Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Me on Shadows Cast By Stars
Author: Catherine Knutsson
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Atheneum (S&S imprint)
Two hundred years from now, blood is the most valuable commodity, but only if you're of Aboriginal heritage. If you do, your blood will be harvested for the Plague antibodies the rest of the world needs to survive. Cassandra might be immune because of what's in her blood, but that doesn't mean she wants her blood taken from her. When a search threatens her family, they go off to the Island, an idyllic and mysterious place protected by the Band, a pack of guerrilla fighters, and an energy barrier that keeps enemies out and the spirit world in. But even though the village healer is teaching her, and even though the village leader's son is falling for her, that doesn't mean she's safe in her new home. The creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they've chosen Cass as their instrument.
Shadows Cast By Stars is an enchanting debut, a tale that captivates and ensnares the reader's soul. My heart was in my throat right at the beginning and didn't fall until I turned the last page. Cassandra's world, already dangerous, becomes lethal, and all she can do is run, run straight into the heart of something that wants to make her theirs. This book awakens ancient tales and myths, customs seldom-used and more often than not forgotten. In this book, the past lives on in the future, and it might be the only way to survive.
The prose is so visual. As I read, I could picture the wide lake and the house nearby, the large trees that cover paths so it feels like you're inside and not outside, the totems that Cass sees. It has a very rustic and ancient feel, living off the land, the scent of cedar strong in your nose the second you wake up. There seem to be two types of novels that take place in the future: those where the world is overrun with technology, and those without. This is the latter, and it's written wonderfully.
What enchanted me most about this book is the other side, the world made of of Spirit, of Raven and Sisiutl and Thunderbird, the ancient sensations brought on by a book set two hundred years in the future. The spirit world, the things that Cass can see, make this book unbelievably compelling. The Aboriginal mythology, the legends and tales of spirits and animal gods that were present, made this book for me. The sense of being surrounded by something greater than us, something more than we are, something we can't see but is always watching over us is powerful.
Also Cass, I can't leave her out as one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so. She's so lost, so confused, but so strong in the face of the unknown and pain. She's a girl with some spine and courage of her convictions who's ended up in a primarily male-driven society where said males in charge hope to keep her under their control so the order of things isn't disturbed. Knowing that, we all know that something will happen, that her going to the Island will change everything, that she might lose everything if she doesn't fight back with all of her being.
Not many books I've come across focus on Aboriginal people and their beliefs, but I have to say it's something I'd like to see more of. There's something about legends and stories passed down for generations, about spirit guides and animal totems, about trickster gods that unknowingly fascinate me. I didn't know that I'd be so captivated by this book when I first started reading it.
(I borrowed an advance copy from another book blogger.)