________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 4. . . September 29, 2017


Algonquin Sunset. (An Algonquin Quest Novel, Book 3).

Rick Revelle.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2017.
304 pp., trade pbk., Epub & PDF, $12.99 (pbk.), $8.99 (Epub). $12.99 (PDF).
ISBN 978-1-45973-702-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-45973-704-4 (Epub), ISBN 978-1-45973-703-7(PDF).

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Adam C. Hunt.

*** /4



Soon the buffalo reached the opening, charging up and over the stoutly built ramp that had been constructed with tightly packed rocks. Once over the ramp, they tumbled into the closed-off area to meet their deaths. Surrounding the corral were warriors sending arrows and spears into the animals’ bodies. The noise was deafening, with warriors shouting, dogs barking, woman singing, and the buffalo bellowing as they took their last breaths. The rising dust and stench of dying animals as they released urine and emptied their intestines upon their deaths filled my nostrils and made me dizzy from the excitement of the hunt. Thathanka Kat’a, Ota Hehaka, and I shot all our arrows, keeping our spears for any unseen danger.

When it was over, the men entered the compound and finished off any of the animals that were still alive. The women then came in after the men had completed their killing and began butchering the meat with their knives. Many of the people, to satisfy their hunger, cut off pieces and ate them raw, while the dogs were thrown guts to fight over along with the crows and the ravens.

The women skinned each buffalo down the back in order to get at the tender meat just beneath the surface, the area known as the “hatched area.” Once this was removed, the front legs were cut off as well the shoulder blades. This exposed the hump meat as well as the meat of the ribs and the beast’s inner organs. After all this was exposed, the spine was then severed and the pelvis and hind legs removed. Finally, the neck and head were separated as one. This allowed for the tough meat to be dried and made into wasna (wah-snah: pemmican). (p. 157)


Algonquin Sunset, the third of the “Algonquin Quest” trilogy, although a good novel, is far more muted than the first two. When Algonquin Spring ended, readers were left with a cliff-hanger: as I said when I reviewed this novel, “Mahingan is narrating the chapter, ‘The Clash of Nations’ and he is on the verge of reuniting with his wife and daughter. Corn Dog and his forces, however, have surrounded him and are about to attack.” The third novel never recounts the final battle that claimed Mahingan. Instead, Revelle opts to begin the final book 12 years later. Since Revelle worked so hard in Algonquin Spring to create a cliffhanger ending, it seems strange (and ironic) that Revelle never satisfies his readers. Once one gets over the quiet beginning, Algonquin Sunset does take the reader on a satisfying journey, albeit without the narrative bumps and jostles of the previous book.

     The newest element in the trilogy is the introduction of the Lakhota (Sioux), enemy to the Anishnaabe. Because this tribe is based farther West – North and South Dakota – it allows Revelle to create a lovely extended scene where a buffalo hunt is described. That chapter – Chapter 12, “One Dies So Another Can Live” – symbolizes both the strengths and weaknesses of the entire novel: it depicts the vast intricacies of a buffalo hunt in a documentary fashion, but the narrator of the event (Chanku Waste) seems distant and paper thin. In fact, all three narrators of the novel (Waste, Anoki and Zhashagi) suffer from this quality; the effect, unfortunately, is that the reader feels little for the characters. Thus, although one may enjoy the novel, it is in the way one may enjoy a non-fiction book about the Algonquin.

     However, one may still applaud Revelle, particularly for creating a trilogy that is vivid in its depiction of a culture that is rapidly fading. As Revelle points out in his “Afterword”:

The average age for Lakhota speakers in the United States is 65 and there are 8,500 to 9,000 speakers remaining in a population in the United States of 102,200 (2000 U.S. census). The population of the Mi’kmaq in Canada is around 60,000 with 8,935 left (2011 Canadian census). The Algonquins have 2,275 speakers remaining in Canada. The average age for Anishnaabe (Chippewa in the United States) speakers is 70, and they have around 6,000 speakers left in the United States. The Anishnaabe (Ojibwe in Canada) have 20,000 speakers……This is the legacy of the residential schools! (p. 266).

     It is worth noting that Revelle does not succumb to political gesturing in the trilogy; instead, he stays within the 13th century, chronicling the daily lives of his characters. Novels like Revelle’s document the rich and nuanced life of First Nations people. Pre-colonization life, as the trilogy shows, was far from barbaric and backward. By understanding the ways life used to be for the Algonquin (and Lakhota and Anishnaabe), one feels greater compassion for them. As Canadians, we have a responsibility to understand our past in order not to repeat it (residential schools, Japanese internment, and other horrors), and part of this is valuing pre-colonization First Nation culture. We lament and mourn the genocide that was perpetuated on First Nation people and also celebrate the majesty and splendor of early First Nation life, one depicted so admirably by Rick Revelle.


Adam Hunt, a teacher of English for almost twenty years, is now Department Head of Library and Social Sciences at Centennial Secondary School in Belleville, ON.

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

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