The Foretelling: A Novel

The Foretelling: A Novel

by Alice Hoffman

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New York Times Bestseller: A lyrical, suspenseful coming-of-age story based on Greek myths of the Amazons, woman warriors living near the Black Sea.

Born out of sorrow in an ancient time of blood and war, Rain is a girl marked by destiny. Her mother, Alina, is the proud queen of a tribe of female warriors, yet she refuses to touch or even look at her only daughter. So Rain draws on the strength and knowledge of her Amazon sisters to learn the ways of her people: how to carve spoons out of bones, ride her white horse as fiercely as a demon, and shoot an arrow straight into the heart of an enemy.
Determined to win her mother’s love and take her rightful place as the next queen, Rain becomes a brave and determined fighter. But the dream of a black horse clouds her future, portending death. As one devastating battle follows the next, Rain hopes for a different life for her tribe beyond never-ending bloodshed. Peace, mercy, and love, however, are forbidden words in her language—can Rain teach her sisters to speak in a new tongue before it’s too late?
Inspired by Greek legends and recent archaeological discoveries in Russia and Ukraine, The Foretelling is a breathtaking achievement from the bestselling author of The Dovekeepers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504040075
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 10/25/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 25,578
File size: 804 KB

About the Author

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. She wrote her first novel, Property Of, while studying creative writing at Stanford University, and since then has published more than thirty books for readers of all ages, including the recent New York Times bestsellers The Museum of Extraordinary Things and The Dovekeepers. Two of her novels, Practical Magic and Aquamarine, have been made into films, and Here on Earth was an Oprah’s Book Club choice. All told, Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty languages and one hundred foreign editions. She lives outside of Boston.


Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

March 16, 1952

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974

Read an Excerpt

The Foretelling

A Novel

By Alice Hoffman


Copyright © 2005 Alice Hoffman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-4007-5


In the Time of

I was born out of sorrow, so my mother named me Rain.

Ours was a time of blood, when the sky reached on forever, when one horse became a hundred and then a thousand, when we wore our hair in long black braids and rode as warriors. Everything we had was given to us by the goddess, and everything we lost was taken away by her.

We lived in the time of fortune, in a world of only women. We were warriors from the very beginning, before we were born. There was no battle we could not win. We were strong, the strength of a thousand sisters. And we had something no one else had. Something that caused terror in our enemies when we came across the steppes. Something no one in the man's world had yet managed to do.

We rode horses.

It was said my great-grandmother the Queen had found a white mare in the snow and that she lay down beside this wild creature to warm herself and keep herself alive. My great-grandmother whispered certain words in the mare's ear that no man would ever think of saying. Ours was a country of snow for half the year, of ice and wind and the steppes that led to the Black Sea. By the time the ice had melted, my great-grandmother had made the first bridle out of her leather belt and the snow mare let herself be ridden. A horse and a Queen had become sisters; when they raced across the steppes they were two hearts pounding with a single thought in mind.

Horses were everything to us. Our goddess, our sisters, our sustenance. Alive, they were our way to win battles; four legs against men's two. Even when our horses' lives were gone they were our tents, our clothes, our boots, our food, our traveling companions to the next world. Our children were raised on mares' milk. It made us wild and quick and unafraid. It gave us the ability to speak the language of horses.

A language men had yet to learn.

In the time of our people we lived without men, as we always had. Men were our enemies, a distant, bitter land that came to try to defeat us, again and again. They called us Amazonia. They cursed us and our grandmothers. In their stories they vowed that we were demons, that our skins were blue, that we ate men for breakfast and had bewitched the entire race of horses to become not our sisters but our slaves. They wanted all that we had — our land, our cities, our horses, our lives. They thought women should be worthless, wives and slaves like their own kind.

We were too strong ever to be worthless. We gave in to no one, not the tribes from the eastlands, or the city of stones to the west, not the wild northern men from the ice mountains, not the wanderers who came from everywhere, searching for new kingdoms formed from our age-old land. They all dreamed the same thing: Our land would be named after their foolish kings. Our women would belong to them, walking behind them, in the dust.

But they couldn't defeat us.

They came to destroy us, but in the end they always ran from us in fear, thinking we were fiends — half-woman, half-horse, with the courage of both.

Blood made us stronger, and our fallen came back to us in our dreams and helped us in battle. Our Queen, Alina, was a gift from the goddess, beloved by all, but as unreachable as the stars, especially when it came to me, her own daughter. She was as cold to me as the white stones in the river, as distant as our winter country, far beyond the steppes. Deborah, our high priestess who could see the future and who knew the past, told me what had happened to my mother. Why she was so indifferent; why she'd never asked to see me, just the two of us, mother and daughter, so she could braid my hair, or tell me a story of the world and wars she'd seen.

