Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure by Allan Richard Shickman

Food to eat while reading: Primeval Berries and Cream

Because I read the two Zan-Gah books (Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure, and Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country) back to back, I am going to review them together as companion books. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to be that interested in a novel that is set in prehistoric times and intended for a MG or YA boy audience. I am pleased to say that I enjoyed the novels. A tale of survival and self-discovery, the books reminded me of one of my own childhood favorites, Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Read the synopsis here.

What I liked:

The books are set in a prehistoric desert and Shickman describes the barren beauty so aptly that I could see in my mind the unusual rock structures jutting against the sunset, and taste the walnut-sized berries that grew along the river. With each new setting I eagerly anticipated the author’s portrayal. Here is an excerpt, taken from the book, describing the inner cave where men in the village were not allowed:

“Rocky substance hung in folds like the living flesh of great fungi, or seemed to spout into geysers. The hardened stone tumbled and flowed as if it once had been soft and spongy stuff bubbling from the ground. Then the color of these cursive forms changed abruptly from yellow to red, as if flowing with blood, and soon changed back again when the three went on” (Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure, pp 110, 111).

Zan-Gah and his twin brother Dael are vividly crafted characters who are both attracted and repelled from each other like magnets. Each one does battle with the forces in his own life, Zan with the physical world, and Dael with the inner demon. Not only are the two main characters real and believable, but each supporting character enters the book with a convincing past and reason to be there. Even the smallest characters, such as Hurnoa of the wasp people, are colorful and real.

The books introduce themes of courage, endurance and healing without preaching. These morals are ones that every mother wants to instill in her son, and they are introduced to the reader naturally through adventure and discovery.

Dael is so unpredictable that I found myself waiting to see what he would do next. The adventures of the boys were realistic and enjoyable-the scenes flowed naturally.

What I would have changed:

Both books felt rushed at the end. The catharsis felt a bit like a check-off list and distanced me from the characters. I struggled with the ending of the second book; in my mind, the resolutions didn’t satisfy the conflicts. After re-reading the last 20 pages, I decided that the conflicts are, in fact, resolved in ways I hadn’t expected.

The verdict:

Zan-Gah is a refreshing adventure of self-preservation and discovery. Especially suited for middle-grade boys, the series will be enjoyed by all people for generations to come.

I gave this book 3/5 stars.

Purchase: Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure
Genre: prehistoric, MG,
Publisher: July 15th 2007 by Earthshaker Books, September 26th 2009 by Earthshaker Books
Where I got the books: Earthshaker Books Publishing

*I received only the review copies of these books as compensation for my review


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