Shadows Cast by Stars

Shadows Cast By Stars - Catherine Knutsson N.B.: The author and I were once in a critique group together. This means that while I was predisposed to like her book, I'm also likely to hold her writing to high standards. Advanced Reader Copy provided by Simon & Schuster. One of my favourite young adult genres is the dystopian novel, from Lois Lowry's The Giver up to Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games. Reading the jacket copy for Shadows Cast by Stars I was thrilled to find someone of my acquaintance was contributing to the genre. What's even better is that Knutsson diverts from some of the common tropes into something quite unusual. Dystopian novels often hold symbolism in the geography of their worldbuilding. One common trope is the idea of the reluctant quest: the protagonist, born on the outskirts of the dystopic society, is pulled into the heart of it and discovers/reveals the true horror that's been masked from the people. Think of Katniss traveling to the Capitol in The Hunger Games. The trope of banishment/escape is the reverse, a character who discovers the corruption of the government and leaves for the outskirts, either willingly or unwillingly, such as in Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The geography of Knutsson's world is built from our own, her novel set two hundred years in the future. A plague has been decimating populations. There is a cure, but it comes with quite a price. Antibodies in the blood of aboriginal people protect them from the plague. It's been decided that the ends justify the means and aboriginal peoples, known in this world as Others, are rounded up and drained of their blood to save non-Others. As M├ętis, Cassandra and her brother Paul have been relatively safe from cullings, especially living where they do, on the outskirts of one of the population Corridors, but when a new outbreak of the Plague nears, their father removes them to the Island, which lies beyond the Boundary, a mysterious force that allows Others to pass through but confound the Corridor's searchers. This is where Knutsson breaks from the usual geography of dystopian novels. Instead on starting at one of the extremes of the geographic world, she begins in the midlands. The reader (at least this one) assumes we are going to travel into the centre, but then finds that we are instead going further afield. On the Island, Cassandra is taken on as apprentice to the local medicine woman and begins to understand some of the meanings behind the visions and dreams that have always been part of her life. Even as she finds her place and struggles to learn about her new position, malevolent forces seem to be gatherine around her, including a strange creature in the lake near her house, a creature that seems to be hunting her. The reader begins to wonder if she has traded one dystopia for another. I sincerely hope that this is not Knutsson's only novel in this new world she has created, for in creating such a rich symbolic geography, she has definitely left me wanting more. Luckily, the structure of this novel leave that possibility open to fulfillment in myriad ways: prequel, sequel, or even unconnected characters inhabiting the same future.