________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number . . . .February 17, 2017


The Dream. (The Rahtrum Chronicles, Book One).

R. K. McLay.
Markham, ON: Fifth House, 2016.
328 pp., hardcover, $22.95.
ISBN 978-1-927083-37-6.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

** /4



“I’m certain he was a Gnome, and that is why no one else could see him. But you saw him, Little One. You saw him when we could not.” And you remember, you remember such detail as we Caribou cannot.

“But why could I see him?”

“You have a special gift, Bou. There is something in you that is not in the others.” And I fear this is why the Gnome came to watch you with his keen eyes. For Gnomes do very little unless some purpose drives them, Taiga thought.

“I feel different, Mother,” Bou sighed softly. “Sometimes I feel that I don’t belong. The other yearlings don’t remember the way the moon shone low between the clouds on the night of the first snowfall. Or how the snow was so fine that the flakes were like stardust in the moonlight. I’ve asked them, but they can’t remember.”

Taiga nodded slowly at the small calf. “It is a beautiful memory to have.”


The Dream, the first book of “The Rahtrum Chronicles”, is the story of a thoughtful and sensitive caribou calf who is given a quest by Rahtrum, the Great Binder. Rahtrum tells him he must journey north to find a rare flowering plant called the Breschuvine which he must eat. This quest is necessary in order to wake the two-legged Cargoth who have forgotten the proper balance of Nature and threaten to swallow the whole world.

     Bou, who is given the name Moshee by Rahtrum, begins his journey with his mother and the other caribou who migrate north every spring. He faces great danger from hazards, such as rushing rivers and predators, but he is also followed by a shadowy shapeshifter and his two crows, Hugin and Munin, who want to thwart Rahtrum’s plans. Rahtrum sends various helpers to protect Bou: a Gnome, a fairy, eagles and wolves, all of whom are bound to serve Rahtrum and, therefore, act against their nature to protect the caribou calf, even at risk to their own lives and the lives of their kin.

     The shapshifter, Grotto, eventually catches up with Moshee and threatens to kill his fairy helper if he doesn’t show him where the Breschuvine is. Moshee tricks him enough to eat half the flower, himself, but Grotto also consumes half before the fairy chases him away. A Gnome tells Moshee he must now travel west to continue the process of waking the Cargoth. Moshee is unhappy because of the number of friends who have died while helping him, but he decides that is all the more reason to continue with the quest.

     The Dream is full of lovely descriptions of Northern landscapes and knowledgeable details of animal life. The migration of the caribou every year is an amazing happening, and the novel shows it from the caribou’s perspective. Bou is a likeable character, and the relationships he develops with the other animals he meets along the way are enjoyable and heartfelt.

     The mystical elements of the story ring a little odd, being an unexplained mixture of European and invented characters. Since this is the first book of a planned trilogy, the reason Moshee has to eat a flower is not explained, other than that it appears to give him greater powers.

     The pace of the writing is very slow, often encumbered with repetitive descriptions and labored conversations. The plot did not require 328 pages. Young readers will likely not have patience with the Tolkein-esque prose.

     Readers who enjoy animal stories and adventure stories set in the Arctic may want to give The Dream a try.

Recommended with Reservations.

Kim Aippersbach, a writer, editor and mother of three, lives in Vancouver, BC.

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

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