________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 38 . . . . June 3, 2016


The Heart at War. (The Last Descendants Trilogy, Book III).

Catherine Banner.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2015.
425 pp., trade pbk. & epub, $15.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-0-385-66309-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-307-37610-7 (epub).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

**½ /4



My name is Harlan North, and I was born in Capital, in the year zero, on the night of the invasion. But from my earliest childhood, I have been able to remember a time before I was born. I looked down on the world from a great height then, the way I look down now in dreams. I remember darkness and a white light piercing it. I remember a city of walls and red stonework. I remember my mother crying—a sound which came to me sometimes like a voice on the wind, and sometimes like the rushing of a mighty river. I remember the night my great-great-uncle was killed, the dull snap of the rifle and his dizzying fall. I remember their weeping.

Even as a small child, I could see pictures and hear sounds that were not my own, that never could have been. Sometimes the voices in me fought so fiercely that they became a kind of static in my head. What is it like, not seeing the world the way you're supposed to see it? Like a traveller from another country, you are at odds with your surroundings, disorientated. Everything is too fast and too bright and too real.

Harlan's parents leave the capital when he is eight years old, fleeing from the invaders who are searching for the family, and especially for Harlan, the last descendent of a line of men with mysterious powers. It is winter when they make the dangerous crossing with a boatload of other refugees to the Holy Island which has not yet fallen. They live there under assumed names. Harlan's older brother remains on the mainland with the resistance, and his sister leaves the island to join him. A teenager when the island falls to the enemy, Harlan meets a lonely girl, Antonia, who is living with her harsh father who is an officer in the occupation forces. Harland and Antonia escape together and fall in love.

      Harlan is caught and sent to spend a year in a labour camp. When he returns, he is told Antonia is dead, and then he also discovers he is a father. He doesn't believe Antonia is gone. With the baby in his arms, he returns to the mainland to search for Antonia.

      The political situation in the land has grown worse, and Harlan goes in search of his brother in the resistance. The Heart at War continues the dark mood of the series, with the protagonists suffering more than the agonies of average North American teenagers. The tale of fleeing refugees in an uncaring world, political turmoil, riots in the streets, and the resistance preparing to fight back, is seen through the eyes of a tormented youth, with a crying baby in his arms while searching for his lost love.

      At 425 pages, plus a page of acknowledgements, the book is divided into sections titled: Birth, Loss, Death, Love, Exile, Return, War, Peace. These are further divided into 75 subsections. The Heart at War is a well-written, serious, and complex story that is told through the eyes and mind of the teenage Harlan. The Heart at War is probably not a tale for the reader of light fantasy who is looking for happy princesses, cute elves, or fierce dragons. In many ways, the story does remind this reader of some recent current events.


Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups for several years, dabbles in writing fantasy and science fiction in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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