________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 2 . . . . September 14, 2007


Vendetta. (The Runestone Saga, Book II).

Chris Humphreys.
New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2007.
322 pp., hardcover, $21.00.
ISBN 978-0-375-83293-2.

Subject Headings:
Time travel-Fiction.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

***½ /4


Even in daylight, the alley was far darker than the square, the houses tall, made of dark granite, looming over the cobbles, all their shutters closed. And it was distinctly cooler between the stone walls. Not cold exactly - a party of schoolkids passed him in shirtsleeves and seemed not at all bothered - but different. As soon as they came toward the sunlight, they burst out chattering, as if something had held their voices till then. Other people passed him, not talking, their heads bowed.

He rounded a bend - and saw why people had gone silent, and stayed so, when they passed this spot. Death had come to call at the house of Lucien Bellagi. His senses told him so, one after the other. A smell - not the whiff of rotting flesh: it was too soon for that. But there was a taint in the air that overrode the sweet herbs being burned to disguise it. It smelled of what it was - the absence of life. Cooling skin, slackened muscles, pooling blood. Sight came next; the wreath on the door, made up of woven flowers and branches, threaded through with a black scarf. Sound confirmed death’s presence. Not the low moaning that, he realized now, had accompanied every step down the alley. This was a new sound.

Vendetta is the second book in "The Runestone Saga." The story picks up where the first book, The Fetch, ended, with the teenage hero, Sky, facing his grandfather, Sigurd, in a contest of wills. Sigurd has possessed the body and soul of Sky’s cousin, Kristin. To learn how to combat Sigurd and save Kristin, Sky travels to Corsica to seek the secrets of the other part of his heritage. In the first book, Sky travels into the body of a Viking; in this book, he also time-travels, into the body of another ancestor, Tza, a Dream Hunter and murderer. Dream Hunters, known as the Mazzeri in Corsica, leave their bodies at night to stalk their prey. They turn the face of their dying victim, normally an animal, toward them, to look upon the face of someone who is now marked for death.

     When 16-year-old Sky reaches Corsica and begins his search, he also discovers that his family has been engaged in a murderous vendetta that dates back so far no one can remember why they are fighting. The history of the vendetta is disclosed during the course of the story.

     The story travels from England to Corsica and back again. To allow the reader to follow the tale, two maps are provided, one of the Mediterranean area around Italy, including the island of Corsica, and one showing the portion of Corsica where the story takes place. The book includes six pages of author’s notes referring to some of his research.

     Where the first novel involved Norse runes, this book takes us into the world of the Dream Hunters. Both volumes involve ghosts and transformations into animal shapes, and, in this book, we are introduced  to were-wolves.

     This well-written and well-researched book contains characters who are brought alive. Sky is a teenager with more than just the normal set of problems of growing up. He sees ghosts, he can travel back into the bodies of an ancestor, his grandfather has possessed Sky’s cousin because he wants to use her to spread his gospel of world domination by bringing everyone who has the ability to use psychic ability under his control.

     I would recommend reading the first book to follow the flow of the story. This book is another page-turner, but be careful if you dislike discussions of death or psychic happenings. Another warning, while Vendetta wraps up some of the loose ends, you know the tale is not yet finished.

Highly Recommended.

Ronald Hore, involved with writers’ groups and writers’ workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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