Review of ‘The Disappearance of Ember Crow’
Review of ‘The Disappearance of Ember Crow’
Written by Ambelin Kwaymullina
Publisher: Walker Books
Age Range: Young Adult
Review by Trish Buckley…see note at end.
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It’s possible that teenagers today believe The Hunger Games was the first dystopian book written for them. But I remember reading several as a teenager myself, way back in the late 70s, and not just the ones they gave us in class, like 1984 or Brave New World either. These were books on library shelves I found for myself. Books like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin. Amazing books that made me think I was cleverer and more subversive than anyone else had ever been. Oh those heady days of self-belief and smugness.
All gone now.
But it is good to see the dystopian genre re-imagined for this modern generation. In her Tribe series, Ambelin Kwaymullina uses the expected conventions in an interesting and complex way. The rules exist because of a man-made disaster involving climate and technology. The development of extraordinary gifts is seen as a threat, and results in implacable laws that ensure people with powers are controlled and hidden. With words like ‘Enforcers’ and ‘Illegals’ the author shows us the government allows very little freedom and even less questioning.
Ashala Wolf is the main character, and her story is introduced in the first book, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf. As head of The Tribe, Ash is protective and self-sacrificing. With officials throwing around the accepted doctrine that Illegals upset the balance of nature, it is up to Ashala’s team to try to find some influential allies who will see that this is not true. I like the addition of indigenous cultural beliefs: that each tribe member is closely associated to a plant or animal family; that Grandfather Spirit is able to communicate with Ash through dream-walking; that we belong to the land and must conserve and nurture it. These ideologies imbue this series with a strong sense of positive environmental messages and a hope for the future.
I haven’t said much about plot. That’s because Kwaymullina twists and bends the characters and truth in unpredictable and startling ways. You are best to go into these books without knowing anything, and then get swept up in the action and adventure. I may make these books sound as if they are all about politics and ideas, but there is also an awful lot of danger, intrigue, and suspense. The Disappearance of Ember Crow spills even more secrets, sets up a lot more questions, and introduces a nasty villain who seems indestructible and totally unrepentant. Ember, the best friend of Ashala, has been keeping some pretty big secrets to herself, and until she can trust her tribe with them all seems hopeless.
I love that I picked up this second book and fell straight back into the narrative. This is a good writer, one who incorporates enough back-story without it becoming too repetitive. I never felt the action drag while something was explained. The ending is satisfactory, but readers know that more needs to be done, that evil needs to be faced and hardships endured.
A terrific addition to the Australian YA family.
For more about dystopian fiction see Trish’s blog posts here and here.
I loved this book, but I asked my dear friend Trish Buckley to review it for me as she is the expert in this genre, and Australian YA in general (in my opinion!). I could not have done this book justice, and it deserved it!
Trish is a high school teacher librarian at a Catholic boys college, the Vice President of the Qld Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA), the CBCA National Web manager and a former Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) judge. She also blogs about YA fiction here.
Trish has also written a series of post for me about YA novels with stwill be back next week with a series of posts about YA books which have stong male narrarators which you can see here.
oooh these sounds great! Can’t wait till my kids are a little older and can read these books with me!!
Yes I’m the same! I keep storing books away for Ava’s teen years AND SHE IS FIVE. I’m sure by the time she’s a teen there will be something else to read! This is one of the reasons I love teaching…I get to share the books I RAVE about with kids from K-12! I’m such a book tragic.
Very excited to be here Megan. Thanks for giving me this chance.