“The Christians called it the Year of their Lord 942, and the Jews of Itil, with longer memories, said that it was 4702, while the Muslims and Persians insisted on different numbers altogether. But the Turkic-speaking nomads of the western plains of the Khazar Empire knew only that spring had come round again, and there was no need to confuse matters by assigning it a number …”

So we begin, with a scene of Sibir nomads beginning their version of spring cleaning by packing up to move to the grazing grounds. And so we meet Bahar, daughter of Karidach and daughter-in-law of Kuyuk, who is about to see more of the world than she ever thought possible.

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up alongside my mother’s book. I saw it through multiple drafts, all the way from the old DOS files through the latest versions of LibreOffice. It was part of the background of my childhood.

Copies of various drafts were written, discarded, lost, misplaced, found, written on, used as drawing paper, and once provided the hiding place for a truly inventive silverfish which proceeded to scare years off my life. Mom’s upstairs workroom was graced with a map of early York, and in the later stages of the project, we might see her spinning raw wool with a drop spindle in the evenings. (She took her research seriously. I’m fairly certain the only reason we never had horse meat for dinner was that it’s pretty hard to get in Illinois.)

Twenty-six years since that project began, it’s finished. And Bahar, daughter of Karidach, Sibir nomad, is ready to be introduced to the wider world.

The book is Karidach’s Daughterby Anne Butzen, and it’s available on Kindle now. I can attest to the amount of exhaustive research that went into the story: the steppes and the proto-Kiev of 942 are only the beginning. It’s part of a setting and an era that don’t get a lot of attention in fiction, and it’s as true to life as a writer with twenty-six years of practice can make it.

And despite reading thousands of books in my own thirty years, I’ve never met anyone else quite like Bahar. She’s quiet, steady, practical, pious, and seemingly biddable, with a hidden core of pure steel and a fire that her hardships haven’t quite managed to stifle. She faces up to the challenges of her new life, but isn’t entirely immovable either; part of the joy of following this project was seeing how the main character grew and changed as the story unfolded.

Karidach’s Daughter. After twenty-six years, it’s ready to be read.

Disclaimer: As the author is my mother, I own some obvious bias here. Karidach’s Daughter is a novel intended for adults and contains some mentions or depictions of adult subject matter, including sexual assault, so be aware of that if you find such topics triggering.