I liked that Shickman's writing was intelligent and not dumbed down or gimmicky like a lot of current YA novels seem to be. Instead it uses a mix of action and multi-dimensional characters to pull the reader in. When Zan and the other members of the tribe are preparing to trap a lioness in the first novel, you can feel the ratcheting up of tension as the drums beat and the animal circles the ring of people. In Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, Shickman makes you feel Dael's anguish and the pitch of battle as they fight the Noi warriors. However, sometimes I found the writing awkward, like when he describes the living conditions of the prehistoric humans in the first book: "Darkness was indeed darker to them then, coldness colder, and the cruelest passions somehow crueler and more deeply passionate." This wordiness sometimes worked against the narrative pull of the story.
As a character, Zan is extremely honorable and heroic and always tries to do the right thing. Boys will enjoy how independent he is and how he manages to take care of himself and his friends, and will dream about killing a lion single-handedly, catching fish with their bare hands or fighting off enemies with a weapon of their own imagining. Zan also is able to deal with serious issues with a wisdom beyond his years, like a brother deeply scarred by the loss of his wife and many years in captivity. I thought it was fascinating to have one of the characters struggling with what would now be diagnosed as PTSD. Dael's trauma added a deeper level to the story than just Zan fighting off animals and competing tribes.
|Author Allan Richard Shickman|
Source: I received these novels from Earthshaker Books in exchange for my honest review.