________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 11 . . . . January 30, 1998

cover RanVan: Magic Nation.

Diana Wieler.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 1997.
229 pp., paper, $7.95.
ISBN 0-88899-316-1.

Subject Headings:
Journalism-Study and teaching-Juvenile fiction.
Extrasensory perception-Juvenile fiction.
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Cheryl Archer.

**** /4


Marlene unlocked a cupboard and took out a case, half the size of a box of chocolates. Inside was the smallest, most slender piece of video equipment Rhan had ever seen. It was barely as big as his hand.

"Camcorder?" he said in disbelief.

"Featherweight, ultra-sensitive in low light, the sound field is unbelievable," Marlene said, touching it in wonder. "Vic Ducharme got footage in Saudi Arabia with this." She looked up at Rhan again. "There's a big rally on Saturday and Jim Rusk will be there, but I've got lots of rallies, lots of podium speeches. I know you can get me something else."

He'd known it was coming to this and yet when he took the piece of slim, cool metal in his hands, he was suddenly scared. The images from the tapes were still raw in his memory. What was he walking into? He was just one guy. What could he get that would make a difference? How could he be sure he was doing the right thing?

Marlene was watching him.

"All you have to do is tell the truth," she said quietly. "You don't have to carry it, just tell it. Let the world deal with it."

The words slid over him, silvery and smooth, a relief. Wasn't telling the truth always the right thing? She handed him the case, and the little leather holster that would let him carry the camera under his jacket, unseen, until he had to use it.

"You're going to have an exciting career," Marlene said. She gave his shoulder an encouraging squeeze. "Just get me something to hang him with."

In this powerful completion to the RanVan trilogy, Rhan Van, now 18, is entering the adult world. Accepted into Calgary's Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) to study Cinema, Television, Stage and Radio, Rhan discovers he has a passion and a gift - a "sixth sense" - for Single Camera Production. He wants to be a television cameraman. During their first major assignment, Rhan and his partner and new friend, Jen, videotape an explosion, and their product is good enough to be aired on the local late TV news. But the pair's joy is short-lived when they receive an F on the assignment for returning the camera late. Rhan feels betrayed by his teacher and abandoned by Jen when she accepts an assignment with another group.

      Needing something at which to succeed, and looking for a place to fit in, Rhan attends a meeting of True North, an organization he read about that promises to "make a difference." It's here that he encounters Lee Dahl - the Iceman - one of the major characters from the trilogy's second novel, RanVan; A Worthy Opponent and someone he hasn't seen for three years. And Lee needs his help. Initially Rhan refuses to get involved in what appears to be a racist organization, but Lee is persistent. At the same time, Rhan is approached by Marlene Foye, a college instructor and reporter of considerable fame, to obtain footage of True North and its powerful leader, Jim Rusk. Marlene suspects Jim is a financial pipeline within the province, possibly for small racist groups, but isn't certain where the money comes from or what it's used for. Rhan is certain Lee is somehow involved, and is later shocked to discover just how closely connected Lee is to Jim Rusk.

      When Rhan finally understands the strange visions he's been having of a melting ice palace, a treasure, a knight and Vikings in battle, he joins the Icemen in an attempt to protect Jim Rusk - the treasure beyond price - at a rally. Ran Van's weapon is a BetaCam. It's here that Rhan learns the adult world is no game because it is played with real lives. By the novel's end, Rhan also realizes he is a knight with more than just one foot in the Magic Nation; he now has his own princess. For the first time, Rhan is in love, and his feelings for Jen are reciprocated. They share and accept each other's secrets and pasts, and Rhan discovers what it feels like not to be alone.

      With an exciting plot, a large cast of interesting characters, and action that pulls the reader along at a brisk pace, RanVan: Magic Nation is truly one of Wieler's finest novels to date. Characterization, setting and dialogue are strong and true-to-life. Wieler, herself, took the Television, Stage and Radio Arts Program at SAIT, and this experience has allowed for an accurate, perceptive look at college life - both the good and bad. RanVan: Magic Nation is a compelling novel for teens moving into the adult world, a world with a different set of rules.

Highly recommended.

Cheryl Archer, a student in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, is also the Manitoba Officer for the Canadian Children's Book Centre.

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

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364