When Cole Harper is compelled to return to Wounded Sky First Nation, he finds his community in chaos: a series of shocking murders, a mysterious illness ravaging the residents, and reemerging questions about Cole’s role in the tragedy that drove him away 10 years ago. With the aid of an unhelpful spirit, a disfigured ghost, and his two oldest friends, Cole tries to figure out his purpose, and unravel the mysteries he left behind a decade ago. Will he find the answers in time to save his community?
Strangers is the first novel in The Reckoner series by David Alexander Robertson, award–winning writer, and author of HighWater Press’ acclaimed children’s book When We Were Alone.
DAVID A. ROBERTSON (he, him, his) was the 2021 recipient of the Writers’ Union of Canada Freedom to Read Award as well as the Globe and Mail Children's Storyteller of the Year. He is the author of numerous books for young readers including When We Were Alone, which won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award and the McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People Award. The Barren Grounds, Book 1 of the middle-grade The Misewa Saga series, received a starred review from Kirkus, was a Kirkus and Quill & Quire best middle-grade book of 2020, was a USBBY and Texas Lone Star selection, was shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Award, and was a finalist for the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Award. His memoir, Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory, was a Globe and Mail and Quill & Quire book of the year in 2020, and won the Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction as well as the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award at the 2020 Manitoba Book Awards. On The Trapline, illustrated by Julie Flett, won David's second Governor General's Literary Award, won the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, and was named one of the best picture books of 2021 by the CCBC, The Horn Book, New York Public Library, Quill & Quire, and American Indians in Children's Literature. Dave is the writer and host of the podcast Kíwew (Key-Way-Oh), winner of the 2021 RTDNA Praire Region Award for Best Podcast. His first adult fiction novel, The Theory of Crows, was published in 2022. He is a member of Norway House Cree Nation and currently lives in Winnipeg.
4.5 stars rounded up. The only reason this amazing indigenous young adult mystery (with a little supernatural) story doesn’t get a full five stars... I hated the very last page. For me the story was perfect, up until a sequel tease was put in . While I knew it was a series, and will look forward to encountering these characters again, the way the last page sets up the sequel cheapened the entire story for me. Almost as though it lessened what had just happened because more was to come. It's a real shame and very frustrating to adore a story so much and then have it feel like a marketing device instead of the beautiful ending. Certainly there is way to set-up the sequel without degrading the existing story so much. I suspect that David Alexander Robertson didn't want it set-up this way and that the ending was more of a hook the publisher desired to try and sell the next book. That's just my guess; but there's likely some truth to it.
Plot Our lead boy is an indigenous teen who was moved off his reserve at age 7, to the city (Winnipeg, Canada) following the death of his parents and some tribe children. While a hero to some, when he returns to his tribal home lands ten years later he is seen as a horrible reminder of what happened the ten years prior. And of course it's easy for people to wonder how he was involved in the incident ten years before. I'm vague here because I don't want to give away any of the goodies in the mystery that unfolds in Strangers. The overall mystery plot was well done, and while a little predictable it was certainly good enough to keep me intrigued and engaged.
Characters The voices of our characters, especially the teenagers are very well done. I felt like there was a solid background established about the reserve children and what it meant to live outside 'the group' and in the city. As this is a very important distinction for the story and our leading teen boy I felt it was impressed upon us just enough. Additionally all of the characters, young or old felt like real people. I'm not sure how much time the author has spent on a reserve in Manitoba, Canada similar to the one he describes (it's fictional) but it felt genuine enough to me. Now I have no indigenous background or backing to base that on except that I live in Canada and went to school with a few kids who came into town for education from reserve lands. So it may be there is something I am missing. But for this white girl (and her limited knowledge) it didn't feel forced or over done.
Magic! It's funny at first I didn't really see our lead guys dreams and other odd things that happened as magic. They just felt like a part of his native background and spirituality. It wasn't until about halfway through the story, when some amazing things are revealed, that I realized there was a lot more going on. I liked that there was a slow, build up progression to the 'magic' or supernatural powers. Again it felt authentic and fit in really nicely with the character and plot development. Maybe what I really want to say here is the pacing is perfect. No matter what aspect of the story you look at Strangers has a pacing that keeps the pages turning, while still engaging the reader in the setting and characters.
