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Children of the Dawnland    by Kathleen O'Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear order for
Children of the Dawnland
by Kathleen O'Neal Gear
Order:  USA  Can
Starscape, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Archeologists Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear have, together or separately, written over forty novels. Children of the Dawnland, their first YA story, is set 12,900 years in our past as an Ice Age is ending. The authors' Introduction sets the scene for readers, of a time of melting glaciers in the northeastern United States and Ontario, Canada, just before an abrupt climate change caused havoc in the Clovis Culture.

Readers meet talented Dreamer Twig of the Blue Bear Clan, her best friend Greyhawk (who is being trained as a warrior) and his dog Yipper on an expedition to collect tern eggs. Twig has had frequent dreams of a 'flaming ball of light' that destroys everything, and of her Spirit Helper, Eagle-Man. Twig's mother is the village Spirit dreamer (one who has dreams that come true) but she doesn't want this life for her beloved daughter - nobody likes dreamers, especially the powerful dreamer Cobia. Kidnapped as a child from her own Duskland people, after she learned of her past and her mother's murder, Cobia left the village twenty summers before to live 'deep in the heart of the Ice Giants.' Search parties that have sought her have disappeared, but Twig has dreamed that she must seek out Cobia.

Twig is very fond of shaman Screech Owl, who has been forced to live apart from the village and is reputed to be crazy. He tells wonderful stories. She seeks him out for advice on her dreams, and he persuades her mother to let him teach her to 'walk into the Land of the Dead' and face her ancestors' ghosts. Twig embarks on her spirit quest with great courage. As she pursues it, Thornback raiders are sent by Chief Nightcrow (who has also had apocalyptic visions, but interprets them as a need to destroy surrounding clans) to seek Twig and the Clan's Stone Wolf, a 'very powerful Spirit creature', and slaughter her people. After Greyhawk finds his courage as a warrior and helps her to escape, they seek Cobia together, followed by Thornback warriors.

The story's grand finale includes a confrontation with those warriors as the devastation that Twig has foreseen unfolds, leaving a small group of survivors to struggle west towards the Duskland, the villains hot on their trail - and so setting the scene perfectly for a sequel. In an Afterword, the authors explain what could have caused the extinction-level event that hit the Dawnland so hard. Children of the Dawnland is an exciting story, that takes readers right into Clovis Culture life. Don't miss it!

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