________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 14 . . . . March 2, 2007


Stolen Away.

Christopher Dinsdale.
Toronto, ON: Napoleon, 2006.
229 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-894917-20-9.

Subject Headings:
Irish-Newfoundland and Labrador-Juvenile fiction.
Beothuk Indians-Juvenile fiction.
Slavery-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4



The crew shouted a whoop of joy. These were the descendants of one of the greatest sailing nations ever to grace the open ocean. Ocean water ran in their veins. Kiera noticed the joy in their eyes as they shook their fists in the air and smacked each other on the back.

"A toast to a good voyage!" Thorfinn shouted.


It is always nice to find a page tuner—a novel with short, sharp chapters filled with enough action to keep the story moving along quickly. Christopher Dinsdale's novel, Stolen Away, does just that. Dinsdale keeps things progressing at a lively pace. In Stolen Away, a young woman named Kiera has been kidnapped and forcibly removed from her Irish homeland by marauding Viking invaders. Kiera was first taken to Greenland, but the novel actually commences after her removal to Vinland, in a North American Viking settlement on modern day Newfoundland. On a voyage of exploration in rough seas, Kiera is swept overboard. Severely battered, she washes ashore where red-faced Beothucks rescue her. Like the rest of their people, Chocan and his sister, Sooleawaa, paint their bodies and faces with ochre, giving a red-skinned demonic appearance far more intimidating than Kiera comes to know the Beothuck people to be. After being welcomed into the Beothuck community, however, Kiera is later captured by Thule warriors. As you can sense, Kiera passes from place to place at a rapid pace, and each new chapter might find her in new hands.

     Unfortunately, while the pace is one of the novel's strongest features, it occasionally also detracts from the reading experience. For instance, after Kiera is washed overboard in a storm, I assumed that the rest of the crew aboard the longboat were shipwrecked. Given the violence of the storm, I think this seems a logical conclusion for Kiera also to have drawn. Even though it turns out that this is not what did happen, it seems to me that Kiera would have inquired of her rescuers as to the fate of her companions. After all, Kiera had—despite her kidnapping—grown fond of the Viking people and had clearly taken a fancy toward one of the young men on the ship. After her rescue, I found myself flicking back many times to see if I could find any trace of Kiera asking (or, indeed, even wondering) what might have become of the others on the longboat. Alas, I could find no such concern, or even interest, in the fate of the others. It seemed to me to be an unlikely response (or lack of response) to the situation.

      Elsewhere, some of the language attributed to the characters is off-putting and seems improbable for the setting. On page 166, Kiera is paddling a canoe as angry Thule warriors pursue her and Chocan. Chocan and Kiera manage to exchange places, allowing Chocan to take the paddle without missing a beat. "Nice transfer," Kiera remarks. While I have no idea what types of things such people would say in such a setting, "nice transfer" smacks too much of Twenty-first Century-speak. On page 187, the Viking blacksmith, Bjarni, says, "You better not come crying for more nails tomorrow morning, because this is it. I'm through. I need tonight to organize my stuff for the voyage home. Nice place, this land. Love the trees. But I'd rather live in a village where the natives are more friendly." Again, I confess that I do not know what sort of phrases and turns of speech that Vikings used, but this example is another that somehow just does not seem to fit and, as a result, proves distracting.

      Despite these criticisms, Stolen Away is an enjoyable and educational read. Children will benefit from this engaging opportunity to learn about the Viking experience and to consider the impact of early Viking and First Nation North American contact. Beyond that, children will enjoy reading an action-packed adventure with a strong female protagonist and interesting male characters.


Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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