Age and Romance Besides the last page issues my other (not quite five star) issue with Strangers is the perpetuated romance that has transpired between our lead boy and a friend (who is a girl) at the age of 7. While many times during the story it is emphasized that at the time our lead boy was taken off the land he wasn't old enough to understand; at the same time it seems there are a lot of references to the 'love' that he and a girl had. They were seven years old! I'm sorry but I remember my 'boyfriend' at age 7... and trust me there was no romance there, just two kids who liked to hang out and happened to be of different genders. Additionally I would have felt more comfortable with the whole story if the age of our kids had been say 10 at the time of 'the incident'. That would have put 7 years between the time of the incident and leaving the reserve to our lead guy returning home. More than enough time for everything to have passed that did and a little more comfort for me on the age in which you might actually start to lust about someone or imagine marrying them in a more genuine way. Were I to say there was a flaw in this book it is this age differential that I would point out. It's not a deal breaker for me, and probably not worth a reduction in stars by a whole star; however, it was annoying enough that it did bug me each time the 'pre-romance' was discussed between our characters. Because let's face it, no 7-year-old is waiting for any other 7-year-old into their late teens to date because they one time were close friends. It's really just absurd.
Overall I'm so pleased to have read this Canadian written, indigenous focused book this year. It is probably one of the most diverse books on my reading shelf for 2018. I love what Robertson did with this story and cannot wait for the second book (even if I hated the set-up). If you are looking for a solid mystery, teen read with some indigenous diversity I think you will enjoy this book. I hope it gains more attention as Strangers shared an insight into how difficult it can be in a tight knit community if you are suddenly the outsider; and how much of a stranger that can make you to your own people.
For this and more of my reviews please visit my blog at: Epic Reading
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Strangers comes from the mind of David A. Robertson, an award-winning writer of children's books, who has taken his first foray into the YA genre.
So welcome to the nowhere town of Wounded Sky. A peculiar place inhabited by denizens still haunted by the tragic fire that broke out at the local school where so many children died. Dark secrets abound and tragedy isn't far behind as the story unfolds with a sombre, morose tone.
The main protagonist is Cole, one of the few survivors, who is suffering from deep psychological issues stemming from what he witnessed on that tragic day. Cole is forced to return to Wounded Sky to face his demons and hopefully save his town before it is too late. Being YA fiction, Cole is characteristically imbued with the requisite special powers to battle the dark forces coalescing for now in the background.
Let's us not forget to mention the seemingly omniscient coyote spirit guide, Choch and the effervescent ghost, Jayne, who both come to Cole's assistance when he needs it most.
I struggled with the first half of the book as the author meandered with the plot, but fortunately he noticeably tightens his writing in the second half and ends on a stronger note.
Strangers is the first book in The Reckoner series, so there are many unanswered questions and mysteries that are not resolved. There are also a few plot holes, such as who actually killed one of the victims, as the main murderer denies having a hand in that murder? Also, why did the murderer camp in the forest and more perplexingly, leave highly sensitive material lying around in the tent?
The principal issue is that the dark forces behind the scenes aren't revealed in any way. The research facility on the outskirts of Wounded Sky is only mentioned in passing eight times. I was hoping that the book would conclude with a few revelations in this regard to set up the sequel, but it was not to be.
A solid effort with much potential, which will hopefully launch a strong series going forward.
This was a fun YA mystery with a supernatural twist rooted in indigenous folklore. The first half of the book left me a bit confused--I think it could have used a bit of tightening. The second half, however, I loved! Robertson really hits his stride, and a lot of the build-up we see early on pays off.
This book had two mysteries: what drove our main character Cole away from Wounded Sky, and what dark forces are causing mysterious problems in Wounded Sky. The first was great for character development, and the second was great for plot. It felt like the first half of the book was dedicated to what drove Cole away, and the second half focused on the more plot-driven elements. I would have loved for these two narratives to be integrated throughout a bit more.
I feel like I should start this review by addressing the fact that I did have some issues with this book and on any other day I might've given Strangers more of a 3 star than a 4, but I was just so damn hooked that I inhaled it in a day. This indie-published Cree ownvoices story captivated me way more than I expected to and for that, kudos is due. As for the rest of it, I have no idea if this review will actually be coherent or not, but bear with me.
