Siiri Enoranta’s name conjures up images of poetic, beautiful and descriptive language and multi-layered fantasy worlds, which mirror our own society. Her latest novel, The Sorrow-deer Tamer, meets the expectations perfectly. The book portrays the people of Sorrow-deer, their island and their way of life, and juxtaposes this isolated society with the luxurious city of Rising, which is ruled with an iron grip by Glassclear Sadeia of Rising, a 16-year-old orphan ruler who will not let anyone near her.
The people of Sorrow-deer live a peaceful life on their own islands, called Flowing and Devoured. Their totem animal is the sorrow-deer, a beautiful creature, whom each of the Sorrow-deer will see only once in their lifetime: on their sixth birthday, each islander goes to the field of sorrow-deers and the deer reveals itself to them. The length of the visit determines the amount of sorrow a person has to bear in their life. If the deer appears only quickly, the person will lead a mainly happy life. This is not the case with Uli Hahtuvaara, a small boy who has already lost his mother. The loss of his wife has driven Uli’s father into madness and alienated Uli from his sister, Linania. Uli has a grim epiphany about the encounter with the deer and he resists the meeting until the last minute. Although all he has to is to go to the field, meet the deer and come back, he only returns at the break of dawn. The sorrowdeer has spent all night with Uli, predicting the biggest sorrow there has ever been. Uli decides that he needs to leave the island so that his sorrow will not hurt anyone else. He draws a map and writes a letter, in which he pleads anyone to come and take him away from the island, and throws the message into the sea in a bottle.
Across the sea, Glassclear Sadeia of Rising rules her court. Glassmistresses, the craft women of glassblowing, surround Sadeia and produce glass items for her. Despite all this, Sadeia is not satisfied. She needs something more in her life, something that would complete her. She keeps her distance to all people, especially men, which are lower to women. The only glassmistress that can get anywhere near Sadeia is Kurkuma, but even she is not allowed to approach Sadeia freely. She can only serve her princess when Sadeia asks her to. The days go by and one day a strange rumour starts in the Soap blocks, the filthiest and most dangerous part of the town, about an island and its deers with golden fleeces. The deer is something Sadeia definitely needs. And there is a man who can take her to the island.
The book has many important themes. The reader can compare the equal society of the Sorrow-deer to the matriarchal society of Rising. Not everyone in the court in Rising can understand how men could ever be equal to women: men are untrustworthy, easily misled and weak for temptations. The people of the Sorrow-deer, in turn, know no other way than equality. There is no money and no trade. Everyone is being taken care of, the weakest are helped and everyone can love whomever they want. In Rising, romantic relationships are only allowed between women. Men are only used for mating purposes or played with.
Many of the main characters are afraid. They are afraid of themselves, afraid of the judgement by their society, afraid of other people. The fear must be defeated to move forward in your life. You must love yourself before others can love you. Fear is human and it must be embraced as a part of you.
The most important similarity to our society is the fear of strangers. The Sorrow-deer are frightened by the Sidrineian ship and Sadeia with her travelling companions feel disgust towards the uncivilized manners and equal society of the Sorrow-deer. However, through discussion, all misunderstandings are cleared and both people discover that they are more similar to than different from each other.
The Sorrow-deer Tamer lingers, paints the scenery calmly and gives plenty of time to the reader. The narration changes in each chapter, giving a wide perspective to the story. This does not disturb the reading experience as the voices weave a beautiful web, along which the reader can just slowly move. The language is poetic and beautiful and challenges the reader to think. Enoranta’s style will not let you down.
Suvi Oksanen, 11/2016
Also by Siiri Enoranta:
Gisellen kuolema (Robustos 2010)
Painajaisten lintukoto (WSOY 2012)
Nokkosvallankumous (WSOY 2013)