Title: Cuckoo’s Flight
Author: Wendy Orr
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 2nd March 2021
Synopsis: When Clio’s town in Bronze Age Crete is threatened by seafaring raiders, she faces the greatest sacrifice of all. Can Clio, her herd of horses and a new young friend find a way to change their destinies? Another wonderfully engaging historical middle fiction adventure from the author of Dragonfly Song and Nim’s Island.
If she had stayed to load the kiln as she should have, she’d never have seen the ship. Mama said the ship still would have been there, so everything had to happen the way it did. But that’s not true. Clio saw it, and the world changed.
When a raiders’ ship appears off the coast, the goddess demands an unthinkable price to save the town – and Clio’s grandmother creates a sacred statue to save Clio’s life.
But Clio is torn between the demands of guarding the statue and caring for her beloved horses. Disabled in an accident, she must try to put aside her own grief at no longer being able to ride – and in the process, save a friend’s life and stop a war.
Rippling with emotion and drama, war and resistance, fear and determination, this novel is a brilliant companion to the highly acclaimed Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance.
Wendy Orr’s third Bronze Age novel that hints at revolving around the Minoan or various Ancient Greek city states is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. It hints at Swallow’s Dance through Clio’s grandmother, whose family escaped the destruction of their island, Thera (now Santorini). But this is Clio’s story – one of fate and family, sacrifice and what it means to be part of the legacy and Leira’s family, with connections to goddess worship and pottery. But their peaceful lives are about to change with the arrival of seafaring invaders. Clio is also disabled – and this is made clear from the beginning as are her challenges but what is more important is what she achieves throughout the novel, from warning her people about the invaders, to helping people escape and facing her fate towards the end of the novel.
She is part of a community that values sacrifice as much as life, and just like Leira and Aissa before her, Clio drives the narrative – each book has a young girl at the centre of the story, showing the impact of a matriarchal, goddess centred society, and the importance of women in these societies in stark contrast to the patriarchal societies that ran parallel to them. Clio’s disability is accommodated within the novel – people provide ways for her to interact and move about society, showing the drive of the community to come together and protect the vulnerable. Yet the novel also explores the impact of religion and beliefs – and how they come to deal with the invaders, and the fate that these people bring to Clio’s island. This means something different for everyone in the society, but can Clio stop a war and save her friend’s life? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out! Seeing a disabled character front and centre – where you can see how her disability impacts her, but where she is also allowed to just be is a very powerful thing for readers when it comes to representation. It shows the ease with which it can be done, and what it can mean for a story. In this case, it made it powerful and fresh.
Historical fiction usually takes place in times of war, or modernity, often from the European stories of the 1700s onwards, with a few exceptions. It is rare to see many taking place in antiquity, and in a society where not much is known due to the written texts thus far being untranslated. Working with archaeological evidence, its interpretations and the knowledge garnered from other Bronze Age societies, Wendy Orr has created another wonderful book set around the time of the Minoans, and shows what their society might have been like through the eyes of young girls, alternating between prose and poetry to tell a unique and enjoyable story.
Another great book from Wendy Orr.