In Siberia, 1908, Anya, a young Chukchi shaman, is traded to a Russian along with a team of huskies bound for Nome. Through the spirit world Anya can communicate with the dogs but as a female she is barred from leading a sled team. The ship captain’s son, Rune, who has vowed to protect Anya, agrees to be the ‘driver’ despite the inhospitable Alaskan weather and terrain and his lack of experience. This YA frontier novel is never short on action, and the plot moves as swiftly as the inclement storms. Anya is fiercely resilient and stubborn but her inability to always understand the tasks the spirits set her makes her appealingly sympathetic and flawed. Huskies, Zellie and Xander, are sometimes more human than the humans.
The plot revolves around the first race, in 1908, which pitted stocky Eskimo ‘malamutes’ against the smaller Siberian Huskies, brought into Alaska, in the 19th century, by Russian traders. In 1908 and 1909 the 408 mile race from Nome to Candle and back was won by malamute teams, but in 1910 the ‘Sibiriskiy haskis’ triumphed, and this historical tidbit has the makings of a fascinating sequel to this delightful book.