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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
There is something startlingly but identifiably satisfying about Cindy Burkart Maynard’s historical fiction novel, Soyala: Daughter of the Desert. Because of the inherent mystery and widespread interest surrounding Native American stories and legends, much of which has become embedded in the greater inclusiveness of a much altered and transformed American mythology, Maynard’s deceptively simple but impressively engaging storytelling reveals not just well-researched facts and information, but also an amazing ability to ground more speculative imaginings about Pueblo Indian spirituality within a credible framework of modern pragmatic reality. Thus, we are convinced that native tales, while sounding fantastical, might actually provide an inheritance of continuous guidance and practical knowledge for following generations. This adds a perfect seasoning to an already compelling story.
The story of Soyala is not complex in its basic plot. In 1235 a young Native American girl witnesses a brutal attack by another tribe upon her tiny village, survives with a few others to endure a brutal winter, and then moves onward with her life. But do not mistake simplicity for shallowness. Maynard fills each episode of Soyala’s life with such details of place and character, customs and beliefs, as well as varied personal friendships and family interactions, to make her story come vividly alive and remain deeply enticing for any reader. Her writing style is disarmingly concise and highly readable, but her prose is also saturated with such well-chosen pickings as to make it as rich as Pueblo art, here presented as a beautifully woven native tapestry.