Tuesday 14 November 2023

When Dark Roots Hunt

When Dark Roots Hunt by Zena Shapter (Midnight Sun Publishing) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN: 9781922858061

Reviewed by Kellie Nissen

‘Every society goes through dark ages,’ Kib says quietly. ‘Perhaps these are yours?’

Sala has never truly felt like she belongs. Living in the village of Itta with her father, she feels more ‘swamper’, like her estranged mother. Her innovative ideas are at odds with the superstitious and cautious Ittans who live in fear of the wyann trees and giant water-ants that prey out beyond the wall of poisonous ivy.

‘Don’t go out onto the lake’ is a warning heard again and again, yet Sala is determined to show the community that there is another way. That they can survive if only they are willing to listen.

When an unusual comet shoots through the sky, and a strange ship appears the next day, suddenly everyone – Ittans and their neighbouring communities – believes that this ship is their saviour, their key to survival and power.

When Sala decides to defy her father and uncle, and attempt to reach the ship first, she is accompanied by her long-time friend Aten. But just as it is each community for themselves, Sala soon realises that she, too, does not know who to trust.

In When Dark Roots Hunt, Zena Shapter has crafted a complex world that is at once hauntingly recognisable, predictive and mystical. The pace in this story, with its many twists and turns, does not slow. Characters you think you’ve come to know, turn without warning. And, throughout the story, a voice inside your head asks, ‘Is this where we are headed?’

Sala, however, is the perfect hero – tortured, strong, vulnerable, determined – and I defy any reader not to find a point of connection or something about Sala that resonates within.

With its darker themes, When the Dark Roots Hunt is well suited to its Young Adult market, readers from 13 to 18 years of age who love speculative genres and science fiction, with a hint of dystopian thrown in for good measure.

The only question is, does the story provide the answers readers – and Sala – need? You’ll have to read it to see.

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