Thursday, March 3, 2011

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country by Allan Richard Shickman

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   The prehistoric saga continues in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, the sequel to the award winning Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure. In this story, Zan s troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. His obsession is the destruction of the wasp men, his first captors, who dwell in the Beautiful Country. When he, Zan-Gah, and a band of adventurers trek to their bountiful home, they find that all of the wasp people have died in war or of disease. The Beautiful Country is empty for the taking, and Zan s people, the Ba-Coro, decide to migrate and resettle there. But the Noi, Dael s cruelest enemies and former tormentors, make the same migration from their desert home, and the possibility develops of contention and war over this rich and lovely new land

And here's what I thought:  Definitely a compelling story.  I finished the first book and dove right into this one, so that first sentence was a little startling.  However, this book has the same pace and writing style of the first book, so I was hooked, and just whipped through the story.   In this continuation, there is more focus on Dael, and we not only get more insight into Zan-Gah and Dael, but into Rydl (a boy from the first story), and we meet a new character, Pax.    Dael is a sympathetic character; it's clear that he has psychological damage from the time he spent as the captive of another tribe, and his behavior definitely affects his relationship with his brother (and everyone else).  At times, his behavior is disturbing, and it's interesting to follow him through the story, to see what what will happen to him.

Like the first book, Shickman's writing is descriptive and clear, and his characters are interesting and realistic.  He has again crafted an adventure story where the reader is not only drawn into the adventure, but into the lives of the characters.  I believe it would also make a good read-aloud story.   It's a great companion to the first book, and I found I was wondering if a third book will be forthcoming (I hope so!).   I don't know if these two stories would appeal to all adult readers, but I found them to be enjoyable reads.

I will admit, after reading these two books (Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure, and this book), I had several flashbacks to Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear and subsequent books (and actually might revisit one or two of those books now). 

First sentences:  "When Lissa-Na died, Dael wept real tears.  No one blamed him - except for Dael himself, who was shocked at his own melting.  Through his long, nightmarish captivity, suffering humiliation and torture at the hands of enemy peoples, he had never shed a drop." 

Thoughts on the cover:  Very eye-catching, as it gives us a portrait of Zan-Gah.  Behind him, there is a ghostly second person, frowning, and it seemed clear to be Dael.  I liked how there was the focus on Zan-Gah, but with the presence of Dael, as well. 


earthshakerbooks said...

Thanks for your excellent review. Yes, the shadowy figure on the cover is Dael. Same photo. I have never read any Jean Auel book, but since the name keeps coming up, I probably will before long. An author is always guarding his individuality, and a great book can color his work—so I put it off. Does Auel write books for young adults?

The third novel of the Zan-Gah book series, Dael and the Painted People, is nearly finished. Watch for this book for young adults this summer at the new web address:

Please pay us a visit.

Allan R. Shickman

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