Bull Vaulter: Alena of the Isle of Green
by Barbara Tieken
PageTurner Press and Media

"…it was revealed to you in your own serpent healing… ‘A life well lived is a death well deserved.’"

One horrible night in the ancient Peloponnesus, members of an invading tribe double rape a fourteen-year-old girl. The attack leaves her injured and pregnant. But Alena is tough beyond her years. She is a bull vaulter, rigorously trained to execute acrobatic feats on the back of a galloping bull—her matriarchal society's symbol of strength and rebirth. Alena's life was about to change, anyway. This performance was her last before, like other bull vaulters, she gave up bull vaulting to marry. Now, though, she is the patient of a married pair of healers who wish to teach her their art. After a difficult birth nearly kills her, she can fully appreciate their skills. Her physical healing inspires her to help others who suffer. Gradually, the affections of her mending heart likewise turn to the least likely and, many might say, the least worthy object.

Matriarchal societies of the ancient world are not frequently the subjects of historical fiction. Still rarer is the juxtaposition of a society of strong, capable women with one of initially domineering men, some of whom eventually grow to respect the self-determined women they encounter. Tieken here skillfully presents two such contrasting cultures. Kurgan women, from what is today Ukraine, are valued far less than horses. Thus, the equality of men and women that he discovers among Alena's people astonishes young Kurgan warlord Jahal, who nonetheless embraces these new ideas about the opposite sex. Jahal undergoes a corresponding change of character wherein he softens without becoming weak. This book will likely prove an engaging read for those interested in the spirituality of matriarchal societies and those who are themselves of a spontaneous bent or who admire spontaneity in literary characters. The vivid descriptions of scenery, festivals, and food might even spur some to travel to Greece.

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