________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 8 . . . . October 24, 2014


The Hills Are Shadows. (A Girl Called Tennyson Series, Bk. Two).

Joan Givner.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown, 2014.
259 pp., trade pbk., html & pdf, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-927068-91-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77187-004-7 (html), ISBN 978-1-77187-005-4 (pdf).

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Stephanie Dror.

*** /4



Once again they trod in single file along a narrow footpath that was a continuation of the one that led them to the chapel the day before. The rain had stopped by the wind was rising again. They were climbing now towards higher ground, their heads bent against the wind, until they reached a rocky plateau, bare of all plant life.

Tenn turned round, her eyes seeking out the white spire above the chapel. Eventually, she made out the place, encircled by trees, where it had stood. But there was nothing there - no bell-tower, no spire, just empty space! The words on the wall ran through her mind: "The spirits of the night... only in your mind... images of dreams fade in the light of day..."

Yet, as she stood there, she was sure she heard the faint tolling of a bell carried on the wind. And in the clearing she saw a pool, in which the white clouds were reflected. Beyond it, she saw the broad swath of the sea, like a great monster coming after its prey. Ahead of her, the undulating hills were grey and shadowy.

The Hills are Shadows follows A Girl Called Tennyson and, though it has the same bond to the writings of Tennyson, the storyline could not be more different. This time, Tenn, along with Una, arrive at the Miller homestead in the midst of a storm to find a near dystopian setting. While Tenn was away discovering the magical land of Greensward, here in our world, the climate has been changing at a pace not seen since the last ice age. When Tenn discovers that her hometown is void of people, she doesn't know what to do. To top it all off, she has Una to care for.

      Survival becomes the adventure in this text. The girls head to Bracula College in the hopes of finding people and food. While Una is dramatising "My Last Duchess", they meet two boys, Zumi and Wen. The boys were at Bracula to learn English; they are mysteriously connected to each other and unwilling to divulge their own story. The four youth form a team and decide to travel into the mountains as it might be their only chance to reunite with the Miller family and return to some kind of normalcy.

      Now begins the difficult task of survival in a dystopian setting. While there are a few friendly encounters with both humans and wildlife, much of their journey is harrowing and full of narrow escapes. Yet, Tenn and her group endure, and, all along the way, they hear and tell stories. Once they reach the mountaintop, however, the reunion with Tenn's family is tainted by the realization that life will never go back to the way they knew it. With an attack from Bamberfield, an enemy survival camp, on the horizon, the story ends on a cliff-hanger.

      Throughout the text, relationships are formed, spirits are lifted, hearts healed and magic occurs through the power of storytelling. Una's mind is ever on the next plotline while the boy's own story creates an air of mystery throughout the text. Through Tenn, readers get a telling of the realistic and the fantastic occurrences along the way, and her voice and point of view are incredibly real and sympathetic. While the prose was a little heavy for the pace of the story at times, it was a compelling read all the way through. Givner has wrapped the story up so that it leads directly into a sequel where some answers might arise.

      I would recommend this to fans of the first book, lovers of Tennyson's works, and strong readers who like fantasy, storytelling and survival. The story and plot are not particularly difficult, but the allusions and the weight of the language might deter a weaker reader. That said, it would make a doable read-aloud and a strong reader of any age would enjoy it.


Stephanie Dror, who currently lives in Ottawa and has a Master of Arts in Children's Literature, is a founder and blogger at The Book Wars.

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.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - October 24, 2014.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive