Children of the Dawnland

Written by Kathleen O'Neal Gear W. Michael Gear
Review by Magdalen Dobson (age 12) Susan Cook

Twelve-year-old Twig of the People of the Dawnland has begun to develop powerful dreaming abilities. In particular, she is haunted by a vision in which a light explodes in the sky, bringing destruction in its wake, and of a woman who calls to her. Her mother, the tribe’s Spirit dreamer, is reluctant to let her daughter face the perils and burden of being a Dreamer, but Twig knows she is called to save her people. Together with her best friend, ten-year-old Greyhawk, a trainee warrior, she sets out to find the woman in her dreams: Corba, the most powerful and most feared Spirit dreamer of them all.

Nightcrow, Dreamer and Chief of the Thornback People, has also dreamed of the coming destruction. His solution is to send his warriors across the land, killing everyone in their path so that when the devastation strikes, his people will not have to compete for survival. He has also sensed Twig’s powers, and wants her at any cost, especially before she reaches Corba.

Kathleen and Michael Gear have recreated paleolithic America in several novels for adults, but this is their first for children. While it is a little heavy on the environmentalism/New Age parallels, this middle-grade novel has plenty to appeal to both sexes. The children’s quest combines physical and spiritual dangers, forcing them to develop both their intellect and strength, their wisdom and courage. The Gears combine their expertise in archaeology and anthropology with a fascinating story that will bring this obscure period alive for young readers and have them waiting eagerly for the promised sequel.

– Susan Cook

I like reading both historical fiction and fantasy, and I enjoyed the combination of both in Children of the Dawnland. One of the things I found intriguing about the book was that the power of the Spirit Dreamers was so definite. I had expected them to be more like oracles. However, I did not like the fact that Twig’s mother tried to prevent her from exploring her powers. Another thing that struck me about the culture was that one of the greatest warriors was a woman. One criticism that I would have to make was that I found it very hard to relate to the main characters in the book even though I thought the storyline was fascinating. I enjoyed this first book and am looking forward to reading the sequel.

– Magdalen Dobson, Age 12