(4 / 5) – Worth It!
I often take a foray into middle grade books throughout the year as I enjoy keeping up with the latest and greatest, particularly now that my boys are coming to an age they can start reading some of these books as well. I also enjoy a quick, simplified story arch even as the characters and worlds remain complex and imaginative. I wouldn’t read middle grade fiction every day, but it serves a particular purpose in my reading life and David A. Robertson’s “The Barren Ground” is an excellent indulgence.
Right on its cover, “The Barren Ground” lays out its “Narnia-like” fantasy world, built on the tales and magical world of the Canadian Indigenous community. It explores the complexity of family, identity, time and relationships all while taking the reader on a grand adventure with talking animals and historical relevance. It wrestles with the pain, lament and lingering consequences of colonization alongside interpersonal familial bonding across family units and cultures.
This is the first in a series and Morgan and Eli, the two main characters, are flushed out well in this first installment as two young people experiencing and judging the world very differently. There remains such potential for each of them to bend and sway in and out of each other’s strengths and weaknesses to become more fully realized human beings for the sake of themselves, each other, this world and Aski.
I will be keeping this book on my shelf and slowly procuring the rest of the series as it is published for myself, but even more so, for my boys as they grow and hopefully indulge in stories and fantasy series with such depth, complexity and relevance as “The Barren Ground.”