Her story was not one she wanted to tell.

Some stories are born out of misery and ashes and blood and terror. Tell one of those and your mouth may blister. Your dreams may be turned inside out.

But the priestess whispered my mother's story to me with the voice of a raven, low and raspy with the knowledge of hardship and pain. Our enemy had trapped Alina when she was just a girl. Maybe they could tell she was to be our Queen, as her mother and grandmother had been, as I would be when my time came. Fifty men against a single one of our warriors, a warrior who happened to be a thirteen-year-old girl, my mother, Alina.

They knew how to be cowards. That's what the priestess said. One of them was my father, and Deborah told me that whatever strength all fifty had was now mine. I had stolen it from them, and it rightfully belonged to me along with my yellow eyes. I was stronger than all fifty of those dishonorable men, the enemies who thought my mother would die when they were done with her, who left her on the steppes at the time when the ground was mud and there was the buzzing of flies and the wheat and grass grew tall.

After she was found, my mother was bathed in a cauldron of mares' milk, then given the bark of the laurel tree to chew for the pain of being violated and, more, for the gift of prophecy. Was it any wonder she didn't want to look into the future any more than she wanted to be reminded of the past? My mother wasn't interested in prophecies, or in any future that might be. She spat out the laurel. It was the here and now she claimed for herself. Alina was like a piece of ice in the sunlight, blinding and bright and unforgiving. Our people say the shadow is one of our souls, and my mother's shadow disappeared on the day she was violated. It shattered into black shards, then rose up like smoke. All that was left was the iron inside her; only the hardest part remained.

People told me that when I was born my mother kept her eyes closed; even then she would not cry out, though my birth was said to be difficult, with too much labor and too much blood. Nearly the end of her, it was rumored.

No wonder the Queen was cold. No wonder her hair was so black the ravens were jealous.

No wonder she looked away whenever I passed by.

My own mother whose blood ran through me, whom I was to follow onto a throne of bones and river rocks, never once touched me.

That was how I came to believe I was only sorrow, only rain, and that there was nothing more inside me.

But there was a voice beyond my mother's silence.

I was raised by Deborah and the other priestesses, the sacred prophecy women who wore black robes dyed with hazel. The songs that were my lullabies were Deborah's songs, and each one told me I was fit to be the Queen. My first taste of the world, even before mares' milk, was the taste of the laurel; that's what the old women put in my mouth as soon as I was born, before anything else. Unlike my mother, I swallowed it; I let the laurel grow inside me. The green and bitter taste of prophecy. In time it would be mine.

The priestesses had trained Alina to be our Queen, and now they were training me, the next in line, the girl who would be Queen of a thousand sisters, Queen of a thousand queens. Because Deborah was the oldest and wisest of all, she taught me most of what I knew — how to sew with thread made of horsehair, how to carve spoons out of bones, how to make tea out of the hemp plants and dye clothes with crimson berries and black nutshells. But she also taught me the thing there are no words for.

She believed in me. Not as sorrow. Not as shame.

Deborah took me away so none of the other prophecy women would hear, not even her blood-daughter, Greeya. Deborah had a secret, one to share with me alone. When we were in the place where the wind was so strong it rattled the core of my bones, she whispered that because I was not one but fifty, in time my strength would grow in ways no one could imagine. I would be a warrior like no other. She told me that in spite of my past and my terrible beginnings, I alone could lead our people.

One day I would open my eyes and I would have a vision no one else could see: a sign of what the future might bring.

The warriors closest to my mother, Asteria and Astella, trained me to be their sister-at-arms. Before long I could shoot an arrow nearly as straight and as far as they could. Those two were fearless, with faces painted ochre. They were cousins, but nothing alike, except for their bravery and their silence.

Astella had long black hair plaited into a hundred braids. Asteria had used a dull iron knife to shave the hair from her head; all that her enemies could see when she approached was the blue tattoo on her skull — the image of a bear, the highest mark of courage in battle. Though Asteria and Astella were kind to me, their greatness and their silence frightened me.

Some of the stories told about our people were true. Some cut off their breasts with a hot metal scepter, and they didn't once cry out with pain. But that was only true of those who were archers of the first degree, women like Asteria and Astella who belonged to the goddess completely. The bravest of all.

