Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Book Review: Birds of Passage

Well readers, it's time for another book review.
Some time ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the excellent first novel in The Raincoast Trilogy, the book Since Tomorrow by Morgan Nyberg. Now I bring you my review of the second book in the series, Birds of Passage...

A Book Review of Birds of Passage

Birds of Passage, the second book in The Raincoast Trilogy, is a darker, more sombre novel than the first; a harsher glimpse of a transitory journey through a decaying world. The book evokes a bittersweet melancholy, where the remnants of human civilization are more profoundly marked as a dying breed.

The book begins years after the events of the first, in a world that has devolved considerably. Frost’s Farm still exists, but the people there cling to faded hope as disease and death ravage their settlement. The characters of the first book, Noor, Daniel, Wing, have given way to the new generation, Cloud, 99, Fraser, and Fraser’s dad, Blaine. Birds of Passage is their story, full of sadness and tragedy. They have one hope, to go north and find a new place to settle, a new place for the farm.

The novel portrays its unforgiving world honestly, and convincingly, depicting a compelling vision of a ruined society struggling to endure and stay alive. It has some interesting things to say about human nature, both its savagery and nurturing aspects, and our survival instincts as a species. I may not have agreed with everything the author wove into the story, but it made for fascinating reading. The book focuses on action over reflection, external stimuli over internal, perhaps a bit too much for my liking, but still manages to weave an intriguing and captivating story. The pace slows and meanders in the middle of the book, when the characters find themselves embarking on a journey away from the farm, but not enough to be overly detrimental to the plot.

However, the book is not without its problems. I found the central characters in this book slightly less engaging than the first, perhaps due to the lack of an unifying character such as Frost in the original novel. The story is told as more of an ensemble piece, and while it does work, for me the depth of characterization was somewhat deficient at times. I found the character of Fraser especially frustrating, with the motivation for some of his actions incomplete. Without a more in-depth look at the bond between father and son, I found it hard to sympathize with Fraser’s loyalty to Blaine. This limitation is somewhat mitigated with flashback scenes near the end of the book, but it may have been a case of too little, too late.

I don’t think the book is quite as good as the first in the series, it is still a terrific novel, and one I recommend.

Birds of Passage is available at:

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