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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book 139: THE RAVEN'S GIFT Review

The Raven's Gift by Don Reardon
ISBN:  9780143187493 (paperback)
ISBN:  9780143180289 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00AMOO712 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 25, 2013 
Publisher: Penguin Group


John Morgan and his wife can barely contain their excitement upon arriving as the new teachers in a Yup'ik Eskimo village on the windswept Alaskan tundra. But their move proves disastrous when a deadly epidemic strikes and the isolated community descends into total chaos. When outside aid fails to arrive, John's only hope lies in escaping the snow-covered tundra and the hunger of the other survivors—he must make the thousand-mile trek across the Alaskan wilderness for help. He encounters a blind Eskimo girl and an elderly woman who need his protection, and he needs their knowledge of the terrain to survive. The harsh journey pushes him beyond his limits as he discovers a new sense of hope and the possibility of loving again.

John and Anna Morgan are happy and excited about moving to rural Alaska to work as teachers. They both are hopeful that John will be able to connect with his native Alaskan ancestry. They both know that this year isn't going to be easy. They'll be living without running water, no indoor toilet per se, no local grocery stores, no local pharmacy or medical personnel, and brutal weather conditions. They'll also need to adapt to no cellular service, no home phone service, and purchasing their foods long-distance and having it flown into the village. Little do they know that these limitations are easy compared to what horrors they'll face in the Alaskan tundra.

Mr. Reardon has crafted an engaging post-apocalyptic thriller with The Raven's Gift. The Yup'ik people are accepting of John and Anna and strive to include them in most village events and celebrations. John and Anna initially have their hands full just trying to engage their students, but as time passes they realize that teaching in rural Alaska can't be approached the same way as it is the Lower 48. John and Anna deal with a lot of uncertainty and difficulty as a result of being so far away from larger towns or villages. Those difficulties pale in comparison to what they must deal with when the sickness arrives. Without medicine, medical care, communication access to the rest of Alaska or transportation the village literally becomes a ghost town as it is decimated by this sickness. 

John is one of the few survivors and after a few months of hiding from looters, he decides to try to trek to the closest town. Before his journey has begun, he comes across a blind Yup'ik girl in one of the village homes. He "rescues" her and takes her along on his trek. They eventually come across another village and an older Yup'ik woman. Unfortunately John also comes across a mysterious hunter in white that appears to be traveling from village to village. The journey to safety is fraught with danger as this unlikely trio must cover harsh terrain by foot. The question raised throughout is what caused this sickness? How did it spread so quickly from village to village? Why are there so few survivors? Why hasn't any help arrived? Who is this mysterious hunter and why is apparently bent on killing any survivors?

I found The Raven's Gift to be a fast-paced read that kept my attention from the beginning to the very end. I was literally on the edge of my seat as I read about John's trek. I enjoyed the inclusion of Eskimo folklore into the story. The characters were very well developed and quite realistic. I enjoyed the notion that the blind girl was able to "see" things that John literally couldn't see. Her extrasensory perception might have been due to her closer affinity to nature and acceptance of folk traditions. Both the blind girl and older woman wind up teaching John a lot more he could ever realize. If you enjoy reading thrillers mixed with folklore, and post-apocalyptic survival adventures then you definitely want to read The Raven's Gift. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Reardon in the future.

Read an excerpt

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."



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