________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 33 . . . . May 5, 2017


The Coin. (Wyvern Book I).

Kyle McGiverin. Artwork by Toby Madeiros.
Toronto, ON: The Ethereal Press, 2016.
400 pp., trade pbk., $14.99.
ISBN 978-0-9953287-1-6.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Rob Bittner.

** /4



"Ugh…" I groaned, bringing my left hand up to my face, tenderly feeling my forehead, and then reaching around to the side and then the back. I winced as I felt a lump toward the back of my skull. How did that happen? I wondered. Then I noticed the pain in my arms and legs, my hips, my abdomen too. I let out another groan.

I realized I was lying flat on my back, and on something hard and cold. I fought the pain in my head, forcing myself to sit up, but I couldn't yet bring myself to open my eyes. I sat there for a moment, fighting away the nausea and the dizziness. My head felt heavy, and the coin in my hand was—

The coin. My eyes snapped open and I looked down at my right hand. The coin!

      Quinn, 12, is a pretty average kid, aside from the fact that he is transgender. He doesn't love school, he's always fighting with his brother, and his parents don't seem to understand him. One day while walking home from school, Quinn runs into some bullies from school, and in the ensuing drama he ends up knee-deep in a creek, trying to hide. He notices something glinting just off the shore and goes to pick it up, discovering a shiny blue-ish coin. When he holds it, he suddenly finds himself transported to a new world where humans and wyverns co-exist. After he finds himself taken in by a small town, Quinn discovers that Wyverns, a dragon-like people, have no discernable separate genders, going by wy, wym, and wys.

      When Quinn meets a rather rebellious young wyvern named Teodor, Quinn discovers that the coin he has can undo a centuries old curse that has been keeping the wyverns of this island nation flightless. After making this discovery, Quinn, Teodor, and a small group of supportive acquaintances start on a journey to New Goldwyrm where they hope to find the means to break the ancient curse. Of course, nothing is easy, and they encounter a number of obstacles along the way, including the wily wyvern Ekko who is working for the leader of the Republic to keep the curse from breaking.

      As you can see, the plot is complex, filled with a lot of twists and turns. Each individual has a complicated reason for being involved in the journey or else has a connection to the coin for some reason or other. For the most part, the main characters were very roundly constructed and emotionally compelling. Quinn is particularly interesting because of his self-doubt and desire to be seen as a boy even in the face of social expectations. His fear of being seen naked in public may be justified on Earth; however, in Aldia, gender nonconforming individuals, gay and lesbian individuals, and others are entirely accepted. That being said, there is still discrimination in Aldia, particularly toward ethereal wyverns, like Teodor, who can become invisible. They are seen as unacceptable and untrustworthy, thus paralleling the experiences of trans people on earth. This extended metaphor is interesting overall, but it also feels rather forced at times and very on-the-nose when the similarities are examined in longer monologues and extended dialogue.

      The villains, aside from Ekko, were relatively two-dimensional, and their actions, though written to be mysterious, were more predictable than they were likely meant to be. Quinn's friend Taylor, on earth, disappears for the majority of the novel, and she then only appears again for the last few pages of the Epilogue, so her character was very much static, having been given no page space on which to develop.

      I found the world building to be a bit lacking as readers are only given more detailed descriptions of the cities that Quinn and his group stop into on their journey. Perhaps something simple like a map would have helped to better visualize the entirety of Aldia and places outside of the few cities they visit. Furthermore, the pacing was inconsistent, with a great amount of exposition slowing down many sections of the text. In particular, the didactic discussions of gender and sexuality within the text could have been handled in a slightly more nuanced fashion. And while I do understand that the author did work with a trans artist on this project, this is a further instance of a cisgender author writing a trans character. I feel that the metaphor of the wyverns and their lack of gender differentiation, without the direct content of the trans protagonist, might have worked better in the end.

      In addition, I am unsure of the intended audience. The cover art and the age of the protagonist suggest a middle grade audience while the complexity of the plot, the length of the novel, and the writing style all imply a young adult audience. Overall, the plot and topic are intriguing and have merit, but the execution—inconsistent pacing, didacticism, world building, and unsure audience—is unfortunately lacking.

      Because there will likely be young readers who will find The Coin to be of interest, I encourage teachers and librarians to at least have a cursory knowledge of the novel.

Recommended with Reservations.

Rob Bittner has a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (SFU), and is also a graduate of the MA in Children's Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He loves reading a wide range of literature, but particularly stories with diverse depictions of gender and sexuality.

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

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