CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 29 . . . . March 30, 2018
Karma is 13-years-old and lives in the Montana backcountry with her parents and her brother, Gavin. However, Karma is not your average girl. Karma lives in a treehouse in her yard, and her parents homeschool the siblings while also raising and training birds of prey. Karma is the trainer and caregiver for Stark, a rescue gyrfalcon found on the side of the road. She performs falconry demonstrations with her father at their education center and dreams of beginning her apprenticeship with her Aunt Amy when she turns 14. When Stark's original owner requests the bird's return, Karma, Gavin and their father set off on a road trip to Canada to return the falcon. The trip quickly takes a nasty turn when Karma's father takes on Cooper, a troubled young hitchhiker: their tire blows, and the car crashes, Karma's father is trapped, Stark escapes, and the family finds that Cooper has stolen their cell phone. With no means of calling for help, Karma sets off on foot in search of assistance only to fall down a rocky ridge and become stranded at the bottom without food or water. To make matters worse, Karma's arm becomes infected and she is wedged alongside a human corpse. Stark soon saves the day by reappearing to circle overhead, alerting Cooper to Karma's location and allowing Cooper to rescue Karma from the abyss.
In an effort to find help and return to rescue her father and Gavin, Karma and Cooper set off on foot for what becomes quite an adventure. Over the course of a few days, the unlikely pair get caught in a current and are dragged upstream, become trapped in a cave due to a hailstorm, are chased by a grizzly bear and find themselves forced to rely on Stark's hunting skills to catch them game to eat. Throughout the trek, Cooper insists on calling Karma "Crazy", and she struggles to trust Cooper after finding out that he stole money from the corpse in the abyss and as he refuses to disclose his troubled past to her. When Karma and Cooper finally come upon the family's car once again, they realize that they have been walking in a circle for days and that Karma's dad is in crisis. In a leap of faith, Karma entrusts Cooper to set off on the dirt bike that he stole, and, with the last of their gas, he goes off to find help. Fortunately for everyone, Cooper does return with help, and the family is rescued, although Stark is once again at large. Back home in Montana, Cooper begins mandatory volunteering at the family's center to make up for his crimes, and he begins to show a new appreciation for falconry.
The author of Falcon Wild has clearly done her research and provides detailed insight into the field of falconry, including typical terms and practices. Unfortunately, such technical information is not always woven seamlessly into the narrative. The falconry passages and unique terminology sometimes clash with the story, jarring the reader out of the narrative. Some of the characters' choices and scenarios in the story also left this reader a bit confused. Karma's father senses something off and rightly refuses to give a ride to Cooper when he meets him at a gas station. Yet when the family then encounters Cooper a bit further down the road, Karma asks that they pick him up and her father gladly takes the odd hitchhiker on board and allows him to take a seat in the back beside his teenaged daughter. Cooper then steals their phone and slashes their tire. The survival trek through the wilderness also comes across as being a bit over the top and Disney-esque at times – too much, too fast and too easily overcome. Finally, the ending of the story may leave readers shaking their heads as Karma, Cooper and her dad all head back out in the car to find Stark, embarking on the same road trip that was a disaster, despite Karma's injury and her father's depleted health.
For youth with an interest in birds of prey or falconry, Falcon Wild may fit the bill.
Cate Carlyle, a former elementary teacher currently residing in Halifax, NS, where she is a librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University.