Thursday, March 31, 2011

White Raven by Deborah Cannon

Published by Trafford Publishing

Book Two in this Haida series. The protagonist of this series, half-Haida archaeologist Jake Lalonde, abandoned as a baby and determined to find out who his parents were, has finally arrived in the Queen Charlottes, Haida Gwaii, where it all began. His assistant and lover, Angeline, is there with him, working on her own archaeology PhD dissertation, which means they will often be working on mutual projects. But Jake is so absorbed in locating his lineage that all is not well in this love nest. This book began a little slow for me, probably because I read the third book in the series first and then the first book, but it quickly picked up speed and became a brilliant thriller featuring danger not just to Jake but to many people.

This episode in Jake's life happens at a time when there were many logging disputes between loggers, the Haida, environmentalists, archaeologists, and the British Columbia government. For various reasons, Jake, Angeline, and Jake's old college friend, Damon, all get tangled up in these events. Damon is also working in Haida Gwaii, looking for culturally modified trees. Unfortunately, he is also working with the loggers, trying to prevent the logging of these special trees by tagging them to be left standing. The loggers are ignoring his tags. It gets worse when the Golden Spruce is felled when no one was witness. This tree was a very spiritual tree, steeped in myth. I vividly recall this true event when it happened, as well as the logging disputes. These events are fictionalized in the book but are based on truth.

Jake's persistence in searching for his parents creates mistrust between Jake, Angeline, and Damon. Jake and Angeline really do love each other, but have lost their way to communication temporarily. Damon has a secret that he doesn't want to spill, and it's paramount that he get Angeline, who has moved into his cabin but not his bed, back together with Jake. So here we have some angst, what to Jake's mind is a love triangle, and all that goes with it, running through a lot of the story. An interesting situation, as everything each of them says is misinterpreted.

For many different reasons, not just the loggers, although the foreman of the loggers is a vicious, self-serving man who bullies everyone and beats his family, there is upheaval in this community that is pitting the families against each other. Jake is sure his mother is here, and that he knows who she is, but the woman who is listed on his birth certificate denies she is his mother. Possibly that could be subterfuge because she is married, in fact she is married to the bullying foreman, but there is another, a wise man who seems to understand everything about Jake, even his thoughts as he thinks them, who also says she is not. Jimmy Sky believes in Jake and appears to share similar "inherited" dreams that have plagued Jake for so long. Those dreams have become more frequent and in-depth for Jake since he has been here.

Ancient myths come to life, and there is palpable fear in the village as animals, domestic and wild, are ripped apart and left to die. Everyone is afraid to be out alone at night. "Wasgo" is blamed. Why are the women disappearing? Is the legend of the Seawolf true? A huge sea elephant has been spotted in the waters around the islands, is this animal the basis of the resurgence of the myth? Why is there a totem pole with a white sea captain midway up and why did Jake have an old photograph of this totem? Why is there a copy in the Cultural Centre? All these questions send the story off on a high speed adventure, full of suspense, life-threatening disappearances, a mind boggling seal hunt, death, and heart-pounding chases.

Deborah Cannon writes of the beauty of the islands bringing pictures to the mind of what this relatively untouched area is like. The dense old growth forests, the origins of the people, the brutal strength of the ocean, the sudden storms, thousands of years of life and death. She has put her knowledge of archaeology, the West Coast of British Columbia, Native myths and culture together with an excellent sense of timing and suspense, and created a shocking thriller that kept my eyes and attention glued to the book. Breathtaking. I think I have to go back and read "Ravenstone" again so I can relish the full story in order.

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