War of Rain

War of Rain, written by H.W. Vivian, is a tough book to categorize. Some reviewers have called it science fiction but it is not. Some people have called it adventure but even that is pushing it. I'm not even sure it could really fall under the Young Adult category, where the author, herself, places it. While I don't believe that all books necessarily need to fall under a category, it does make it easier to find your audience. Let me explain.

Miri, a 15-year old girl, is our protagonist. She lives in a small village called Boreala, one of four villages that have banded together via trade. Her people are peaceful Rain-gatherers. Every day, they trek up a nearby mountain to gather Rain, a strange frozen water-like substance that only melts with prayer. Rain is the only clean water source in the area so the Boreala trades it with the other villages for leather or pottery or wood. However, only the Rain-gatherers know how to pray in order to melt the Rain.

During one of the Rain gathering trips, Miri and her group are attacked by the barbarians of Stratos. These barbarians want all of the Rain to themselves. When one of the barbarians grab an elderly woman by her hair, Miri, without thinking, kills him with a throw of her hatchet. This sole act labels her a murderer. In retaliation for the kill, Genesis, the brother of the fallen barbarian, attacks Boreala. He kidnaps Miri and whisks her away to the mountain.

However, the barbarians do not kill her. Nor do they rape her. (Excuse me, "take her dignity.") Instead, Genesis throws her into the lowlands, commanding her to find five pieces of Rain before the next day. In the lowlands, Miri meets Philippe, a former citizen of Stratos who has been abandoned in the lowlands for killing a village leader. Together, the manage to escape the lowlands and kill an entire hoard of barbarians.

Back in Boreala, the other villagers aren't very welcoming to Miri. It is her fault that the barbarians attacked their village. When Exodus, the leader of Stratos, comes, he demands that Miri go to the mountain and get an invention from the God of Rain, Kalono. This invention would be able to bring war and peace to both villages. Not seeing any other way to save her village, Miri complies with the demand. She promises to return in two days.

Miri goes to the mountain, to the room where her people gather Rain. In the Rain Chamber, there is an opening in the ceiling. She enters the opening and climbs farther into the mountain, in search of Kalono.

Instead of finding the God, Miri finds an entire village of inventors living inside the mountain. However, these people do not give her the war-and-peace invention. They teach her how to read and scientific theories and mathematics. Despite promising to be back in two days, Miri is gone for 18 months. She figures out what invention she needs but will it be too late for her village?

Once again, Miri returns to her village. This time she has the war-and-peace invention. But her village, and the other three, are decimated. Everyone is gone. Or so she thinks. The barbarians attacked her village immediately after she entered the mountain. They destroyed the towns and kidnapped the people, trying to force them to pray to melt Rain. But a few of them hid in a nearby mountain and survived. With Miri's return, they attempt to attack Stratos to save their people.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one takes us from Miri's life in Boreala up to her meeting the people of Tropos, the village inside the mountain. Part two is Miri's entire time in Tropos. Part three takes us back to Boreala and Miri's attempt to save her people. I'm not entire sure how I feel about breaking the story up like this but at least it makes some sense.

While the writing isn't bad, my problem with the book lies with the heavy-handedness of the faith theme. For one, the reason that the people of Stratos were barbarians...they didn't know how to pray. They couldn't pray to turn the Rain into water. Miri had to teach Philippe how to pray! Even the scientific people of Tropos ended up with a "You have to have faith" reasoning. It got to be a little much, to be honest.

I would have liked the book much better if it wasn't so preachy. It seriously felt like the author was calling everyone who is not religious a bloodthirsty barbarian. With that in consideration, I would toss the book into a religion section, not a general young adult section. And I would definitely toss some sort of "Preachy Book Ahead!" warning on it. Nowhere in the book's description was I warned that I would be called a barbarian for not praying to the popular deity of my time. (Even the book agrees that they are all basically the same.) So, yeah. Read it but with caution and maybe some rolling eyes.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own.