A post-apocalyptic debut breathes new life into a quickly flagging genre with its setting among the First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
Even though they live in the Corridor, Cassandra Mercredi and her family have kept to the Old Way. When a new strain of the Plague that killed their mother emerges, she, her twin brother, Paul, and her father flee to the Island, where the Band clings to treaty lands. Métis, they are apart from the specific culture of the Island, but they are nevertheless Other, and their blood contains the only known cure for the Plague. Cass finds herself apprenticed to healer Madda and increasingly drawn to Bran, the son of the Island's vanished leader. She also experiences a terrifying connection to the Sisiutl, the serpent-spirit that dwells in the lake by her house. Knutsson's narrative is ambitious, twining together Pacific Northwest mythology, standard post-apocalyptic tropes and a coming-of-age story inflected with romance. Readers of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will recognize the harsh realities portrayed, albeit within the science-fictional framework. Knutsson’s language is often atmospherically beautiful, but the story flounders at times, introducing unfulfilled subplots that may be foreshadowing for events in future volumes or simply red herrings.
Nevertheless, it's an absorbing read populated by characters hardly ever found in teen novels. (Science fiction. 12 & up)