We open with Coyote getting another young teen to summon Cole Harper back to the Wounded Sky First Nation. (Cole, his aunt, and his grandma moved to Winnipeg a decade ago for a Reason that is alluded to but not confirmed until further on into the book.) Cole, for his part, has tried to grow from his traumatic past. At the very start he is adamant that he will not be returning, but gives in soon enough. On impulse, he books a flight and returns to the rez, pills in hand.
Things are mostly how he remembers them at Wounded Sky, for better and worse. Upon seeing Cole for the first time, some greet him as a hero. Others are still unquestionably upset. (This for that Reason again that we still haven't completely figured out.) The mystery of Cole's departure unravels slowly, and mostly through flashbacks that have him gripping his anxiety meds. And here is actually the first thing I loved: I did not expect anxiety rep to this degree. Obviously you should listen more to ownvoices reviewers on this one as I myself do not struggle with any anxiety disorders, but his response and coping mechanisms were things that made sense to me.
I feel that if I get too much deeper into plot, I will spoil this book as it is a thriller/mystery more than anything else. What you should know going in is that, while there are fantasy elements, it doesn't necessarily read like a YA fantasy. In fact, while the writing style and tone skew more towards a younger YA/upper MG audience, it is the topics (i.e. all the murders a-happening) that I think keep it from being shelved for younger readers.
So with all that out of the way, here are some bullet points of the elements that did and did not work for me.
LOVED - anxiety rep (though again, not the best judge) - ownvoices Cree rep and the small-town community feel - our two paranormal/supernatural characters, who include a shapeshifter and a half-enflamed ghost - the force behind the story that doesn't make you want to put the book down
HAD ISSUE WITH - 2 queer male characters (one is closeted, the other is referred to as gay and 2 spirited) are in a relationship at the start but one dies - some minor plot holes/conveniences re: present-day killings - depth of major characters
this book made me want to not be alive anymore while reading it. It was so boring i aged 48 years trying to finish it. Wouldn’t put anyone through the pain of reading this book ever. if i could’ve given it 0 stars i would’ve.
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Strangers was continually surprising me. Cole as a character was fascinating. There's this genuine painful past and it's only unraveled a fraction in Strangers. At the same time, there were really wonderful side characters that were detailed. It's my pet peeve when the side characters are not well described - but Robertson nails it! Not only is there diversity (First Nation teenagers, and two gay characters), but they share memories and relationships. The side characters form a net of connections.
This story is fabulous! It has it all: Mystery, struggles with relationships and mental health, shadowy government 'goings on' and a trickster you love and hate. I like that this book doesn't fit in a box, as far as genres go. I love the world that David A. Robertson created and I am going right back, as (lucky me) my husband has #2!
In all honesty, I only read half the book. I liked the author's graphic novel Sugar Falls, and decided to try a fiction novel.
Unrealistic interaction between characters, teens talking like the 1980's, and continual ridiculous choices and emotions between the characters persuaded me to eventually give up. I couldn't finish a page without feeling frustrated. Some issues included:
- Eva being angry that her friend Cole moved away and didn't text her for 10 years... except he was 7 years old at the time, so I just don't really feel like not moving is an option a 7 year old gets to choose? Or texting?
- At halfway through the book I still can't figure out why an entire community hates Cole for saving 2 friends at the age of 7 from a burning building. It's true, he didn't save anyone else. But who gets upset at a 7 year old who goes into a burning school to save kids? If that's part of the mystery that's still to be revealed, it's been going on too long and detracts from the story.
- Kids talking like the 1980's. "Back off, funky bunch"?!
- Two wild and crazy 17 year old teens disappear alone into the night "probably to peck each other on the cheeks for 5 hours straight".
- No one seems very upset about their best friend dying. They just go all Scooby Doo and disturb the police crime scene looking for clues. By the way, the police don't even interview the dude who was beside his friend when he's murdered. Instead, he attends a town meeting the following day (still in his blood-splattered clothes) where the doctor advises everyone to avoid crowds (like the community meeting they're currently attending) because of a mysterious flu epidemic.
They then track the killer through the forest at night with their flashlights on (so he doesn't get too far away), shush each other constantly as they approach the killer's tent, find warm coals in the campfire, but decide to stay and have a little chat about the murderer who must be close by because the tent is empty. They get chased, but then have to convince Eva to report it to her dad, the chief of police, because it *might* be important.
