Saturday, December 29, 2012

Legends of the Saloli – Book Review

Title: Legends of the Saloli – Approaching Storm
Author: Adam Bolander
Publisher Synopsis: “To become a man, he must become a squirrel”
When a dark threat arises, a single boy must become a man by becoming a squirrel. Jeremy Lander wanted nothing more than to relax during his summer break, but a Saloli tribe looms on the brink of war and is forced to look for help outside their own species. Facing the threat of never being human again, Jeremy must serve his new tribe, even to the point of death, all while keeping his human past a secret. The stakes grow higher every day. The upcoming war could affect far more than one measly forest, and he just may be the deciding factor.
I read another review about this book and knew I wanted the opportunity to read it for myself, so I was so glad when the author, Adam Bolander, allowed me the opportunity for a free copy to review. The whole idea of a boy who becomes something else in order to save them just sounded too much like God’s own son becoming a human to save us, you know? I was expecting an allegory of sorts because of that. Though it wasn’t allegory, it was a wonderful book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Adam Bolander creates a world that is utterly rich and believable. The anthropomorphized squirrels (called saloli after the Cherokee word for squirrel) have a society that is well thought out by the author and given many details of its customs, code of conduct, and religion to really bring it to life. Although it seems to be written for children, and the feel of the writing bears that out, it is a story that will be enjoyed by all ages. I was drawn into the story completely and could not put it down. The writing is rich and thought provoking.
Jeremy Landers is called by Valde Abbas (God) to become a saloli (squirrel) and must learn how to live as a squirrel, how to win the trust of his tribe called Icefire, and how to follow God’s call upon his life. Finally, he must choose between his life as a saloli and his life as a human. Like a fantasy story should be, there is a clear deliniation between good and evil. Unlike many children’s stories that portray the villains as unintelligent buffoons, the dark side here is realistically powerful and insidious and it is clear that only with Valde Abbas can Icefire tribe succeed in defeating them.
Much of the saloli religion echoes God’s word clearly, but there are a few places in the book that concerned me just a little bit as a Christian reader reading a Christian fantasy. Of course, that opens up the question of whether all Christian fantasy needs to line completely up with Scripture or when it’s ok not to. But that is another Thought for another Thursday. ;) I’m waiting for the third book of the trilogy to come out before making my final determination. However, because of the violence involved in the book (about the level of the Redwall books by Brian Jacques if you’re familiar with those) and because of the seeming theological ambiguities, I would recommend the Legends of the Saloli be reserved for more mature readers or used as a read aloud with plenty of discussion along the way.
All in all, I was very pleased with this story. It is an exciting narrative that leaves you on the edge of your seat. And, just as a warning, this first book, Approaching Storm, ends with such a cliff hanger! I just had to purchase and devour book 2, Vengeance and Mercy, immediately!

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