________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 13 . . . . November 28, 2014


The Plagues of Kondar.

Lynne Kositsky.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2014.
183 pp., trade pbk., epub & pdf, $12.99 (pbk.), $8.99 (epub), $12.99 (pdf).
ISBN 978-1-4597-0934-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4597-0936-2 (epub), ISBN 978-1-4597-0935-5 (pdf).

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Libby McKeever.

** /4



"I am Yaddair, Chief Seer of Vor. I wish to see the girl that you have. A wayfarer at our settlement told me that she was in the marketplace of Katannya, her parents dead. There is a dearth of females for sale at present, and I need one, so I trekkened hither."

"She is right here, Chief Seer Yaddair." Keeper, who is no doubt calculating what he might get for me from the rich seer, bows low. Rising and prodding my shoulder, he forces me to totter forward, one tiny step at a time so I don't fall again.

I take a shuddering breath. My thoughts fly back and forth in knotty confusion. Yaddair is the Chief Seer of Vor, so he says, and I have no reason to doubt him. Is that good or bad for me? Vor is closer to Edge than Katannya, much closer, the closest settlement to Oscura. It is also further north, will be foggier, darker, colder in Icer than it is here. It will almost certainly travel me farther from Rado. But seers and their families live well. If Yaddair wants to buy me and he's a reasonable master, I will probably get enough to eat and a comfortable place to sleep.

Arien lives with her parents in Kattannya, a village on the planet Kondar. At 15, she has been taught all of her life not to go near Edge, the defining line between the Lightside and Oscura, the Darkside. It is rumoured that beyond Edge there are creatures who writhe and moan in pain and who endure severe cold as well as constant darkness.

      Arien's village is poor, and, after a particularly bad winter and the real threat of starvation, her parents leave her behind in an effort to buy grain from a neighbouring village. After they are gone for many days and Arien is literally starving, her neighbour tells her that they've fallen through the ice and have died. In accordance with the village laws, Arien's home is taken by the neighbour in compensation for the loss of their 'burden beast' which was lent to her parents. Radol, a constant childhood friend, cares for Arien in her grief, but when Arien is forced from her home and Radol is dragged off, the teen promises he'll return for her.

      As no one in the village can afford to feed another, Arien is sold at the slave market. Fortunately, she is purchased by the Seer of Vor. He is a kindly man, and, although his wife is not welcoming; with food, adequate clothing and a safe place to sleep, Arien begins to thrive. She learns the healing arts from the Seer's wife but still dreams of day she'll see Radol again.

      The tales of tortured people in Oscura become all too real when these creatures begin to fly over Edge and drop out of the sky, dying on the ground in and around the village. When Vor's citizens begin to sicken and die, it becomes apparent that these creatures have brought a plague.

      Like her father, Arien is able to hear the chatter of plants and animals. When strangers keep appearing at the edge of the village, Arien begins to listen to their thoughts, although, at first, she dismisses what she hears. Eventually Radol finds his way to her, and, even though she is concerned he will also get sick, she is pleased to have him with her again. The strangers return and are insistent in their messages to Arien, and it is through this communication she discovers the cure for the plague and that she needs to travel to Oscura to help them as well. Radol accompanies her, and they cross over Edge. It is Radol's strength that enables Arien to resist the spell of the strange land and return to Vor safely.

      Arien is likeable protagonist, one who has lots of courage and pluck. This bravado enables her to survive in a hostile environment, void of love. Readers will enjoy her tenacity and character growth, and the novel may be a good choice when wishing to introduce a reader to science fiction/fantasy. There are a few storylines that could have been developed a little further, including Arien's telepathy and its origin, the strangers and where they are from, and the fact that inhabitants have different coloured blood which traces their ancestral line, noble or otherwise.

      At the opening of the story, the pace is slowed by the inclusion of many new terms which diverts the reader, rather than serving to enrich the narrative and move the story forward. A younger reader may find this confusing. Some of these terms are: burden beasts (cows), flutterers (birds), skytree (tree), Icer (winter), solar (summer) and luggers (shoes).

      Lynne Kositsky is an award-winning poet and the author of 10 novels, including Minerva's Voyage. Her fiction has won the White Raven Award and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Youth for The Thought of High Windows.


Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Librarian at the Whistler Public Library in Whistler, B.C.

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

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