I don't like giving bad reviews, but I won't be going any further with this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
How can you not love the cover of this book? Believe it or not, the inside is even better. I’m stumped trying to come up with words to describe this novel. It blends science-fiction and indigenous mythology into a riveting mystery. The characters, all of them, including the supernatural, are convincing. The dialogue is brilliant. It’s full of heartbreak and humour. Cole Harper returns to his hometown of Wounded Sky after being away for ten years. Shortly after he arrives, people are being murdered and a deadly virus starts killing people off. It’s up to Cole and his remaining friends to figure out what’s going on.
I can hardly wait to get to the next in the series.
How many Canadian detectives are there? How many are First Nation? How many are teenagers? I somehow doubt there are a whole lot there.
David Robertson writes Cole as a typical teenage boy, except, as we go further in the novel, we discover he is not typical. That when he saved his friends from a burning school, by lifting a wall, it was not a one off. That there is more than we know about Cole.
And then there is Coyote, disguised sometimes as a man, and sometimes as a coyote, who is trying to prompt Cole into some sort of action. That is often the problem with young heroes. You have to push them to do what they are supposed to do.
The last quarter of the book pushes the story along, at a good pace, and if the whole book had been like that, it probably would have gotten four stars. The opening of the book is a bit on the slow side, but then, since this is looking like a trilagy, perhaps that is just to get to know the characters.
Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
It was great to read a YA urban fantasy/mystery with Cole, an Indigenous (Cree) protagonist who tries to understand his own anxieties both inside and outside of his small town. I'm also a fan of Cole's grandmother with all her wit and wisdom.
This book was ok - I read it for an indigenous book club. Another YA and also the first in a trilogy. It was a bit mystical which isn't my favourite type of book but the story was good. I'm not sure if I will read the other two titles in the series though. I probably would have rated it 2.5 if I could have.
Fantastic literally! Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew meet DC Comic Superhero meets Manitoba reserve life. This is not only for young adults but for anyone who wants some insight into life on reserve from a young person's perspective. A real page turner.
I bought this book because of an interview on CBC radio. There is a lot of "Nancy Drew" about it. You may remember .. Nancy finds a clue .. then doesn't follow it up for pages and pages because she has to make an apple pie or something stupid. The reader gets frustrated by this obviously intelligent group of teens who act so erratically, or so wantonly abandon obvious clues or don't follow up leads. The ending is vastly irritating as well. But the coyote character is fun, and some of the protagonist's powers work well. I wish the author had a stronger editor. A good story, but too little happens long to sustain this many pages.
The first in a promising YA supernatural trilogy, this book is a mystery, but its also about a community constantly dealing with tragedy, and how the individuals cope with this. It takes place in a remote Indigenous community, and features some interesting characters such as a trickster figure, and a few of the teens who are well developed. There are some tragic events here for sure, but the interesting parts are how the characters deal with it and some of the Cree culture that makes this a unique story for this age group. Although, there is some language used that is authentic but not typical of a middle grade fiction that I would shelve in my classroom I am so eager to find MG novels written by and about Indigenous peoples in Canada, I almost want to just buy this and throw it on my shelves anyways (for grades 5 and up). There really are not any other concerns I would have with my kids reading this, but again, its a series so who knows where it will go from here. David Alexander Robertson infuses some humour into the story with his teens' wit, and most of all with the Coyote character. Okay, minor spoiler ahead, stop reading if you want. There were a couple of moments near the end that made me want to go back and re-read a part because I might be missing a piece that links together parts of the mystery. That's kind of hard in an e-version for me though. Even though this is a series, and I didn't expect a tidy resolution, but it seemed like one of the characters did and I thought they should have known better.
I had the sense, as I was reading, that it was a poorly edited collaboration between multiple authors. It was not. There were editing mistakes and the flow of the novel was very stilted and at times downright difficult to follow. Conversations are awkward and nonsensical and frequently drag out or cut off to add to the mystery but in an unskilled way that left something to be desired.
That being said, this book had many upsides. I’m trying to broaden my reading horizons. This book ticked a lot of boxes. Canadian. Indigenous. LGBTQ2+. Magic. Folklore.
The mystery was intoxicating. An elementary school burned down ten years ago killing an entire third grade class and several teaching staff. One 7 year old kid rescues two friends from the flames after being imbued with magical powers by mythical Coyote. A research facility is destroyed and two people died in its destruction and their bodies were never recovered. A murderer is on the loose, killing kids linked to the main character. A folder full of files about a scientific experiment is found amongst the murder suspects belongings. I couldn’t stop reading until I knew what was happening.
