When thinking of one word to describe the depth, feeling, and life spun into this tale, there was only one: soul. Somehow, this book had a soul.
The Earth is dying, and humans have lost the capability to dream. Indigenous North Americans are the only dreamers left, with the indescribable miracle being stored in their bone marrow. In response, Recruiters hunt natives, sucking up as many dreams as they can before killing their prey.
Frenchie is a young boy on the run from Recruiters with his ragtag group. As he and the others struggle to find community and peace in the midst of terror and personal nightmares, a life-changing power comes to light–a power that may stop the marrow thieves.
Quality of Story: 4.5/5
I clung tightly to these pages as Frenchie ventured through loneliness, love, vengeance, sacrifice, and growing up, because Dimaline moved me with her compassion. While I have no true reference, I believe she captured the essence of what it must be like to be an adolescent dealing with puberty and first crushes all while living off the grid merely to survive.
Unfortunately, her pace was a slower one. An impatient reader might very well call it mundane. Then her story went from 0 to 100 in a blink . . . from alluding to unspeakable horrors that the reader quickly forgot about to explaining said horrors in brief, graphic detail. The mood shift was abrupt and unsettling. I adjusted quickly, applauding Dimaline for her cleverness. But such unexpected, disturbing content does not sit well with all.
Quality of Characters: 4/5
Dimaline spent little time fleshing out the physical traits of her minor characters. (I haven’t a clue what Tree and Zeegwan look like except for their scars & baseball hat.) But I followed Miig’s tall, stilted trek through the northern woods and Rose’s dark curls that whipped behind her. I held RiRi’s hand as she kicked the dirt with her pink rain boots. I smiled with Minerva’s upturned wrinkles.
My heart nearly aches to think none of them are real.
Quality of World: 5/5
Yes. YES. YES! Dimaline is a Métis author, and I read her in each line of detailed imagery. I tasted the spring air, sank my boots in slippery mud, jumped over rock crevasses, and made hay-angels in an abandoned barn. Her magic in nature affected me so deeply, the indoors no longer held any appeal. At one point, Frenchie and the gang hide out in a deserted resort. They wander into massive rooms with plush carpets and queen-sized beds, only to wonder, Who needs this much space? I began to wonder the same thing.
Writing Style? I can appreciate the intention, not the method.
#1 = Passive Voice. I enjoyed the story, beauty, and history. But it’s hard to respect the line editing job when passive voice reigns over it all. Writing Tip: If your sentence can end with “by zombies,” you know you’re writing in passive voice and need to rework some phrases to make it stronger. (Disclaimer: That’s a non-original tip on passive voice, so kudos to whoever invented that one. Brilliant.)
#2 = Telling. Dimaline fell short in terms of showing versus telling. I might have learned a bit more about her characters had she exhibited fewer internal assumptions from Frenchie and more observations on characters’ actions. As the reader, I like to make my own inferences.
#3 = Huge Use of Flashback. Flashbacks are awesome. But I agree with editor Diane O’Connell in that flashbacks should be, in her words, “brief and used sparingly”–not the case in “The Marrow Thieves.” I can appreciate the emotional attachment built through flashbacks, even in Dimaline’s novel. But I wouldn’t recommend them often.