I felt more comfortable with my mother's sister, Cybelle, the keeper of the bees. She hummed like the bees do; she sang to them with such a sweet voice they followed her through the steppes, past the grasslands, into the houses she made for them.

Bees were the other gift no men had yet been granted, along with horses. Of course, you cannot tame bees the way you can horses; they were not our sisters in that way. But you can live alongside them, Queen to Queen, warrior to warrior. You can learn from their sisterhood: how they follow their Queen no matter what, how battle is nothing to them, how they enter into it freely and fight to the death.

Six women made a vow to follow Cybelle; each one had a sweeter voice than the next and each one smelled like clover. The bee women plaited their hair in a single braid, like Cybelle; they coated their hair with the richest honey, so the bees circled round them, dizzy from the scent. These women knew how to hollow out fallen logs so there would be a place for the bees to make their houses, and how to use smoke to clear out those houses when need be, just long enough to take the honey. Not all of it, of course. There was enough for us all. The bees were our neighbors, good neighbors, better than most. We cared for them, and they for us.

If only it had been that way with all our neighbors.

We were warriors because we had to be; the world we lived in was a battlefield. In truth, everything of importance that I knew about being a leader I learned from my mother, the woman without a shadow. It was not that she instructed me — she who would not speak to me or look at me — but that I studied her from afar. When my mother rose up from the steppes where they'd left her for dead she arose as something new. She had no pity and no regret. She cut through her enemies as though they were wheat and nothing more.

On the wood and leather quiver in which my mother kept her bronze-tipped arrows, there were forty-eight small red half moons, marks for the men she'd killed in battle. They weren't the fifty cowards from the time before my birth, but they would do. As a child I saw her in battle only once, when men from the other side of the Black Sea attacked us while we slept. The children were woken and herded together, but I saw Alina and her warriors run for their horses. I understood then why my mother was our Queen. She was like a whirlwind I could not keep sight of: She rode crouched low on her horse, as though they were one, skin-to-skin sisters.

All the while the Queen raced across the steppe her scythe was directed at the enemy; it was as though in exchange for her lost shadow she had been granted the power to guide her horse not with touch but with a single thought, as my great-grandmother had done. This was the power of a true warrior. Her mind. Her will.

On her hands, my mother wore a pair of lions' claws my grandmother had given her. In battle, she was terrible. A lion with long black hair. Some people said the men she fought were hypnotized by her. They dropped to their knees when they saw her. She appeared to them as a monster who was beautiful beyond belief. How could they fight her? What could they do?

Our enemies ran from her and scattered like leaves, red leaves, fallen leaves.

I thought that was what a true leader was, fierce and victorious, as my grandmother had been and my great-grandmother and now my beautiful and brutal mother. I thought what the world we were living in was, it always would be. I didn't understand that one season was quickly devoured by the next, leaving behind bones and memories. I was watching that happen, the way I watched the clouds move past us, high above our people.

We lived in a time of sorrow and blood, the time of Queens and cruelty, where every man was our enemy, and every horse lost in battle could mean a warrior's life.

Wave after wave of our enemies came. More all the time. They wanted open land like ours. We had so much of it the earth stretched from summer to winter, from the parched yellow lands to the mountains. Time after time we defended ourselves. Blood, heart, bones were strewn across the steppes. There for the birds to pick at. There to sink into the yellow earth. We didn't think whether we were wrong or right to live the way we did, or whether there was another way. We didn't mourn the men whose spirits we took. It was the time of fighting well or dying instead.

When I heard Astella and Asteria's war cries, I shivered. I did not feel like a coward, but I felt different from the women who charged out onto the steppes, their scythes and bows raised, courage their only shield.

One day Astella came back from the battle with her face cleaved nearly in two; the mark of an enemy's axe that would scar her forevermore. She had to be carried to her tent, and watched over through the nights. When she recovered she would no longer walk by the river lest she see herself. She who was afraid of nothing was now reminded of true terror by a single mark of war, a war that never seemed to end, that came to us as surely as the fat white moon.

Even when I was too young to go to war, I understood what it meant: Some of our sisters never returned. At night, their ghosts wandered the steppes, so cold in winter their bones rattled, so parched in summer their shadows burned to ash in the tall yellow grass. Could there be a reason for so much death, one only a Queen or a prophecy woman could understand?

Someday I would be Queen. It was my destiny. But I could not wait for an answer. My head was filled with the fallen. Especially when the rain fell, they seemed to be by my side.