This is book one in a series and not all of the mysteries are wrapped at the end, however, I find myself disinclined to go looking for the rest of the series.
I love how every character in this book seems to hate the main character, Cole. Nobody likes this guy. At 8 or 9 years old, he saved a couple of lives, his friends from a school fire where many children died, essentially and reluctantly earning the title "hero"and in someways "villain". He leaves the community for ten years, and returns for a memorial. He is forced to deal with his past friendships, relations and former community members. Just like any old small community, but in this case, specifically on the rez, the resentment this young adult experiences is daunting. At the end, he saves a couple lives again and he is blamed for the murder of a few. How he deals with all these stresses is courageous and heroic.
Never mind Coyote becoming a man, that is part of the legends, but the most unrealistic and unacceptable parts is that anyone would hold it against a 7 year old kid that he didn't save the people they loved in a fire and "only" saved his best friend and one other. WTF?! Who holds grudges - for 11 years! - against anything done by a 7 yr old?! Given the amount of encounters Cole has with people who remember and judge him about the event, THAT is what I couldn't find believable or bearable about the book.
Strangers is a heartfelt, honest and inspiring journey of healing and discovering self-identity. With just the right amount of suspense and tragedy, we explore the highs and lows of community, culture, and companionship alongside our main character.
WHAT I LOVED:
A Focus on Healing and Community Robertson encourages others to heal from trauma by embracing and exploring the past. One of the relatable aspects in this novel was the guidance, support, warmth and wisdom provided by the elderly characters. The generational connections were adorably wholesome and heartwarming and reminded me of my relationship with my grandma! The author’s ability to create meaningful, layered relationships between characters in a murder mystery should be applauded. The overarching themes portrayed throughout the novel include the timeless haunting of tragedy, pain and internal turmoil. The author incorporates these concepts by constantly challenging the characters and testing the lengths they are willing to go to save their community. Sympathizing with our characters feels natural, as we watch them grapple with the ghosts of their past and face continuous losses in the present. Although this novel is diverse in content, the most prominent message conveyed is the importance of seeking help and communicating in times of trouble. I strongly agree with this concept because I find that the best way to avoid misunderstandings and misdirected blame is to prioritize open communication.
Inclusion of Culture I found that the incorporation of Indigenous mythology within a murder mystery adds to the authenticity of the storyline, as the author’s Cree background further enriches aspects of culture in the story. The emotional depictions of pressure, guilt and devastation of an enduring community that is still plagued with disturbing deaths from atrocities reminds me of the intergenerational suffering Indigenous survivors of tragedies, such as residential schools, encounter in reality. I appreciate that these issues are addressed in youth fiction because they are extremely relevant and they deserve to be voiced. The incorporation of supernatural elements, including the coyote spirit and the use of language, was executed perfectly and complemented character development.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:
Suggestions In terms of improvement, Strangers has an indeterminate ending and the lack of information at the end of the story feels almost like a superficial marketing strategy to create forced suspense in order to urge the reader to buy the second book in the series. The shock of the abrupt cliffhanger is highly disappointing because the build up creates overly high expectations for an extravagant “big reveal” that never arrived. Personally, I am not a fan of cliffhangers at all so the ending made me feel cheated. Including more insight into Indigenous culture and mythology would have further elevated the appeal of this novel. My final suggestion would be to refine the clarity of Strangers to reduce the confusion of the reader in regards to the ordering of events.
Be prepared to finish this book in one sitting, so make sure you’re comfortable!
Trends and Comments
Disliked: Mel (Epic Reading)’s Review (4.5/5 Stars) The common flaw recurring in the reviews of Strangers was the hard-to-believe ages of the main lead and his rekindling love interest. Mel mentions, “it seems there are a lot of references to the 'love' that he and a girl had. They were seven years old! I'm sorry but I remember my 'boyfriend' at age 7... and trust me there was no romance there, just two kids who liked to hang out and happened to be of different genders.” She expresses that the entire cohesiveness of the storyline would have been improved if Cole’s age at the time of the incident was 10 years old and he returned home 7 years later, instead of vice versa. I strongly agree with this idea because it would allow the character interactions to become much more probable.
