Monday, March 21, 2016

Review: The Orenda

Title: The Orenda
Author: Joseph Boyden
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Source: Borrowed

A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda  opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation's great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

The Orenda pushed me out of my reading comfort zone, which I am actually very thankful for. This book is incredibly well researched and also very beautifully written. It is my first book by Joseph Boyden and I certainly plan to read more by him.

The Orenda gives a view into the history of the north-eastern part of North America (Great Lakes area). I appreciated that Boyden featured main characters from various backgrounds (European and First Nations, and to a point, different nations). I felt like the story was told fairly and without sugarcoating anything.

I enjoyed all three of the main characters: Bird, Christophe and Snow Falls, although I think Snow Falls was my favourite. They were all well-formed and flaw and intriguing.

One thing to note is that this book is on the violent side, featuring multiple scenes of war and tortured. Just be warned if you are sensitive to these things.

The only negative thing I was to say is that I was disappointed with the ending of Snow Falls' story. I felt like Boyden was building towards something, but nothing came of it, which was quite a let down for me as a reader.

Overall, this is a beautifully written book that I would suggest to anyone interesting in the history of North America or who enjoys skilled prose and intriguing characters.

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