I went to Deborah, the wisest of all. We walked to the windy place that made me feel hollow inside. It was far out in the grasslands, a place that seemed made at the beginning of all things. The goddess was everywhere around us. I felt tiny under the huge sky above us. I could see the shadows of the warriors we had lost in the yellow dust.

I could not yet see the future, but I wanted knowledge poured into me. I wanted my questions answered. I asked why our people had to give their lives in battle. Why the goddess didn't protect us from such a fate. Deborah whispered so that no one else could hear. Her voice sounded like the voice of the raven, difficult to understand, yet perfectly clear.

We are only an instant, that's true. But we are eternal.


In the Dreams of

In the dreams of our people there was always a horse.

As infants we rode in the arms of the women who raised us. Our first lullabies were made out of women's voices and of horses, bone and hide and hair. The echo of a thousand hooves on the yellow earth, hot breath that melted the snow, manes that were our blankets, the wind that sang us to sleep as we galloped, flying over rocks and grasslands and streams.

In every dream I'd ever had there was a black horse, the same one, every time. He was far away, past the grasslands, in the tall mountains we had to cross to reach our winter campground. He was so distant, yet I could see him clearly: storm cloud — colored, onyx-colored.

In dreams I could not catch the black horse, no matter how I might try. Some mornings I woke from sleep, breathless, my legs aching as though I had run all the way to the sea. When I opened my eyes all I could see were the prophecy women, dressed in their dark robes, breathing softly, like horses, sleeping beneath their horsehide blankets.

As the next leader in battle, I needed to learn every skill, from weaving to throwing an axe. To understand is to command, that's what Deborah had told me. That's what she had told my mother when Alina was a girl.


Excerpted from The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman. Copyright © 2005 Alice Hoffman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Foretelling 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Vesper More than 1 year ago
With the intriguing premise of being set among an Amazon tribe, I couldn't say no when a co-worker suggested this book. Hoffman writes a gripping story about bravery, survival, coming of age, finding one's identity, inner strength and a touch of love and understanding. The author obviously put in some anthropological research to provide a great feel and believable atmosphere for the story. With a relatable protagonist and themes this was a wonderful read! A definite gem among young adult lit section.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most bizarre (and best)books ive ever read. It certainly does leave an impact on you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A short but meaning-packed novel. Well-writen story. Worth the read for young women and adults alike. Very touching and gives you a lot to think about. A quick read. More than 1 year ago
Women who war against men, slice off a breast so they may become better archers, carry on the population with drug induced orgies that often end in the death of their mates, is hard to accept. But, when one considers the fact that women are routinely raped, beaten and mutilated in third world countries and even here in the U.S. it does seem fitting that women should take on the face of the warrior. The heroine Rain, a child of rape, is born into sorrow. In this richly imagined coming of age story she achieves self-actualization, female empowerment and acceptance of self-life lessons we all must learn, male or female. Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler's Tales
Trebble More than 1 year ago
The first words: "I was born out of sorrow, so my mother named me Rain." This sets the book up for a short and lyrical coming of age story through the eyes of Rain as one of the legendary Amazon sisters. Rain's birth was anything but joyous because it was born out of gang rape, so her mother shunned her. As she grows she learns everything she can about life of the Amazons. For knowledge is power and she much know how the whole society runs. She excels in horse training and riding and becomes as her grandmother, a true sister of the horse. Because she is a queen-to-be and also because her mother shuns her, she is set apart and often travels alone. These adventures with the advice from one of their most wise and psychic priestesses, Deborah, help her to see that what is beyond their borders is not all evil. Not all to be shunned. This becomes the beginning of her quest to becoming her true self, including her questions about if she wants to even be queen. I think this book is a quick and interesting fictional look into a culture that did exist many moons ago (hey, got to get into character here). However, it really is a look at one girl's life as she questions and learns and grows into her own wisdom and seeks the courage to become what she should become. There are references of rape, and sex, but it is not done in a graphic way and dealt with in a way that would make sense at that time. I give this book 3 1/2 stars. Loved this quote from the book: "The weak are cruel: the strong have no need to be."
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
In this intense yet complicated fantasy story, Rain attempts to gain her mother's notice and acceptance by being the best of warriors in their Amazonian tribe. The product of a rape when her mother, Alina, wasn't much more than a child herself, it is hard to gain the Queen's approval. Although Rain knows that she's been raised by Deborah, the wise priestess, to one day be Queen herself, she also pays attention to Deborah's promises of a much grander destiny.

