Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Boundless: It’s Boundless Entertainment
A Review By: Amelia
I love a good adventure story, but then again, who doesn’t? The intrigue, the fast-paced action, the inevitable love plot strew somewhere in there: it’s great. It’s especially great if it fills a specific niche. That’s where Kenneth Oppel shines!

Kenneth Oppel has written a couple young adult trilogies and a few stand alone novels, all of which are enthralling. He was born in British Columbia and has lived in Nova Scotia and currently lives in Ontario: he’s had a great Canadian experience and that’s where the niche comes in. With The Boundless he’s written an epic Canadian adventure full of Canadian mythology.

Will Everett has always wished for an adventure and on The Boundless, the longest, most glamorous locomotive in the world, he’ll find it. After witnessing a murder during a station stop he must work his way from the caboose forward to his father in first class - with the murderer and his cronies on his tail. Luckily, a clever and nimble friend is perfecting her act in The Boundless's circus car, and there the real thrill ride begins.

Like all of Oppel’s main protagonists, Will Everett and his love interest (well, I suppose she’s more of friend/side kick) are young adults. Will is waiting for his life to become full of adventure and worth living all the while trying not to disappoint his father who wants him to follow in his footsteps and be a railroad man. Will’s sidekick is Maren, an acrobat and escape artist travelling across country on The Boundless with her circus. Then there’s Mr. Dorian, the mysterious ringleader of the circus that’s training Maren to perform a certain task he desperately needs done. Each of the main characters have their own drives, quirks, and faults and are all very well rounded. But that’s with any Oppel book really, his characters never leave you wanting.

The characters are great but by far the most interesting thing about this story is the location: a train equivalent to the Titanic in size, luxury, and power. The Boundless is a train miles long with numerous classes, freight, and people upon it. The cars are three stories tall in first class with swimming pools and movie theatres and bars and anything else you could imagine the rich and powerful wanting. Third class is grim and overcrowded and supplies held in the grips of a profiteer’s hands. It’s a subtle way to show the injustice in the class system. You can get around the connected cars by doors but if you need to get around the miles of freight cars it’s the roof or nothing. It’s all very intriguing! And that’s not even mentioning the great Canadian landscapes the train travels through. There’s mountains and snow and marshes full of bog hags–Oppel painted an amazing picture with this one! 

The Boundless has got everything: Canadiana history, fantasy, a splattering of romance, a hint of steampunk, and even a thoughtful examination of social injustice. It’s imaginative and on par with swashbuckling pirate action! The whole book is an action-packed love letter to the late 19th century True North!

My final thoughts on The Boundless are that it’s a thrilling ride. Oppel’s writing is always on point and with this story, his Canadian background makes for a great look into the Canadian landscape and legends including Sasquatches, the bog hag, and even wendigos. It wasn’t my favourite Oppel novel ever, but it’s a good addition to his catalogue and a good place to start if you’re just getting into Oppel!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Night Wanderer: Your Attention Won’t Wander

A Review By: Amelia
First Nations culture has always fascinated me. There are so many different tribes and thousands of traditions and lore created by each one. Mythology within the First Nations is vast and amazing, which is originally what drew me to The Night Wanderer. When I discovered it was a novel (turned graphic novel, which is the adaption I’m doing this review on) that mashed up First Nations mythology with vampire lore, I devoured it within an hour.

Tiffany is a troubled sixteen year old Native girl. She lives on a reserve, has a white, cheating boyfriend, fights constantly with her father, and is freaked out that her estranged mother is starting a new life halfway across the country and is seemingly leaving her behind. Things don’t get any better when Tiffany’s father rents her room out to a mysterious Pierre L'Errant, a man who has a dreadful secret: he has returned home to reclaim his Native roots before facing the rising sun and certain death...

Drew Taylor is a Canadian playwright, author, and journalist. Taylor is part Caucasian and part Ojibwa and writes predominantly about First Nations culture. His writing includes plays, short stories, essays, newspaper columns, and film and television work. In 2004 he was appointed to the Ontario Ministry of Culture Advisory Committee and has been an artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts. He’s also taught at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre and held writer-in-residence positions at the University of Michigan, The University of Western Ontario, and Ryerson University.
The illustrator of The Night Wanderer graphic novel is Michael Wyatt, who’s been a freelance artist working primarily in book and magazine publishing. The Night Wanderer is his fourth book with his other works having been published in Kayak and Legion Magazines. His caricatures and stock art are available at

Overall, The Night Wanderer is a character driven story, and the main character is Tiffany. She’s a mopey character filled with teenage angst (which is something everyone can connect to), but she’s also from the Hunter Clan and lives on a reserve. We see her coming of age while living in a broken family, being an outsider at school, and dating a white guy who seems to only be using her as a prop because she’s a Native. She’s a well-rounded character and in a world where adults often write teenagers as horny, flat, spoiled brats, or vapid, emotionless, monsters (literally, look at the young adult genre and its vampires and werewolves!) that’s really saying something. She has realistic weaknesses and drives and, yeah, she comes off as selfish teenage girl, but what teenager doesn’t come off selfish every now and again?

If such great character development, I have to say that I’m disappointed with the artwork. The The Night Wanderer graphic novel is definitely the art. The style that Wyatt uses is effective to getting the story across but it’s very blocky and static. There were some scenes where the character’s feelings just weren’t coming through because the art was just too stiff. It was a real shame considering that the story is so dependent on emotions coming across and, when it comes to graphic novels, the story really should be told through the artwork.
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If you’re looking for a unique coming-of-age story, look no further than The Night Wanderer. This story also has all the earmarks of a gothic novel: mystery and horror, with a little romance, a non-white point of view, and a bunch of teenage angst that nearly everyone can relate too. What’s really so interesting about this tale is that the vampire elements are not the main story. The vampire story is secondary, and that’s the real strength of the comic book.

My final thoughts on The Night Wanderer are that, ultimately, the book is about Pierre and Tiffany each facing a private crisis that they aren’t comfortable telling each other about, but through the course of the story, each of them finds a certain resolution that is satisfying to them and to us as readers. The Night Wanderer is a well-crafted tale and should not be passed over.