There is a happy place where the reader and the scientist in me combine to devour both books and chocolate, all with a smile on my face. Only found amid the pages of truly fab books, I found that happy place reading ‘Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile’ by Jo Sandhu.
Hey if your kids (or you!) love history and science and all things Stone Age, then this is the book to read. It’s got danger, adventure, friendship and a diverse set of characters.
It’s got mammoths, too.
The things that work so well in this book are the basic building blocks of any great read: world-building, narrative and character.
World-building so epic you forget how to use a zip
I loved how Sandhu built the world for her book, with historical gems like reindeer hide and flints and boots with stuffing, and then added magic. Look, I’m no expert on Stone Age life, but I get the strong feeling Sandhu might be close. Her writing is alive, her world works. And no one slips up and lights a fire with matches or zips up their jacket or anything 🙂
Brilliant. The authenticity of the world is what really drew me into this story. Like I was learning at the same time as I was enjoying the read.
Storytelling that keeps you guessing
If the world-building made it for me, the dual storyline was a close second. Sandhu cleverly tells two tales of people we know must meet (I mean, we all read the blurb on the back, right?) (Right?) (Wait … do we? I mean, I do – obvs – but do you?) but we’re left waiting to figure out how and when they’ll bump into each other. And why – even though they are so similar – the lives of Tarin and Kaija have some evident differences.
All is revealed and I was delighted when it was. The world was bigger and richer than I had first expected. And Tarin’s task … mate … it got that much harder. As all tasks in all good books must!
As a writer, I was intrigued that this book begins with a first person prologue, and then continues in the third person. I think it’s aimed at getting the reader connected to Tarin immediately, before relaxing into a point of view that will easily allow the focus characters to change. If that was the aim, it works really well!
Balanced and believable characters you’d go into battle for
Sometimes I feel that first person POV books told from the perspective of more than one character can be confusing (like, hmmm, whose head am I inside right now?). Using third person means ‘The Exile’ has none of that confusion. In fact, the writing is super-strong. As a reader, I felt I could relax and just enjoy the ride.
I think this helped me get to know the characters better.
I really loved Kaija for her tough-as-mammoth-hide attitude. She’s not perfect, she’s not even entirely trustworthy, but she sure as heck is going to do everything she can think of to save the people she loves.
A great one for middle readers!
(And, hey… do any of you avoid reading the blurb before the book? For me, reading the blurb is an absolute must!)