book review: Shieldwolf Dawning

title: Shieldwolf Dawning516+sRTYYpL._AA160_

author: Selena Nemorin

date: Astraea Press; 2014

main character: Samarra

Shieldwolf Dawning is the first in a new speculative fiction series by Selena Nemorin. Samarra and her brother, Cassian, have been moved to Gaia, a planet with a deteriorating natural environment and are being raised by the Sairfangs after the death of the children’s parents. Their step-parent’s wealth protects them from the pollution and scarcities and provides Cassian with the best education money can buy. Samarra is stuck at home cleaning and doing chores. As sexist as this situation seems, it has more to do with Cassian’s future position in life rather than the fact that he’s a male. Samarra despises her situation. She’s impetuous and curious. Given the opportunity to leave her situation, she talks her brother into escaping with her. And so begins their adventure.

The book rattled my attention the mention of ‘all-terrain aircraft’!  Written in third person, the author still confines herself to the limited perception of the main character. That annoys me! Use that voice to fully develop a story with multiple character’s perspectives and with rich settings or stick to first person. Cassian is poorly developed which is tragic given how important he becomes at the end of the book. Time sequences were unequal in length and there were too many detailed situations that were never developed.

Shieldwolf Dawning is unique in two ways. First, it gives us an adventurous female of color  with blue dreads who often saves herself in situations. Second, it’s steeped in philosophy. Where knowledge of the field could provide a stronger appreciation for the book, I had none. I suspect that most teens without this knowledge will be as frustrated as I was with Samarra and never really invest in the story. She repeatedly wanders into situations that end up with negative consequences. Maybetwo-thirds of the way into the book when I was really tired of her doing this over and over again and I began to think that these wanderings might have something to do with stages of intellectual or moral development and that these curiosities were purposeful in her growth. This seemed to make sense to me when Samarra reasoned about moral judgment, truth and honestly.

Sheildwolf Dawning is an ambitious book that doesn’t quite reach it’s potential.

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5 thoughts on “book review: Shieldwolf Dawning

  1. Pingback: {diversity in lit} Friday #19 | omphaloskepsis

  2. I enjoyed this story, definitely not cookie-cutter. The author has a wonderful imagination and writes lyrically, the kind of style we don’t often see in contemporary literature for youth–very old school, romantic almost. I agree it helps to have knowledge of philosophy to appreciate it fully but not necessary to enjoy the story or to understand the nuances.

  3. I usually enjoy reading your reviews but I don’t agree this time. I found this book in my school library and I thought it was great. I recommended it to my friends and they all think it’s really funny and we cried a lot in the end. I don’t know philosophy and I loved the book. Do you really think that you need to have a thorough understanding of philosophy to be able to appreciate something involving it? That’s like not being able to enjoy a painting because you’re not good at art. Walking into situations with negative consequences is typical of dystopian novels and this is one of them.

    • Milan,
      Welcome to my blog! I’ve never seen you post here before.

      While you probably could enjoy the story without knowing philosophy, I do think such an understanding will help the reader to understand why the character kept wandering off over and over again, never seeming to learn from her own errors. And, I’m certain there are other elements of the story that would have a much deeper meaning to someone with the proper background. In fact, this is how the author described the book to me in an email before I even read the book.

      ” As I mentioned in my original email to you, the novel came out of my MA research and I wrote it specifically for doing philosophy with children. Some themes I explore include difference, community, truth, moral judgment, family/kinship, oppression, and emotions, amongst other things. There are many references to various systems of philosophy in-text.

      To give you an example of my thinking, in the analysis section of my Master’s thesis I wrote about how an educator might use the text for doing philosophy with children in terms of reader response.”

      Certainly, one might enjoy the book without such knowledge, if they could get past the other flaws.

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