CM . . .
. Volume XVIIII Number 2. . . .September 14, 2012
Redemption tells the story of Aude Vanier, a 16-year-old self-assured and self-sufficient teenaged girl living in Montreal with her single, damaged mother. Aude thinks she has a handle on what’s going on in her life until Guillaume de Rouen makes an appearance, and then everything changes.
Guillaume is not what he appears to be - a young, handsome, 17- year-old boy. He is actually a centuries-old gargoyle that has been perched on top of a church in downtown Montreal for the past 70 years. It isn’t until he witnesses Aude fight off a mysterious attacker on the steps of the church that he and his fellow gargoyles are freed from their stone bodies. Guillaume knows that only a strong, special kind of power called essence is able to animate his stone form, and he and the other gargoyles begin to search for an explanation, and how to access the crucial essence that will keep them in their human forms.
Meanwhile, strange things continue happening to Aude. She starts seeing mutated animals in her neighbourhood, and she is attacked a second time in a matter of days. She thinks that she’s going crazy, until she begins noticing a commonality between the strange events - Guillaume. Guillaume knows there is something special about Aude, and he has made it his duty to watch her from near and far in order to figure her out. What eventually unfolds is a blossoming friendship between Aude and Guillaume as Aude begins to trust Guillaume and open up to him. She knows there is something different about him and wants to know how Guillaume fits into the strange events unfolding around her.
Aude and Guillaume spend a lot of time together, mostly when Aude is with her friends, Lucy and Patrick, with whom she plays in a band called Lucid Pill. It is through band practice and experimenting with new sounds for the band - specifically Iroquois water drums - that Aude unwittingly begins uncovering the truth behind the mysterious Guillaume, the strange events, and surprisingly even Aude’s own family background of witchcraft and Native American ancestry. Aude discovers that an ancient Iroquois prophecy is coming true - one that calls for the destruction of Montreal - and she and Guillaume must figure out a way to prevent it from happening.
The story, told alternately between Aude’s and Guillaume’s points of view, moves along at a medium pace that is easy to follow. It features tropes of the fantasy genre as seen in the mythical gargoyles, witchcraft, and other strange creatures that populate the pages. A fantasy novel about gargoyles - and not, for example, wizards, vampires, or werewolves - is a refreshing change and interesting concept that may catch the attention of fantasy readers looking for something different.
There are, however, a few issues that potential readers/parents/librarians should take note of before selecting this book. While the focus on gargoyles is a major selling point of this book, the combination of gargoyles, witchcraft, and Native American mythology is a bit clumsy and may leave the reader wondering how exactly these three fantasy elements fit into one another. More backstory or explanation would be helpful. Additionally, the grade recommendation could be lowered to grades 7-9 if it weren’t for a few references to sexual activity, since the level of writing (in terms of the level of complexity and vocabulary) is geared more towards this grade level. Perhaps the recommended grade level can be amended to a mature grade 7 or 8 reader.
Finally, the character development of Aude, in particular, is unbelievable at first. The inner dialogue Aude has with herself after her attacks and subsequent rescue is not a believable reaction that a 16-year-old would have, regardless of how mature or world-weary they may be. However, as the story (and budding romance) progresses and Aude starts seeing connections between Guillaume, the strange events, and her family history, Aude’s character becomes more believable and easier to relate to.
Aside from these areas, Redemption comes ”recommended” for its unique subject matter and sampling of wonderfully-worded prose throughout the book, as evidenced in the above excerpt.
Kalina Lafreniere is a library technician at Lakehead University in Orillia, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.