Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author/publisher to The Pagan & The Pen Book Reviews. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.

Apr 20, 2010

Reviewer Top Pick: The Bowdancer by Janie Franz


Title:  The Bowdancer
Author:  Janie Franz
Publisher: Breathless Press
Genre: Breathless Press
Length: 31 pgs 
Other:  M/F
Pagan Elements: Yes 
Reviewed by: Kim Clune

About The Book: 
Jan-nell, a young healer and keeper of village lore, fears she will never find a worthy child to train and replace her as the next bowdancer. Nor does she think she will find a man worthy of her love. When a village wedding is interrupted by four strange men, one mawled by a mountain lion in need of help, Jan-nell treats his injuries. During the men’s stay, their arrogant, intelligent rogue leader, Bastin, questions the bowdancer's opinions on life, freedom and love. By doing so, he stirs her desire for these things and more.

The Review:
Janie Franz weaves a beautiful and intricate tapestry of duty, destiny, tradition and exploration of the soul into The Bowdancer. Her writing wastes not a single word and gives a strong, unique voice to Jan-nell, the loyal yet conflicted bowdancer and village healer. While stories of personal internal struggle are timeless, Franz breathes fresh life into this one, creating a rich and curious world among a non-specific tribe or creed.

All her life, Jan-nell is judged and defined by what she is not. During her tomboyish young adulthood, Jan-nell’s mother attempts to refine her femininity by keeping her chestnut hair long to balance her fair, thin and shapeless form. As Jan-nell matures, she learns to balance her physical insecurities with the confidence she carries in her bowdancing. Still, Jan-nell’s community sees her as an “other” when she colors her skin with dark, herbal oil rather than the traditionally colorful body paint of her predecessor at seasonal rituals. While her innovative and simple expression of connection with the earth and the One feels natural to Jan-nell, her mother-kin eventually asks, “Do you not fear you will make yourself so different that no man will approach you?” Jan-nell has hardly made herself different. She is different. Powerful, creative and intelligent with interests as varied and balanced as her well oiled bow, she simply has yet to find an equal to love within the confines of the village.

Embracing her community role, if not the community itself, Jan-nell attempts to resign herself to her life’s only known purpose, to be “the bow that sings the song of the One.” This devotion, although noble, conflicts with her fear of never marrying and having children of her own, a future she only half hopes to find. Not having found a child to train as her replacement for the next ten years may doom her to a fruitless marriage to the only typically available partner at that age, a widower.

It isn’t until Bastin and his band of bandits enter the village that burgeoning questions push Jan-nell to concretely define her desires. Bastin is the first to see her essence beyond her sense of duty and the first to demand her honest reflection. Uncharmed by his boastful stories, Jan-nell emotionally disarms Bastin and demands honesty from him as well. The two reflect each other like mirrors, one allowing the other to see his or her self plainly. This new dance is not that of a bowdancer nor of innocent love, but one of powerful equals vying for each other’s trust in a world of unlikely possibility. To say what happens next would spoil the story but it’s well worth finding out.

The Bowdancer is wonderful read and just short enough to devour every delicious word in one sitting. I highly recommend it and look forward to following Jan-nell’s next adventures in The Wayfarer’s Road.

Cover (Rated 1-10): 2 – A pretty face with frosted blue eye shadow would better suit the Twilight series than The Bowdancer. Jan-nell is a tribal-type woman rooted in all things natural,  prefering earthly pigments to decorative body paint and a doeskin to a black, velvet hood with red satin lining. Interestingly, this cover re-enacts the bowdancer’s struggle, pushing her to dutifully appeal to the greater romance audience yet denying acceptance of her true identity.


Disclaimer: Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author to The Pagan & the Pen. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.


Magaly Guerrero said...

This sounds like something I will really love. I'm trying to read a lot of shorts lately (for not particular reason, just going through a short story/novella stage).

I'm going to find it. Thanks for the review!

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