CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 10. . . .November 5, 2010.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2010.
250 pp., pbk., $12.99.
Royal North West Mounted Police (Canada)-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.
Review by Emily Sobool.
The blast of a rifle reverberated through the loft, shattering Rob's dreams. He struggled to sit up and peered around sleepily in the thick darkness. From below, he heard his father's muffled voice, and sounds on the rough floor told him that Luke was sliding to the ladder a few feet away. Fully awake now, Rob reached for the edge of the loft and let his almost six-foot length dangle into the room below before he let go.
He sensed that Luke was beside him as they reached his father, who was peering through the little window at the front of the house. "Get your rifles," he said without turning his head. "Something's been bothering the horses. I'm thinking it's out there still."
At the beginning of Shadow Riders, 16-year-old Rob McCann and his family are awakened in the middle of night to discover that they are being robbed of Smokey, their prized stallion, and a number of horses they have carefully bred for sale. Rob's father is shot in the leg in the process, and facing the prospect of a harsh Manitoba winter with little money for supplies, Rob and his adopted Native brother, Luke, immediately set out to find the horses and bring them back. They ride to the nearby Fort Ellice for help and decide that their best chance of recovering the horses is to track down the newly formed North-West Mounted Police. From July to November 1874, Rob and Luke travel westward with the NWMP across Canada’s unsettled prairie terrain. Colonel George French, the commander of the NWMP, attempts to have the boys escorted home, but they always manage to continue riding along with the troops, even if it means hiding in the shadows. Rob and Luke effectively carry the story as the reader shares in their successes and disappointments, and the dynamic nature of their relationship gives the novel depth.
Shadow Riders is an excellent novel, full of adventure, hardship and plenty of fascinating details about life in early Canada. Aside from the McCann family, all of the events and characters are real and based on Bayle's research into the NWMP, which is supported by the inclusion of some selected readings at the end of the book. The Canadian Children’s Book Centre has recognized Bayle’s previous novels, Perilous Passage (2007) and Battle Cry at Batoche (2008), which also present important moments in Canada's history. Readers who found them appealing are sure to enjoy Shadow Riders’ brisk pacing, rich characterization, and seamless incorporation of historical figures and details.
Emily Sobool is a librarian in Vancouver, BC.
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