Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 15 to 18
- Grade: 9 to 12
From Governor General’s Award-winning author David A. Robertson comes the first book in a compelling new trilogy.
A talking coyote, mysterious illnesses, and girl trouble. Coming home can be murder...
When Cole Harper gets a mysterious message from an old friend begging him to come home, he has no idea what he's getting into. Compelled to return to Wounded Sky First Nation, Cole finds his community in chaos: a series of shocking murders, a mysterious illness ravaging the residents, and reemerging questions about Cole’s role in the tragedy that drove him away 10 years ago. With the aid of an unhelpful spirit, a disfigured ghost, and his two oldest friends, Cole tries to figure out his purpose, and unravel the mysteries he left behind a decade ago. Will he find the answers in time to save his community?
About the author
DAVID A. ROBERTSON is the winner of the Beatrice Mosionier Aboriginal Writer of the Year Award, the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer and the TWUC Freedom to Read Award. His books include The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga; When We Were Alone (winner of the Governor General’s Award, a finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and a McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People); Will I See? (winner of the Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award, graphic novel category); and the YA novel Strangers (recipient of the Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction). He is the creator and host of the podcast Kiwew. Through his writings about Canada’s Indigenous peoples, Robertson educates as well as entertains, reflecting Indigenous cultures, histories and communities while illuminating many contemporary issues. David A. Robertson is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. He lives in Winnipeg.
[T]he indigenous Canadian viewpoint gives insights into First Nations life and a truly original superhero for the beginning of this new series.
School Library Connection
The tone deftly oscillates between moodiness and humor, capturing the angst of the tale’s teens without becoming self-serious. Though this is very much an archetypal story, the blend of Native American fantasy elements and a noirish Canadian setting make this a memorable addition to the genre.
A promising first episode of a new series with a striking hero and a coyote spirit.
This first volume in a projected trilogy is a mash-up of sorts—thriller, superhero origin story, old-fashioned science fiction, and YA coming-of-age. Its Indigenous imagery and cultural references bring these genres and their conventions into an invigorating context, often with refreshing ironic humor and always with ample reference to pop culture...the story’s tantalizing mystery pulls readers on.
The Horn Book Magazine
Indigenous and non-indigenous readers will enjoy the setting of Wounded Sky, the character of Cole and the other Indigenous characters in the book. There are murders and mysteries which are never completely solved, a hint of romance which is never entirely fulfilled, and the supernatural plays a large role in the plot. Something for everyone – and many readers will anticipate the next book in the series.
Entertaining Canadian & Cree First Nations YADisclaimers: I'm reviewing an uncorrected proof ebook version acquired via NetGalley, I'm choosing to leave an unbiased review, and I'm not qualified to comment in-depth on aboriginal representation.
More disclaimers: Um, so I just want to note for the record that I already named characters Cole and Ash in BLIND THE EYES before I read this book. No plagiarism. I guess Canadian authors just think alike? lol.
I loved this WAY more than I expected to. To get a few critiques out of the way, the cover looks a little off to me (more indie or MG maybe?), so I wasn't expecting a lot of polish. The first few pages are also a little disorienting, because the author launches with a different perspective from the main POV, incorporates supernatural elements immediately without explanation, and references past events without backstory at first. All of which turns out to be great in the scope of the story, but it feels like jumping in the deep end.
This is the story of a 17yo Cree First Nations teen who left his rural home community in elementary school and is attending high school in Winnipeg at the time the story opens. A supernatural being is trying to lure him back to his hometown. His aunt and grandmother don't want him to return for reasons that aren't explained at first, but we discover that there's past trauma and bullying to contend with. Cole also has some superior abilities that may be more than natural. There's a lot going on in the plot:
-trickster spirits, ghosts, unexplained supernatural/paranormal phenomena
-bullying, trauma & clinical anxiety (incl. struggles with medication)
-rural vs. city enmities/tension
-First Nations/aboriginal experience (on/off reserve, resourcing, discrimination)
As a Canadian, and as someone who actually lived in Winnipeg during her childhood, there was a lot that felt familiar in this, including issues raised that I'm not sure if a foreign reader would pick up on or not. The author (based on his Goodreads bio) does live in Winnipeg and is a member of a Cree First Nation, so this is an #ownvoices book with (to the best of my knowledge) good representation.
I liked how the struggles that First Nations people experience within Canadian society were included within the scope of the story, but that the focus was on the characters and their experiences. It can be hard to write good fiction that represents real-world issues without breaking character or bogging down/diverting the plot (see: preachy dystopias for one), so I thought Robertson did an excellent job of including accurate world-building in service of the story. For instance, there are medical emergencies in the scope of the story, and it's referenced a few times how help is requested but the government takes a long time to respond, ignores the pleas, or doesn't send the help needed in a timely manner. Remote communities struggle for resources and lose people to the cities where there's more opportunity, jobs etc.
Some Cree words are used (and translated in place), some ritual and beliefs are incorporated, but the narrative doesn't suffer at all from the exoticisation of aboriginal culture. (Though maybe American readers will feel like it's "exotic" Canadian culture?) If anything, the hockey-playing, tiny-remote-community, one-restaurant-in-town setting felt so recognizable to me that it would have been boring if not for the strong character writing and murdery-plot.
Cole and his friends are relatable as teenagers struggling with a variety of issues: tragic pasts, tension with childhood friendships left behind, current identity and past identity, sexual identity and relationships, trust issues with adults who're keeping secrets . . . Also, the writing of "Choch" the trickster-spirit was hilarious. That's probably what tipped this story from a good read to "when's the sequel coming out?" for me. His clowning felt instantly recognizable and, at times, laugh-out-loud hilarious. It was a great counterpoint to the dark thriller plot that could have headed into way more emo territory without him.
I'm totally down for reading a sequel/series about a Canadian First Nations teen with superpowers and his trickster spirit sidekick/tormenter/guide/whatever.
Other titles by David A. Robertson
Connecting Indigenous Narratives and Cultural Expressions With the K–12 Classroom
The Great Bear
The Misewa Saga, Book Two
Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory
A Residential School Story
On the Trapline
Ispík kákí péyakoyak/When We Were Alone
The Barren Grounds
The Misewa Saga, Book One