________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV . . . . August 31, 2007

cover

Pyre.

James McCann.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2007.
172 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-894965-66-8.

Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

** /4

excerpt:

Although it took only a few seconds to cross the road, it felt like a lifetime. He dropped to his knees and, hidden by the grass, crept towards the house. The cold air nipped his ears, but Jon preferred its bite to Nick's fists.

Halfway across the lawn Jon noticed something odd. A bluish fog circled around the house only as deep as the grass. The fog didn't pour out into the street. It was contained to the grass, as if it were a part of the lawn itself.

A horn blasted. Jon turned and looked up over the grass to see Nick laugh, then mimic a fist hitting his palm. Nick pointed at the bungalow, his face now dark and serious. Jon continued crawling until he crouched next to the house.

As Jon lifted the can, the fog followed his actions. He lowered the can and the fog retreated. "This is too weird." Jon whispered. He turned and saw Nick again pound a fist into an open palm. Message received.

Breathe, he told himself. I won't get caught. I won't get caught. He shook the can and lifted it high. Pressing the nozzle, he began the first stroke. As quickly as the paint left the can, the fog caught it. The red liquid ran off the fog and hit the grass beneath. Not a drop stained the house.

"What the hell?" Jon blinked. As his eyes closed and opened, the fog disappeared, and a bony hand grabbed his shoulder.

Nick's van squealed away, the sound of burning rubber piercing Jon's ears. He turned to face Saint Whittaker. Tall and lanky, Saint Whittaker was dressed in a gray pin-striped suit and fedora hat. He looked more like a 1920s gangster than a youth social worker."

 

Jonathan is mostly concerned with dating Karen, the head cheerleader, playing his guitar and enjoying the company of his friend Lea and his dog, Cosmo. But Nick Bender bullies him into vandalizing the community centre, and from there Jonathan moves into the murky world of vampires and werewolves. He develops ultra-sensitive hearing and muscles he never had before. These supernatural powers produce visions and transform Jon into Liam the Mighty, a soldier in another time and place.

     James McCann again takes his readers into the eerie world of demons, vampires and werewolves as he did in his earlier novel, Rancour. The setting of Minitaw, a seemingly normal town, is only a veneer for the strange and shadowy world of the weird creatures which exist just under its apparently ordinary surface. This battle between the ordinary and the extraordinary mirrors the battle between Jon, an ordinary teen, and the sinister beings he encounters. McCann draws this particular battle to a close at the end of the book, but readers sense it is only a truce in the real war, and thus the door is left open for a sequel.

     This novel has a large number of characters, many of whom are transformed from, for example, a youth social worker to a vampire. Nothing is as it appears. The plot lines are often confusing as they switch from one world and time to another. Undoubtedly, this will appeal to some readers, for example those who enjoy the adventure and horror of the 'dungeons and dragons' type of game and story. However, its attraction seems limited to that specific group of readers rather than being more widespread.

Recommended.

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

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

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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