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Kellerhals-Stewart, Heather
Vancouver, Polestar Book Publishers, 1994. 192pp, paper, $9.95
ISBN 0-919591 -88-4. Distributed by General Distribution Services. CIP

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up

Reviewed by Trina Preece

Volume 22 Number 6
1994 November / December

Literally a cliff-hanger, Witch's Fang is a very exciting read. The main character is Todd Rushton, a mountaineering enthusiast whose ambitions have been halted by the ankle injuries he received in a car accident. His desire to climb is re-awakened by news that an outside party of mountaineers is planning to scale the last unclimbed peak in his area of British Columbia. Todd persuades his sister and his best friend to attempt the Witch's Fang with him.

Real life takes its revenge when Kate is accosted in the snack bar by a boy who claims to have a knife. Kate persuades him that what he needs is a square meal and helps him to find local employment. When a series of local robberies begins and eventually culminates in murder, she wonders if she has made a terrible mistake. To complicate matters, she has fallen for this strange boy.

Kellerhals-Stewart is herself an avid climber, and her descriptions of the teenagers' preparations for and ascent of the peak are convincing and fascinating. Explanations of mountaineering terms such as "piton" and "belay" are integrated well into the narrative. Todd is a strong character, but there are perhaps too many flashbacks to his accident and subsequent rehabilitation, flashbacks that take the eager reader away from the suspenseful main story.

The interplay among the three main characters is satisfyingly realistic the teenagers learn to trust one another in very dangerous situations. The character of rival climber Kurt, however, is less sympathetically developed. He is portrayed as selfish and unstable, but his disappearance and suspected death should still have been given more weight in the narrative and in the minds of the other characters. This gripping book is recommended for young adult readers who enjoy stories of adventure and physical challenge.

Trina Preece is a librarian in Scarborough, Ontario

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