Saturday, December 4, 2010

Zan-Gah A Prehistoric Adventure by Allan Richard Shickman

The hero, Zan-Gah seeks his lost twin in a savage prehistoric world, encountering suffering, captivity, conflict, love, and triumph. In three years, Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership among his people. Themes: survival, cultures, gender roles, psychological trauma, nature's wonders and terrors. (From Amazon)

I received this novel from Earthshaker books to review.  I am not being paid to review it and my review is an honest review of the book.  That being said,  I thought this was a great story!  I don't know how realistic it was but it was easy to read broken down into small chapters and the story really was captivating.  I'm a lover of history, prehistoric history included and though I'd never really heard of anything in this story except the Mastodon, who's bones  Zan-Gah found, it was a very primitive world.

The story begins with Zan's brother having been missing for a year already and Zan feels guilty because he wandered off when the two had a fight.  Before that they had been inseparable.  But Zan can't worry about that at this point because the next day, for the first time, the five clans are getting together to hunt down a lioness who killed a child.  She has to be taken down before more children are killed.  It is an uneasy alliance between the clans who fight usually, but they've called a truce.  Out of sheer luck, Zan kills the lioness when she looks for a weak spot in the circle that is closing in around her and sees him, a young boy.  She heads for him and he holds his spear steady.  She dives right into it and kills herself.  He is named Zan-Gah, Gah being the rock where he killed her.  This is not a big part of the story. 

The majority of the story is his search for his missing brother.  They are twins and he has dreams every night that his missing brother, Dael is still alive.  He fights with his parents over it but in the end, he goes after him.  He discovers many things about the world her lives in and his enemies.  He creates a new weapon purely by accident.  He is captured by the same people that captured his brother for a time.  But his brother isn't with them any longer.  He suffers in the desert and almost dies.  But he continues his search for his brother because he loves him and believes he is not dead even when he believes he, himself is dying.

The landscape is harsh, the people are harsh.  Food is scarce, water is scarcer and you can feel the dryness of the desert, the heat on your back, the ache on your sore bare feet as you walk with Zan-Gah in search of his twin.  You can feel the joy when he finds water and food and feel his desolation when he is so thirsty that his mouth is like chalk.  You can also see the mind of a great leader forming, planning, and beginning to take over what one day will be his nation.

I totally recommend Zan-Gah to anyone, especially teachers, teaching about the hardships faced in prehistoric times.  There is violence in the book, as there would be during that time period.  I'd say fourth grade and up.  It's definitely an easy read at 148 pages so maybe some reluctant readers would enjoy it. I hesitate to allow my ten year old to read it because it's a signed copy, but if he keeps it at home, maybe. For all you librarians out there, I'd keep this one in mind.  Elementary school teachers should also keep this one in mind as well.

There is a follow up novel that I'm reading next call Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country.  I'll be reading it next.

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