3 out of 4 stars
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Being only a few days away from Christmas - today is "Christmas Eve Eve", in fact! - traditions are at the forefront of many people's minds. But even something like Christmas has traditions that vary a bit from house to house. Things get even more different when considering different countries, and often the traditions of other people seem weird when they clash with our own.
Similarly, some may find the ritual of Karachi a bit crazy. In Jacob's village, boys become men by being dropped off up to a month's walk away from home in the middle of the woods with only a couple of knives. Karachi: Jacob's Story, Book 1 by Ray Thomas follows Jacob as he undergoes his own Karachi, making his way back to his village to earn the right of being called a man, and the very wild twists and turns that journey takes.
Karachi: Jacob's Story, Book 1 is set in a world of fantasy, a more primitive world without technology. Jacob is equipped with two knives and uses them to make himself a bow, arrows, and spears to hunt with. He's forced to climb trees to scout out his path, use his makeshift weapons to hunt, and find or make suitable camps along the way. During his journey, he hears voices, and soon learns that the voices are actually coming from animals! Not only can he hear what select animals are saying, but he can also speak to them. He soon learns that he can "link" with them to use their heightened senses as his own. His wolf sight allows him to see better in the dark, for example, and he learns to listen to nature more closely. Jacob also learns that his Karachi is the first "true Karachi" in "many eons", but even back then people were never able to link with two animals, only one! Perhaps Jacob is part of the prophecy...
I was surprised at just how well Karachi: Jacob's Story, Book 1 blended fantasy with nature. It was really fascinating seeing how Jacob's animal abilities gave him a deeper connection to nature, and how he took advantage of these abilities to outwit his foes. It's a good thing, too, as Jacob comes across several life-threatening challenges. Not only does he have to keep himself fed, but he also runs into mysterious evil soldiers from a far-away land and even faces off against ferocious fantasy creatures.
As I hinted at earlier, another theme of Karachi: Jacob's Story, Book 1 is the various customs and traditions of different villages. In his travels, Jacob runs into a woman named Shialin. Jacob's goal with her is to dump her in the first village he finds, but she feels indebted to him because he saved her life. One of her village's customs says that she is in his debt forever unless they wed, she saves his life in return, or one of them dies. She refuses to leave his side, despite his coldness to her. Jacob's village traditions say that if he brings a woman back to his village upon completing Karachi, she's automatically his wife. This leads to an interesting predicament where Shialin is kind and does all she can to follow Jacob and win his favor, but he ends up doing his best to ignore and dissuade her. At first, it seems like he's being a jerk, but as these rules are revealed it makes sense.
Karachi: Jacob's Story, Book 1 is a book of magic, connecting to nature, and survival. While the book isn't very fast-paced overall, it's only around 150 pages and I never felt bored. I only found three errors - a single missing word and two uses of words that were close to the correct one but not quite, like "load" instead of "loud" - and the writing was very smooth in general. Especially considering the main characters are teenagers, it's easy to call this YA, but there are a few brutal fight scenes and a few references to "mating". The sexual references are never detailed at all, and neither of these things disqualifies it from me recommending it to people over 16. Older folks like myself who enjoy YA fiction and fantasy, especially those who enjoy camping or stories about survival and animals, will also get a kick out of it. My rating of Karachi: Jacob's Story, Book 1 is 3 out of 4 stars. Just keep in mind that this book includes "Book 1" in the title for a reason - the end is a total cliffhanger!
Karachi Jacob's Story Book 1
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