A young woman comes of age in an isolated community with stifling codes of conduct.
Emmeline, not quite 16, lives in a settlement of 600-odd people huddled in hungry solitude in the frozen north. With her birthday approaching, Emmeline isn’t looking forward to her coming-of-age, when leering Brother Stockham of the settlement’s leadership will begin to court her in earnest. Disabled, suffering from chronic pain, prone to self-harm and Stained by the Wayward actions of her long-dead grandma’am, Emmeline should be grateful for Brother Stockham’s attentions, but she prefers Kane, a quiet, handsome boy her own age. Perhaps her dreams will lead her to the Lost People and win her the respect she needs to choose her own partner. This slightly magical alternate history features the Canadian prairie as an unpeopled wilderness save for this mix of Francophones, Anglophones, and trilingual mixed-race Métis who speak French, English and First People’s languages such as Cree and M’ikmaq. Worldbuilding suffers despite its potential. Nonsensically, after five generations, the settlement’s people haven’t managed to form a mutually intelligible pidgin, and the language groups don’t mix (except when they do) and don’t understand one another’s languages (but seem to have no problem doing so).
In the end, choppy prose and the present tense make this moody, dreamlike tale of a special girl in a religious dystopia read just like all the others. (Fantasy. 13-15)