________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 1 . . . . September 1, 2006


The Droughtlanders. (Triskelia Book I).

Carrie Mac.
Toronto, ON: Puffin Canada, 2006.
347 pp., cloth, $25.00.
ISBN 0-670-06545-5.

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4


Eli couldn't look away. He gripped the brass rail and stared at where the boy had landed, head first, just out of reach of the circus hands who would've caught him had they been allowed to use the safety net. Sometimes Chancellor East allowed the Night Circus several nets, or one big one, or just one small one, or sometimes none at all. He liked that the acrobats never knew just how much peril they'd face before each performance.

That way, they're always off guard, and we're guaranteed a bit of blood sport every now and

Carrie Mac is a young, award-winning British Columbia author who has had three teen novels published. Her newest novel, The Droughtlanders, is the first part of a Triskelia trilogy. This fantasy novel has an opening which both repels and attracts the reader in a dramatic way, and the excitement and suspense continue until the last page is reached. The story revolves around twin brothers, Seth and Eli, who have grown up as part of the elite Keylander class. Keylanders are warned to stay within their boundaries to avoid the dirt, chaos and sicks of the Droughtland world. Seth has pledged to join the Keyland guards and help rid the world of Droughtlanders completely. Eli, through a set of intriguing coincidences, ends up traveling through the Droughtland in his search for Triskelia, the home of Droughtland rebels whose aim is to upset and hopefully reverse the balance of power of the two classes. Eventually the twin brothers meet head to head and must solve their personal conflict - - one way or another. The resolution is reached, but it is tenuous at best, leaving the door open for the remainder of the trilogy.

     The archetypes in Mac's work are numerous, making it approach almost mythical proportions: the peace-loving dove vs. the war-mongering hawk. Is the 'bad boy' somehow the more exciting and interesting character despite being on the 'wrong' side? This personal and familial struggle (between the siblings and also between parents and their offspring) is mirrored in the archetypal 'haves vs. have nots' conflict. Examples similar to Mac's fantasy world surround us; we have only to watch a newscast or pick up a paper.

     Obviously the Keylanders and Droughtlanders, representative as they may be, are the creation of Mac's imagination in this futuristic fantasy. Yet, this invented world holds together remarkably well. Characters act within the norms of what we know as society; rules and customs might be different, but they make sense in the context and there are no gaps in continuity throughout the book.

     Mac doesn't shy away from some of the more brutal aspects of society. The book includes drug addiction, sexuality and rape, and violent crime. Some might feel the novel too graphic for young adults. The counter-argument is that today's teens don't have to go further than their television or their computer to encounter similar graphic details. They seem more attuned to the horror of Stephen King than the make-believe world of Beatrix Potter! Pleasant? No. But pretending that the dark side doesn't exist isn't Mac's style. She apparently prefers to 'tell it like it is' and deal with all aspects of life head-on.

     At 347 pages, this might be a long book for some young readers, but there are love stories combined with adventure, fantasy combined with murder - in short, something to appeal to every taste. We may not like to admit it, but many of the personal and societal tensions described by Mac lurk just under the surface, either around us or within.

     As mentioned earlier, there is a resolution in the book, but key conflicts and love interests seem to have been left to simmer rather than being 'solved.' Anything is possible as the remainder of the trilogy unfolds. The second book is due for submission to the publisher this fall and the third next spring. Readers will find it hard to wait!

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson is a former teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French. She lives in Ottawa, ON.


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