book review: shadows cast by stars

Shadows Cast By Stars is Catherine Knutsson’s first novel about Cassandra Mercredi, a young Metis woman, in a future where plague is decimating the population and for some reason the blood of first nations people holds the only cure. Does that sound grim? Well, it is. Natives who live in the Corridor are tracked and will be captured for processing by the authorities if they deem it necessary. This is the book’s setup and we don’t actually see much of the repressive regime because almost right away Cassandra, her brother and father have to flee to the island, where there’s a boundary protecting the people who live there from Searcher ships and they can live their old ways in relative peace.

Then it becomes a story of Cassandra and her family trying to find places for themselves in the culture of the Band. Because she has some facility with healing and the spiritual world (she sees totems of people) Cassandra is recruited as the apprentice to the medicine woman. Her twin brother, who sees visions, doesn’t find a role so quickly.

The story has first kisses and explorations of a person’s own strength along with the spiritual dimensions of wild women of the woods and Raven and Sea Wolves. Where it feels very different from something like The Hunger Games is that instead of being pulled away from a home to fight on her own, Cassandra is pulled from a place of isolation and thrust into community and has to do all this stuff not just for herself but be able to help the people around her too. Knutsson’s done a good job with that kind of power dynamic which really resembles the ways we try to fit our lives together here in the present.

My main problem with the book is that it is written as the first volume of a series, so things are not resolved by the end. Future books look like they will explore the regime of the outside world. I hope it’s as well-imagined as what you find in this book.

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