers, so I’ll keep it vague.
A quick overview of Rainbringer
Yara lives on an island which is threatened every year by sea monsters who rise from the deep and wander the island. The only way to stop the monsters destroying the village and killing the villagers is to sacrifice one person every year: the Rainbringer.
This year, 16-year-old Yara is the Rainbringer. She is locked in a bamboo hut, where she will ritually starve to death.
While she is in there, the shamans divine next year’s Rainbringer. It’s Yara’s best friend, 16-year-old Nika.
They don’t believe it’s a coincidence. And they don’t intend to die. Instead, they set out to fight the corrupt system that has chosen to sacrifice them and find the truth behind the appearance of the sea monsters.
It’s a mystery, a coming-of-age story and a fast-paced fantasy fight against sea monsters, shamans and gods.
Yara as an active heroine
At the start of the book, Yara enters the hut where she will starve to death. She is confined, she has no resources, she cannot speak to anyone and she is there with the express purpose of not coming out again.
You can see why I thought she’d be the most passive heroine ever.
She was not.
From the moment she stepped into the hut, Yara shows how active she is. She might not be running all over the place, but she is actively pursuing her goal.
And her goal? Everyone else expects her plan to be to just wither away and die. Yara wants to know the truth.
What first endeared her to me was the fact that she had thought things through before entering the hut when the book opens. This means that, even if she can’t go anywhere now, she has been to different places in her quest for the truth. Already, even sitting in a hut, she is an active character.
Part of her being active is her fight against the restrictions which have been put on her. She knew she would be trapped with no resources. So she made herself some resources. Sure, she had to do that before the book opens so we readers don’t get to see it, but it gives us a taste of what is to come – Yara is going to be extremely resourceful in her search for the truth. And she is.
What she wants more than anything is knowledge, which she gets from her journal, talking to the shaman, observing the ritual she is a part of, talking (illicitly) to her friend, communicating with a sea monster and a little bit of gruesome grave-digging.
Even when she is trapped in the hut, Yara is actively seeking answers.
Nika as an active heroine
Nika doesn’t have the head-start that Yara does. She has not prepared for this moment for an entire year the way Yara has but, once she decides to act, she is clever and resourceful.
I like that the two young women are different, with different approaches to the same problem. Nika is not a rule-breaker in the way that Yara is, and she has to learn to deceive over the course of the novel. For Yara, that is never a problem.
At first, Nika has much more physical freedom than Yara does. She can roam the island, for a start. She has access to a small number of resources which she uses to communicate with Yara, even though they are not meant to speak. Nika learns information about the mystery of the sea monsters and the ancient tradition of the Rainbringer from a larger number of people than Yara does, and she travels across the entire island to do it.
Once she is chosen as next year’s Rainbringer, though, Nika’s freedoms diminish as she is watched and guarded by suspicious shamans.
Whereas Yara’s greatest resource is her mind, her suspicion and her forward-thinking, Nika’s greatest resources are her allies. She earns the trust and respect of others, who work with her, give her information and help her survive.
The friendship between the two young women
Both young women have little power and very few resources. They don’t own any money, they don’t own property, they don’t have any sway within the local community, and they don’t even seem to have many possessions at all.
Yet, as the book progresses, it becomes clear that their biggest resource is each other. Both young women rely on the other to do what they need.
What they can give each other in terms of resources is limited, but they do give what they can and that is how they start to unravel the mystery.
They give each other:
- Alliances with other people
- Physical resources (usually self-made)
- Their own physical bodies (for example, to use as a double)
What I loved about this book more than anything was the lengths to which these two heroines were willing to go to help the other.
Without giving away spoilers, it is clear throughout the novel that each woman would sacrifice her life to save the other if she could. I eat up the trope of friendship-love and this book absolutely nailed it.
Pick up a copy of Rainbringer
I have been telling all of my friends about this book.
If you love active female protagonists, women helping women, young adults fighting against an oppressive regime and a brilliant mystery, then I recommend it to you, too.
I got my copy from Kindle Unlimited while I was a member. However, I loved it so much that I’m going to buy myself a copy as well.
If you want to read more about the different types of active heroines in fiction, check out my blog post ‘Woman warrior’ does not mean ‘strong female character’.