Rain doesn't totally understand the Queen's desire to so thoroughly destroy her enemies, even though her own cousins, Astella and Asteria, are two of the fiercest warriors in the tribe. When Alina takes Penthe as her companion, and Penthe's daughter Io seeks to be Rain's sister, matters become even more complicated. Rain wants nothing more than to ride her horse, Sky, to garner her mother's approval, to earn the place as rightful Queen that will someday come upon her.

On her first journey alone, Rain comes upon a bear cub, which she takes back to camp. She names him Usha, and together with Io the two girls raise the cub as if he were a horse. Although Rain and Io soon discover the mistake of doing so, it's too late--Usha is killed in battle, and Rain still doesn't have the love and acceptance of her mother.

THE FORETELLING is a coming-of-age story set in a fantastical land of the Amazons. Rain is a compelling character who, although she tries so hard to be vicious and fierce like her fellow tribe-members, always leans more towards peace for all men and compassion towards her enemies.

Not to be missed by lovers of fantasy stories!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Fortelling, is Alice Hoffman at her best. Short, sweet, and to the point. You feel like you are part of the book. Even though it is set in ancient times, as a teenager I can relate to Rains' emotions. I most definatly suggest reading this, and other Alice Hoffman titles!
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ctmsnaco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Foretelling is Alice Hoffman¿s fourth book for young readers, and what a great tale it is. Rain, the female hero, is a young Amazon princess who was born to Alina, Queen of the legendary Amazon warriors. She is destined to become the Queen of the Amazons, as told in the prophecies of her people. Told in spare, gorgeous way, we learn that Rain is raised by the other women of the tribe, her mother unable to be close to her as Rain is the child of a violent rape. Rain, like all girls of her tribe, is raised on mare¿s milk (female horse) and nurtured with the strength of the warriors. She is a girl given to dark dreams and strange longings. Rain is determined to win her mother¿s love and become the best Amazon warrior there is. She practices constantly on her horse, learning tricks and becoming so one with it that she exceeds even Amazonian expectations. None of what she does wins her the love she craves though, and Rain grows up always feeling a bit different and alone. She must find her place within the tribe and become a Queen in her own right, and bring about a very different future for her people. This story is remarkable in its ability to bring a legendary and little-known culture to life. Alice Hoffman¿s Amazons are larger than life, but very real and multi-dimensional. Rain¿s quest to find herself and her place in the midst of war, turmoil and treachery is astounding and quite wonderful. It¿s such an eloquent, believable and poetic story. I definetly recommend it!
pamelawalker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rain is destined to be the next Queen of the all female community. She finds this daunting especially as her mother, the current Queen, won't acknowledge her. Rain sees fit to challenge the system with interesting results. Very well written.
VivalaErin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rain is the Queen-to-be, but at some point she doesn't know if that is actually what she wants. She is a prophecy for her people, and as she grows up she has to learn her place to accept or change things within her world.This was a very quick read, and Alice Hoffman has a beautiful writing style that makes it move quickly. I moved between disliking and liking Rain as she matures. Not to spoil anything, but by the end I was impressed with her as a woman; she grew up well, despite the difficulties in her life.
michelleknudsen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lovely but somewhat slight coming-of-age novel of a queen-to-be in an all-female Amazonian society. I¿m not sure exactly why I want to call it ¿slight¿¿perhaps because the narrator keeps us at somewhat of a distance (she keeps her emotions at a distance for most of the book as well) and the story at times seems spare in terms of what we actually get to see and feel. But plenty happens in the story, and it feels complete and worthwhile by the end. The writing is beautiful and obviously carefully crafted, and the whole novel has a poetic/mythic feel.
MCocuzzo2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing--Inspirational. The writing was beautiful. I wish it had gone on longer, I'm sad it was so short.
goodnightmoon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was entranced by the desolate setting and the idea of an all-female clan. I enjoy books that make me think of a time, a place, or a culture I never had before. I thought I knew where this book was going, but I was wrong, and I enjoyed that surprise. The story felt satisfying despite its short length.
8F_SAM on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was really scary! Well, not scary but really creepy and weird! I think that Rain, the main character, is definitely different from all the other people in her, sorta village. Definitely unique! I knew that from the beginning! This book was sorta predictable though...
allthesedarnbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very short, which is my main problem with this YA novel. It's fascinating otherwise, and the language is very poetic. It's told first person by the princess of an imagined ancient Amazon clan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is it just me, or does it remind you a lottle bit of the Giver? Especially when she rided on her horse with Anto. This is one of the best books I have ever read in my life!
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