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The Orenda

(Bird Family Trilogy)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  16,558 ratings  ·  2,074 reviews
In the remote winter landscape a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of a young Iroquois girl violently re-ignites a deep rift between two tribes. The girl’s captor, Bird, is one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. Years have passed since the murder of his family, and yet they are never far from his mind. In the girl, Snow Falls, he recognizes the ghost of h ...more
Hardcover, 490 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Hamish Hamilton
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Kate Xavier is a descendant of Bird. There are two more books in development that will be written about other family members in that 1600-1900's span. …moreXavier is a descendant of Bird. There are two more books in development that will be written about other family members in that 1600-1900's span. (less)
Brenda This is an incredibly well researched book, amazing characters some of which you will love and others that you will want to slap hard! I would recomme…moreThis is an incredibly well researched book, amazing characters some of which you will love and others that you will want to slap hard! I would recommend it (less)

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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  16,558 ratings  ·  2,074 reviews

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Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-library
To say that The Orenda is a compelling read would be an understatement. Reading Boyden’s latest novel was for me an intense experience which I think will haunt me for a long while. It is not an easy, comfortable read; it is, in fact, provocative, demanding that we examine our history with an unflinching eye: “What’s happened in the past can’t stay in the past for the same reason the future is always just a breath away” (487).

This historical epic is set in the mid-1600s in Huronia at a time when
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I took no pleasure yesterday in killing the last two women. They were already so wounded we knew they wouldn’t survive the trip home. Even though I asked Fox to do it, my asking is the same as if I myself had done it. Fox cut their throats with his knife so that they’d die quickly, ignoring the taunts of Sturgeon and Hawk and Deer to make it slow. When the three called Fox a woman for making the first leave so fast, he positioned the second woman, who was quite pretty, so the blood from her t
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Orenda is a 17th century adventure story. A radiantly imagined tale of conflicts and their resolutions. There are many interesting characters but at the core is Bird, the leader of his people, Gosling, the woman he loves and a seer, Snow Falls, a lone survivor of an attack between the Huron and the Iroquois, and Christophe, the Jesuit missionary renamed the Crow by the Huron. Gosling and Christophe Crow have their very own conflict. He accuses her of being of the devil and using trickery and ...more
Mar 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2014
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Christine
Brother Gabriel decries the ritualistic persecution the New World "sauvages" exact upon their enemies, declaring it evidence that the Indians these Jesuits have come to convert are little more than wild animals. His fellow missionary, Brother Christophe, pointedly reminds him of the Inquisition, that black period of the late Middle Ages, when the Catholic church subjected so many to exquisitely designed and amorally rendered torture. Author Joseph Boyden doesn't seek to justify any nation's brut ...more
5 stars - Utterly amazing.

For my friends that know me well, the star rating on this book should speak for itself. The addition of it to my "favorites" shelf essentially makes the need for a review pointless, but allow me to gush.

This unforgettable story unfolds through the eyes of three narrators, a tricky novel setup, but one that works very well here. Contrary to what I normally experience with similar books, there was no favorite narrator and each point of view was captivating and engaging. T
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Success is measured in different ways. The success of the harvest. For some, the success of harvesting souls."

