Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review of Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country

The prehistoric saga continues in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, the sequel to the award winning Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure. In this story, Zan s troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. His obsession is the destruction of the wasp men, his first captors, who dwell in the Beautiful Country. When he, Zan-Gah, and a band of adventurers trek to their bountiful home, they find that all of the wasp people have died in war or of disease. The Beautiful Country is empty for the taking, and Zan s people, the Ba-Coro, decide to migrate and resettle there. But the Noi, Dael s cruelest enemies and former tormentors, make the same migration from their desert home, and the possibility develops of contention and war over this rich and lovely new land.

[from Goodreads]
Rating:  3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Spear-wielding adventurers
High point:  The subtlety
Low point:  Dael
Reader maturity:  10+

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, is, like it's predecessor, Zan-Gah, a great story for readers of all ages (especially those hard-to-find-books-for-boys). However, due to a few nitpicky items that I've detailed below, Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country didn't wow me as much as the original.

Some of the story lines were really good, like the one involving the Ba-Coro journeying to the Beautiful Country. The fight scenes, though sparsely described and withdrawn from the action, due to the third person past tense, had an unusual grace about them, and the tension between the tribes was palpable. While reading, I was constantly amazed at how the author portrayed such rich scenes using such simple descriptions.

However, I was really, really [spoiler alert!] fed up with Dael. His brother risked his life to save him in book 1, and what does he get for his trouble? More trouble!! Even though all the other goings-on were really interesting--Zan-Gah and Pax, Rydl and Sparrow, anything having to do with Chul--I just kept getting hung up over Dael and his meanness, as well as that of his two minions. [End spoiler.] While one of the overarching themes in the series is redemption (remember Zan-Gah going to search for his missing brother, who left while they were fighting?), I couldn't muster the sympathy required to stick with Dael. The ending partially made up for it, though I'm still aggravated with him.

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country was written in the style of the first book, which is different from most YA, and I liked the writing of both because it set it apart from the prose-filled storytelling that composes most of today's literature. I would recommend Zan-Gah and Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country for anyone, particularly those hard-to-find-books-for preteens, looking for a unique prehistoric adventure.

Title:  Zan-Gah:  A Prehistoric Adventure
Author:  Allan Richard Shickman
Genre:   Fiction - Prehistoric
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Received for review from Earthshaker Books

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for two thoughtful reviews. I guess Dael is not a very likable character, but you are not supposed to like him. You are supposed to understand him, remembering what a gentle person he once was—and feel some sorrow on his behalf. He had suffered a lot, and cruelty turned him into a frightening, sick person.

    Allan R. Shickman