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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Disappearance Of Ember Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Sydney: Walker Books, 2013

"However this ends, you're probably going to find out some things about me, and they re not nice things. But, Ash, even after you know, do you think you could remember the good? And whatever you end up discovering - try to think of me kindly. If you can." Ember Crow is missing. To find her friend, Ashala Wolf must control her increasingly erratic and dangerous Sleepwalking ability and leave the Firstwood. But Ashala doesn t realise that Ember is harbouring terrible secrets and is trying to shield the Tribe and all Illegals from a devastating new threat - her own past.

This is a sequel to The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf, the first of The Tribe series. If you haven't read the first book, it might be a good idea to do that before reading this one. It's sort of stand-alone, but the first book sets up the universe and you really need to know who the characters are and why they're hiding out in the forest.

In case you haven't read it and want the details, here they are: in the first novel, we met Ashala Wolf, an Illegal, who lives in a future world where, due to environmental abuse, the planet has suffered major changes that have affected the tectonic plates and once again, we have a Pangaia. The good news is that people are finally taking care of the planet, have, in fact, turned it into a virtual religion based on the teachings of an Alexander Hoffman.  The bad news is that people with  unusual abilities are placed in detention centres. Ashala was one of a group of children and teens who had escaped into the forest and started their own tribe. The nearby Gull City camp is run by a villain called Neville Rose, who was dealt with at the end of that novel, but there are things that Ashala and her tribe didn't know, about him and others who supported him, and now, her friend Ember Crow, has vanished. Ashala isn't going to leave her friend, no matter what messages she receives from her, asking her not to follow...

It's wonderful to see that a sequel is as good as the original. It doesn't suffer from "middle book syndrome". The author, an indigenous Australian, includes more of her heritage here, develops it further, yet you are reminded this is not Australia, it's the only continent left on Earth, although in an afterword, the author admits the landscape is one familiar to her.

Ashala also develops as a character. She has to learn to stop holding back her beloved Connor, whose death she fears after he came back from it in the last book. Their relationship won't survive otherwise and sometimes looks as if it might be destroyed.

The serious storyline, with plenty of action, still manages to include some humour, such as Ashala nearly choking on her drink when a very special cat tells her telepathically that her person is her pet. I personally believe in the importance of at least touches of humour in even the most serious fiction. And this one has plenty!

If you liked the first book, you won't be disappointed in this one. If you haven 't read it, what are you waiting for?

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