This sweepingly ambitious novel by Joseph Boyden – a 500 page epic – focuses strongly on all these successes as well as failures in the early beginnings of Canada, when the Huron, the Iroquois as the Jesuit missionaries clashed together. It’s narrated by three characters: the well-respected Huron warrior Bird, the Iroquois girl Snow Falls, whom he claims as his daughter after slaying he
Helene Jeppesen
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5 stars.
This book is special because it gives you a very unique insight into Canada and its history. The beginning is very in medias res, and it throws you into a world that you're not familiar with and that makes you ask a lot of questions, but once you get more into it, you realize that this is a story told from three persons' perspectives: The perspective of a clan leader, the perspective of a very young girl whose family was just killed by the clan leader, and the perspective of a Frenc
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Maybe it's unfair to rate The Orenda as I'm not sure I'm going to finish it. A little less than a hundred pages to go. But what a tough slog. Too much unnecessary historical detail and too little story, literary or otherwise. Plus, none of the characters are all that original (Read: Interesting). Not enough "human stain" about them. They leave me feeling nothing but apathy. But what is worse, Boyden's first 2 novels, The Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce, were so great -- 4 stars each!
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-borrowed
My first Joseph Boyden read turned out to be an a vividly written tale of 17th century New France and the destruction of Huronia. As I studied Canadian history in school and it's my first university degree, the content of this historical fiction wasn't brand new to me, but Boyden creates such vivid descriptions full of great characters and a complete story that I fell almost completely into the narrative. The one thing holding me back was that all three characters talk in first person and for ...more
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
fabulous book...I read the whole thing, all 490 pages of it, in one sitting. it's now 2am, so am going to bed. ...more
Lorina Stephens
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Simply put, Joseph Boyden's The Orenda is a timeless and imperative read for every Canadian. Even if you're not Canadian, you should read this novel. It will edify, illuminate, shatter, and complete your understanding of society during 17th century First Nations and European first contact. That The Orenda did not make the short list for either the Giller or the GG is quite incomprehensible. If ever there were a novel, and an author, worthy of our attention, our praise, and our accolades, it is T ...more
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
(4.5)"We hurt one another because we've been hurt," she whispers. "We kill one another because we have been killed. We will continue to eat one another until one of us is completely consumed."

War. History has shown that war has been in play moreso than not; people have always conquered one another by force, assimilation, disease or a combination of all three. Frankly, we as humans, get along just as well as two betta fish in the same tank.

Brutality and Torture. Are these concepts relative to whe
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible historical novel, THE ORENDA tells of the struggles between the Iroquois, Hurons, and Jesuit priests that have made their way into early Canada. This was a brilliant book. If you enjoy THE ORENDA, you might also want to check out Black Robe ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-author
The Orenda - the life force or life spirit - of a culture and/or community; perhaps a person, although this story gives the Orenda a bigger purpose than the individual, in my opinion.
This book captures the life force of a tribe, a community, it's people, their culture & country. It also captures the life force of the Jesuits, their purpose, their souls.
Told through the perspectives of 3 people, a Huron warrior/leader, an Iroquois girl raised by the Huron and a Jesuit priest, this story tells t
Aug 02, 2013 rated it liked it
I had such a hard time picking a rating for this book. On the one hand, there are passages of prose that are mind-blowingly beautiful and heartbreaking. And the world Boyden has recreated in his pages is so real you can almost touch it. And I am in awe of his ability to tell such a complicated history without the obvious assigning of blame. That is, indeed, one of his themes.

However. In cleaving so closely to history, he has forsaken story. In telling us that history through the eyes of 3 charac
It’s hard to even begin writing about The Orenda, which is a powerful history of the Canadian nation. We Caucasian Canadians often forget that our history didn’t begin with the fur traders, the explorers, and the missionaries, that there were long established civilizations in the New World which had their own languages, values, and inter-group relations. Joseph Boyden reminds us of our Eurocentric bias and he is very much the man for the job. He is of Scots, Irish, and Anishinaabe (which you may ...more
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A powerful and poignant story in which the old world meets the new world. The three narrators are wonderful but flawed characters in a harsh world. It was a fascinating and original novel. I intend to find out more this period in history but also about the author, Joseph Boyden, who wrote this great epic.
Laura Frey (Reading in Bed)
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
So I guess I'll call in sick tomorrow because this book just knocked me on my ass. Also need to recover from retro active Giller outrage. ...more
I really took my time with this once I realized I could neglect it and pick it up again without losing the thread and atmosphere. I think I was somewhat afraid to get to the end because I knew it would be hard to read. I was right about that, but every event that unfolded in the last 75 pages or so was a surprise. Boyden did not protect his readers, so do be prepared for some painful moments, but some breathtakingly beautiful ones too.

Sometimes when you spend so much time with a book the conclu
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Europeans brought disease and guns devastating the natives. They tried to introduce a religion and a way of life the Native
Americans never wanted. The Orenda is a riveting and brutal telling of the Huron culture as it clashed with western civilization. They were called savages, a term that allowed them to be treated in a less than humane way. At best, they needed to become "civilized".

