Wednesday 8 May 2024


My 6th book for Reading the Seasons was  Stone Spring by Stephen Baxter.

It's been a very long time since I read a book like this - with a story set way back into the depths of history - Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell is one I remember but there were others. The library labels it as historical fiction but it's more fantasy or science fiction.

This story is set in the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age period  between 8,800 - 4,500BC. Europe is still attached to Britain and the people who live on that fertile plain that is now gone were in the centre of civilisation, trading with other groups for the nodules of flint they had and fishing and hunting.

The author changes the history of that period so that the plain or Northland  (now known as Doggerland) wasn't covered by rising sea levels, and the people have become more settled and not the hunter-gatherers they once were.

This precis is from Wiki and is better than anything I could do...............

The focus of much of the novel is the community of Etxelur. Etxelur begins as a typical stone-age civilisation, remarkable only for its flint, which is prized throughout most of Northland. It is nominally ruled by a figure known as the "Giver", but as Kirike, the current Giver, is missing, leadership falls to Zesi, his eldest daughter. Every year, Etxelur and its neighbours, the brutish "Pretani" (located in modern-day England), hold a ceremony known as the Giving on Etxelur soil. Representing the Pretani leader are brothers Gall and Shade, who share the house with Zesi and her 14-year-old sister Ana. Gall, the eldest brother, has been promised Zesi as a bride by his father, but Zesi instead sleeps with the younger brother Shade, enraging Gall. To make matters worse, Gall kills a member of the neighbouring "Snailhead" tribe during a communal hunt.

Tensions come to a head during the giving, whereupon the Pretani leader (or "Root") arrives and demands that Shade and Gall resolve their dispute by a fight to the death, in which Gall is killed. Kirike also returns to Etxelur, along with outsiders Ice Dreamer (rescued from North America by Kirike during his travels) and Novu (a slave who killed his master and escaped, with a particular skill for making bricks). Kirike resumes leadership of Etxelur, much to Zesi's resentment. Zesi ultimately decides to leave with the Pretani to challenge them in a hunting contest on their own territory.

Meanwhile, back in Etxelur, rising sea levels result in a tsunami, known to the locals as the "Great Sea". Most of Etxelur is destroyed, and many of its inhabitants are wiped out, including Kirike. With Zesi absent, Ana becomes the de facto leader of Etxelur. During the tsunami, Ana witnessed seabed formations resembling Etxelur's religious symbols, and, believing them to hold spiritual significance, ultimately resolves to build a dyke to hold back the sea and enable the formations to be reached once again. Novu, who has the most experience, obsessively oversees the construction of the dyke, and Ana adopts increasingly Draconian measures to ensure construction continues.

When Zesi returns to Etxelur, she violently opposes Ana's work. She breaks one of the giant pools which holds water that is meant to flow back into the sea and kills a Snailhead child. This ultimately results in her being exiled and her child taken from her. Vowing revenge on Ana, Zesi ultimately returns to Pretani territory, where she convinces Shade (now the Root of the Pretani) to help her destroy Etxelur. Together, they plan to offer slave labour to Etxelur, with the intention of organising a slave uprising and then attacking Etxelur in the chaos. Before this can be done, however, Ana uncovers the plan and frees the slaves herself. The Pretani attack is beaten back, and Zesi is killed during the fight.

The novel ends some years later, where construction of the dykes is finally complete, and the undersea formations Ana sought to uncover have finally been reached.

What I didn't know when I looked for books with Spring in their title is that this book is the first of a trilogy and is followed by Bronze Summer and Iron Winter - how very useful for my Reading The Seasons challenge!

I enjoyed this book, it reminded me that I once read much more  widely....... not just crime fiction. 

Wiki also has a quick round up of the pre-historic stone age periods HERE

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  1. That looks intriguing and an interesting premise on which to base a book on. Can you imagine the amount of research the author has to do? Have you read the Earth's Children series by Jean M Auel?

  2. That will be the perfect trio of books for your Reading the Seasons, you couldn't have planned it better. :-)

  3. This sounds like the sort of book I would struggle with, but never say never - perhaps I should give this genre a go 😀
    Alison in Wales x

  4. I think my comment disappeared. I thought the book sounded interesting, rather along the line of Jean M Auel's books.

  5. It does sound very interesting but I have so many books to catch up with at the moment.

  6. You've found the perfect collection of books for reading about the seasons.

  7. I have just been reading about Doggerland, which of course made me think about the shipping forecast. I used to love listening to that, not through need, just for pleasure.

  8. Isn’t it great when you find a book that is completely different and an enjoyable read. Catriona

  9. That book looks very interesting and how wonderful that you have another two seasons to read.

    God bless.

  10. I just don't have the time to sit down and read books at this time. That is one thing that I always loved about winter...having the time to read.

  11. Glad you enjoyed the book! I tend to stick with the same sort of genre most of the time. No, on second thoughts, I go through cycles where I just read one genre and then I get bored and move onto the next. I must admit that I'm not a big reader of non fiction though, I do like looking at the pictures of bird books though lol