________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 7. . . .October 17, 2014


Siege. (Orca Currents).

Jacqueline Pearce.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
129 pp., trade pbk., hc., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0751-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0754-9 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0752-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0753-2 (epub).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Meredith Harrison-Lim.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



The next morning, I stand on the field next to Sean, musket raised to my shoulder. Major Helston strides in front of us, wearing his red jacket and tall black officer’s hat. He looks imposing as he surveys the line of phony soldiers. His gaze falls on me, and he pauses. His bushy orange eyebrows knit together and his cheek whiskers bristle. I pull my shoulders back and straighten up. The day is hot already, and I feel sweat start to drip under my arms. Helston moves on, and I relax slightly. Weird. Why am I letting him get under my skin when this is all playacting? Did the real soldiers squirm like this when their commanding officer looked at them? Of course, if they’d done anything wrong, they could be whipped. Or forced to listen to bagpipe music, or something. All I have to worry about is getting kicked out of camp.


Jason has been invited to go camping with his Canadian cousin, Sean, during his summer break while his parents go to Europe. However, upon arrival in Toronto, he learns that the “camping” trip he has been invited to is actually a reenactment camp of the War of 1812 at Old Fort Erie, with no access to electronics or girls. This causes Jason to wish that he could immediately return home to Syracuse. Upon meeting Nicola, a girl who works in the kitchen, his enjoyment of his summer holiday increases. As the daughter of the stern camp director, Major Helston, she is very knowledgeable of the history of the area, local legends, as well as the smuggling incidents that have occurred through the Niagara River which borders the Fort. Jason also begins to look up to the assistant camp director, Lieutenant Gunner, who seems to not take the rules of the camp as seriously as Major Helston and the other campers. Lieutenant Gunner even seems to cover for Jason when he is caught breaking curfew. However, as the week passes, Jason and Nicola begin to view some of Lieutenant Gunner’s activities as suspicious while the border patrol activities increase on the river. Are Jason and Nicola just imaging things? Will Jason’s curiosity get the better of him?

     Jason is a pre-teen who is disappointed to be separated from the outside world for the week of reenactment. Not being a history nerd like the rest of the “soldiers”, he frequently finds himself frustrated with the overly eager natures exhibited by his peers who are keen to demonstrate their knowledge about the War of 1812 and the battles that took place at Fort Erie. While the dialogue occasionally seems too juvenile for the characters’ demographics, Jason’s interactions with others, as well as his inner dialogue and feelings, feel plausible, though at times snide and irritable. Even the condescension that Jason has towards his friends who enjoy the Fort’s activities and take the ghost legends seriously seems understandable, though at times not the most enjoyable to read.

      The friendship developed between Nicola and Jason and the interactions between Jason and his cousin Sean as they contest for her attentions are amusing to read. As Nicola is a fountain of knowledge concerning Fort Erie and has an adventurous nature like Jason’s, her role is invaluable to the story. In turn, her familial relationship to Major Helstorm may aid readers to soften their opinions regarding the stern camp director. Lieutenant Gunner’s character is also well-developed in the story; the same characteristics which initially help gain Jason’s respect and appreciation, such as his disregard for the strict camp rules, cause his later actions to be viewed as plausible, though still surprising.

     Given the week-long time frame that the story is contained within, the story is well-paced and does not account for each day’s activities. Rather, Pearce does a good job in subtly incorporating details that will be important later on in the story. Events flow smoothly from one to the other, with history lessons included in the dialogue. Unfortunately, due to the compact nature of the book, the characters do not spend much time reflecting on the events at the climax of the novel. While in all likelihood campers would not receive a thorough debriefing from the police where all the details of the drug smuggling ring would be revealed, readers’ satisfaction with the end of the novel would likely be heightened if more details were provided regarding the incident.

      Siege is filled with information pertaining to the War of 1812. Readers will become familiar with some of the geography of Old Fort Erie and its surrounding area, the cause of the War of 1812, and familiar with terminology and phrases that were used at the time, such as “flash in the pan”. While there is not a specific theme conveyed through the story, the potential newfound knowledge that this war caused family members and neighbours to fight against one another may have an impact on readers’ perspectives on war.


Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate working for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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