Walker, Jane Alexander
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: 221 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
Not LGBTQ YA, but a thoughtful fantasy YA.
Fifteen year old Hunter McKenzie lives in Massachusetts, he is an average teenager – has loving parents, a girlfriend, plays in a band, some self doubt, he also has asthma and frustrating stage fright which he is trying to overcome. The only thing is Hunter has moved around a lot as his dad is a game designer and moves to different cities. Still, life in Cambridge is not too bad until one night after leaving a gig his life is turned upside down when his parents veer off the road and are killed in a car accident coming home and Hunter feels like he is looking down on it all and that he is dying as well –
I’m dead, he thought. I’m bloody well dead. Hell, no, this was all wrong. He was fifteen. He couldn’t die for God’s sakes.
But Hunter doesn’t die he is in hospital for a while and after that in rehabilitation longer, learning to do all the things he took for granted before –
He’d heard the staff whispering that he should be brain damaged, that he had been clinically dead for several minutes, possibly more. That it was impossible for a human being to flat-line that long and not suffer permanent damage. But he was fine. At least, his body only showed a few slim red scars and a slight limp. His mind, however, was something else entirely.
He won’t talk to the psychiatrist and when his friends visit he turns his back to them and won’t speak to them. His good friend Sam still continues to visit when everyone drops off. But Hunter is changed, his sadness is palpable. He has lost his mother and father and he was very close to them. Sam and his mother have packed most of the house up for him because he is going to live with the only relative he has left, his grandmother. He doesn’t know his mother’s mother. She lives in Exmoor in England and to say it is a culture shock for him would be an understatement. His grandmother, Ruth, picks him up at the airport but he doesn’t know her. She is nice enough but quite enigmatic. Wambarrow Farm is powered by generator but only when absolutely necessary, Ruth mostly uses candles, has no TV, computers are only used on the odd occasion for knowledge and there are no computer games or Xboxes here. So Hunter is now not only dealing with the grief of losing his parents but dealing with a place alien to a lot of fifteen year olds. On top of this, Ruth pretty much disappears after the first day leaving Hunter in the care of another fifteen year old, Rowan. Rowan has grown up in this environment and is very much aware of farming, the earth, animals and being green. Hunter is cut some slack initially but then he is expected to help out around Wambarrow. Pretty soon Hunter discovers a journal that was kept by his mother when she grew up at Wambarrow. There are unusual facts and events outlined and a deerskin rattle that goes with the journal, which Hunter smashes in a fit – just before his parent’s died his father bought something home that was just like this rattle and Hunter is angry. All of Hunter’s life his parents lived in an urban environment, never rural. Which is now perplexing. Also, when he was younger, he talked to a cat and the cat to him but he thought it was something that a young mind makes up. Now, after reading things, after a few occurrences maybe there is more to it.
Pretty soon Hunter and Rowan become good friends as Rowan takes him under her very capable wing and teaches him how to come out of his shell and the hurt he has endured. She also teaches him that he is, in fact, a shaman, and can journey or walk between plains – almost like deep mediation out of body experiences or astral travelling –
Hunter could see it all as clearly as if he were right there, yet he knew he was lying in bed. This was journeying again, wasn’t it? It was unsettling, unnatural somehow. Why could he do this? How come he never could before? Was it something that just switched itself on here on Exmoor? He didn’t like it, but then again he didn’t know how to make it stop.
There is a lot more that Hunter starts to learn – they can fly and shape-shift and Hunter discovers he has two power animals – a timber wolf and a snake. Rowan has a black panther. There is a lot to cover in the events that occur to the MC, Hunter and his friend Rowan. A lot of darkness and, for both of them, a growth that occurs, but mostly for Hunter. Things that he once held dear shifts and new things take precedence, but his pain still remains –
He just ached to see his parents, to give Dad one of their loopy handshakes and hugs, to tuck his head into Mum’s shoulder and sob. No wonder people said grief felt like a heavy weight on the heart. Somehow he knew his parents were connected to Kitnor, he just knew it. So why should he let the guardians in on the secret?
Walker is fantasy set in a contemporary world. The guardians – of which Ruth is one – are looking for Kashebah, the temple they need to make things whole and right. Hunter has a vision of where this is and after seeing a meeting between Belial, the contemporary devil, and some greedy humans, Hunter knows he has to do all he can to help stop people destroying Kitnor – where the spiritual Kashebah is.
There is a well paced plot in Walker, something is always happening and the thing that I liked was Hunter’s gradual growth and his process through grief. He didn’t just stop thinking about his parents he had to work through grief, issues. There were other creatures to learn about and deal with. And Hunter is definitely thrown in at the deep end – slime-bone creatures, caverns of lost souls, punkies – children who had not been able to find their parents after they died – the Ferish, or fairies who were distrustful of humans and how they abuse the earth and it’s animals –
“No way. Fairies are like, cute; like Tinkerbell with little wings and stuff.”
Hunter paused, “not that they exist….”
“Well, think again,” said Rowan. “Forget Tinkerbell. Forget the flipping Flower fairies. Ferish are large as humans, often larger, and the worst kind of enemy – cruel and unforgiving. They hate us and, to be honest, who can blame them? She gave a shrug.
Belial the (contemporary) devil who seeks avarice and greed and uses it for his benefit, warriors of old awoken on a full moon and many more that I won’t discuss.
As a YA fantasy this book really worked well. I liked Hunter, I liked Rowan, they were good protagonists. The antagonists were sufficiently bad and you wanted to see them overcome. There were some sad moments in the book, some touching moments, and plenty of fantasy components…and hope.
I liked the messages – we are prejudice or we cannot let go of hate –
“You Ferish are so caught up in enmity with the humans that you lose your wisdom.”
We don’t always work together. How we need to look after the animals, our earth, it is a wondrous place, – the scenery, the descriptions used in the book were beautifully done without overwhelming detail. It is nice to see someone get back to their roots and find satisfaction. It was good to see Hunter deal with his fears and find bits of his soul that were lost, and there was a touching moment where he could connect with his dead parents. It was interesting to see the difference between Hunter’s family and Rowan’s and the way it was used for a point in the book.
If you like fantasy, if you like some ghoulish moments, some touching moments, a good pace throughout and plenty of creatures and interesting beings. If you are interested in walking between plains, shamansim and spirituality, then there is a lot here for the reader. I know Walker is classified as a YA – the MC’s are fifteen – but it is a book for all ages.
I really liked how age-appropriate the dialogue was here. Both Hunter and Rowan spoke like teenagers. For a while the concept that Ruth just took off and left her grandson in a strange place with another fifteen year old boggled my mind, but much is explained later. I liked the writing style, it was poetic when it needed to be, straightforward when it needed to be, sympathetic, and the author obviously believes in the topic with a passion. One last thing, that cover is absolutely beautiful.
The stag had the deepest voice he had ever heard.
“He is the walker between the worlds, the one who has died and been born again. He has the power to save Kitnor.”