Boyden portrays the Hurons with all the emotions we now know are shared by humanity. Love, friendship, cou
Carolyn Walsh
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What to say about this book? Wow! An epic Canadian masterpiece portraying the 17th century Huron / Iroquois wars and the Jesuit priests who journeyed from France to spread Christianity and to persuade the natives to give up their own spirit (orenda) worship. A book filled with beauty, compelling characters, but with some of the most gruesome scenes imaginable.It is a book of love of family and friends,beauty of the land, righteousness,brutality, acts of kindness and sacrifice, and vivid descript ...more
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, owned
I loved this book. Powerful, evocative, and a real education. I'd like to say all Canadians know the stories of the Huron, Jesuits, the Iroquois/Wendat (Huron) Indian wars, Martyr Shrine, Jean de Brebeuf - but it may be too much of an Ontario history; but I'm sure there are tales like this wherever there were missionaries, native peoples and the clash of tribes or cultures.

Set in the majestic Georgian Bay area, Pere Christophe is a Jesuit missonairy who has come into Wendat territory to convert
Daniel Kukwa
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian-lit
This is, quite simply, an extraordinary achievement. I'm not sure whether to classify this story as a triumphant tragedy or a tragic triumph...but it certainly stands as a work of historical/anthropological genius. The ultimate clash of cultures, searing emotions, and beautifully drawn characters -- it is a book you will be unable to put down. Exhilarating, terrifying, and touching, it is the summation of all that is civilized & barbaric in mankind, from three points of view. It is a story as re ...more
reading is my hustle
lots of thoughts & feelings on this one because colonialism. was it inevitable? the writing is beautiful & the research behind this novel must have been epic. i was frustrated by the lack of a woman's voice early on (though) that changed the further i got into the story. the torture scenes & pretty much all the depictions of violence are heinous; but since this is a book about colonization i knew what i was in for. this book is many things & as i sit with it more i might revisit this review & ad ...more
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
3.5 stars.

The Orenda is a book that I didn't enjoy as much as I thought I would, but that I'm glad I stuck with. Around 20% of the way through I was tempted to DNF this, but I stuck with it and actually found myself becoming more in tune with the characters - if you find it a little slow at first, keep going because the action definitely heats up!

The novel is told from three perspectives: Bird, a Huron warrior; Snow Falls, a young Iroquois girl who Bird takes as a daughter to replace his murder
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
For me, this went from a possible 4 star book to a 3 and finally to a 2, and if it hadn’t had so much that was good, it could have ended with only 1 star.

I have to say as the account went on, I got very weary of humans, not for the first time.

I do love the 3 narrative voices. For the most part I could tell who was narrating by what they said, but they didn’t have voices significantly distinctive from each other. That was okay though.

I was shocked but satisfied with the violence/talk of the viol
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
4.5/5 stars

The whole time I was reading this book, and as I talked to people about my experience while reading it, I tried to figure out why I liked this book so much. Plot-wise the story is quite slow, and while the writing is nice, it's nothing extremely special. But the characters, I think, are what really make this story stand out.

The Orenda follows three narrators: Bird, a Huron tribesman; his captive daughter, Snow Falls; and a French missionary, Christophe. We get alternating chapters fro
Megan Baxter
Oct 06, 2014 rated it liked it
I have complicated feelings about this book. There are so many things it does well. The research is excellent. The complexity is top notch. The writing is good. On the other hand, the characters are weak. The story is often predictable. And there are issues with what happens to the female character.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review
Brandon Forsyth
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book took over my life. I somehow never got around to this book when it was being nominated for every Canadian literary prize in existence and hundreds of people recommended it to me, but I am so glad I finally got around to this. Boyden is a terrific talent - his writing plunges you into the world, and his skill with structure and detail and metaphor show a mastery of the craft. An unforgettable meditation on violence and religion and guilt. Read for #IndigenousReads 2016.
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Joseph Boyden is a Canadian novelist and short story writer.

He grew up in Willowdale, North York, Ontario and attended the Jesuit-run Brebeuf College School. Boyden's father Raymond Wilfrid Boyden was a medical officer renowned for his bravery, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was the highest-decorated medical officer of World War II.

Boyden, of Irish, Scottish and Métis heritage

Other books in the series

Bird Family Trilogy (3 books)
  • Three Day Road
  • Through Black Spruce

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