I picked up this book out of a sense of responsibility after reading an article about “5 Indigenous Speculative Fiction Authors You Should be Reading.” I didn’t expect, much, truth be told.
I didn’t expect this poetic, emotionally resonant tale of people coming together to make meaning and community in a dystopian world where at any moment someone can be taken away by “Recruiters” and sent to “schools’ where they are harvested for their dreams.
I just read Trail of Lightning not so long ago, and if you read these two books close together (and I believe SFF lovers should, actually, at first out of a sense of cultural responsbility but later you’ll find yourself bound up with the characters and their adventures) I think you’ll come away with a fresh passion for the SFF genre’s ability to convey the importance of who we make of ourselves in the context of our ancestors and past.
On the outside, this book is about a young man named Frenchie and his band of assorted aged indigenous people running North from a post-apocalyptic world where people have ceased to dream: and kill themselves as a result. Someone, somewhere, figured out indigenous people were still dreaming, and so have begun to “harvest” them.
This not an adventure tail of fights with shadowy governments, however. The Recruiters exist to create a sense of danger and to shock the reader with the sudden brutality of beloved characters being taken away, bringing home acutely the not-so-hidden metaphor of this book with the actual taking of indigenous children and forcing them into boarding “schools’ that happened for real in North American history.
This is a tale of Frenchie becoming a man in a dangerous world, of his need to protect and find comfort, of rediscovering his own power and history. It is so poignant the way Frenchie hangs on each Cree/Anishinaabe word the elder of their group, Minerva, teaches them. And its the cultural treasure of their forgotten language that might save them in the end.
There is a bit of a romance. I liked how while Frenchie is head over heels poetry-in-love with his girl, that love plays second fiddle to every day survival in a realistic way.
As YA dystopians go, this one is a bit vague on plot. Don’t go into it wanting alternate world building and high adventure. Go into it wanting to immerse yourself in a dreamy alternate North America where danger lurks behind every tree and a small rag tag band of folks trying to find a home will steal your heart.