Liked: Story Time With Stephanie's Review (5/5 Stars) The majority of reader reviews agreed that one of the most major ‘wow’ factors of this novel is the perfectly executed suspense that the progression of the storyline creates. Although the ending leaves our questions unanswered, a well paced flow of information throughout the story keeps the reader entertained and wanting more. Stephanie comments on how she was completely enticed by this mystery, “This was one of those books I could not put down. You know those books where you completely lose yourself in the story, ignoring the world around you.” Many reviews also mention how they greatly appreciate the incorporation of First Nations folktales and wish there were more of that integration because it can only elevate and enhance our immersion into the story. I also feel a similar desire to experience Indigenous culture on a deeper level.
Final Statement: Regardless of the frustrating ending, Strangers was overall a memorable read . I would recommend buying all three books in this trilogy before you start reading to avoid falling off that cliffhanger.
Strangers by David A. Robertson published by Highwater Press is an incredible tale and the first in The Reckoner series.
I could not put this book down. It haunted me when I was not reading. I had to know the story of Wounded Sky First Nation and Cole Harper. Cole left Wounded Sky after a grave accident. After losing both his father and mother, his Grandmother and his aunt moved him to Winnipeg to get away and keep him safe. When Cole receives urgent and somewhat mysterious text messages from an old friend back in Wounded Sky, he is compelled to go back home, against his aunt’s wishes. When he arrives, he doesn’t exactly get a warm and fuzzy welcome. While some believe Cole is a hero, many are resentful and hurt by Cole’s actions 10 years ago. When people begin to fall gravely ill upon Cole’s arrival back in Wounded Sky and others end up dead after their interactions with him, Cole sets out on a mission to figure out what is happening and help his people once again.
This was one of those books I could not put down. You know those books where you completely lose yourself in the story, ignoring the world around you. Fortunately, The Bear and The Bee were able to entertain themselves for just about an entire day while I strode off to Wounded Sky and fully immersed myself in Cole’s story. I am just itching for the next installment. I can only think of a handful of times where I have had to wait for the next installments in a series and cannot stop dreaming about what is to come. I need to know what happens to Cole and Wounded Sky First Nation, how all the different mysteries that arose during Strangers conclude. What was happening at the research facility? Who started the school fire? How did Cole’s father die and why? There are so many questions David A. Roberston leaves open. We can certainly make inferences and predictions but I have a feeling this story could go just about anywhere. With the story being quite intense, I loved the character of Choch. He adds much appreciated humour and asides. He also provides a vehicle in the story to learn more about the importance of oral culture and the stories of Cree and other First Nations mythology. Strangers is an incredibly important Own Voices story to add to the growing list of stories written by First Nations people. These stories reflect their experiences and their truths and provide a richness to the children’s literature landscape that was not available only a few short years ago. Own Voices stories lead to more learning. While reading I found myself wanting to know more about the story of Coyote or Wisakedjak to the Cree people. I wanted first to make sure that anything I wrote here was accurate but I was also curious about the stories. I love folktales and oral storytelling and know after reading Strangers and what will be the two follow up books in the series, I will seek out opportunities to hear Cree, Anishnabee, Métis, and other First Nation storytellers.
The world was burning, and there was nothing he could do, but watch. “Strangers” is a mystery novel sprinkled with humour, written by David A. Robertson. Our protagonist, Cole Harper is a teenage boy with anxiety. After he underwent a traumatic experience ten years ago in his hometown, Wounded Sky, he left to live with the rest of his family in the city. However, after a suspiciously frantic text from his old friend, he soon returns. Upon his arrival, he realizes something: he is not welcome. With multiple of unsolved murders, almost everyone pins the blame on Cole Harper. However, Cole is not alone. With the aid of his old friends as well as mystic creatures like talking coyotes, he sets on a brutal mission; to find the killer and fix his mistakes.
I was always told to never “judge a book by its cover” but I couldn’t resist the amazing art on the front cover. The glossy cover paired with the contrasting orange and blue colours made me fall in love with it immediately. Along with that, the pages were textured, a perfect appearance and touch that made it different from other books on shelves. I am also a big fan of mystery books, so I was excited to submerge myself into this book. Unfortunately, it was extremely disappointing. I found it especially hard to get into the first half of the book since the plot and development of characters were confusing. The author spent the majority of “Strangers” trying to build and expand the relationships before actually starting on the plot; another downside of the book. There were so many connections between the variety of characters and I had to reread a certain section multiple times until I had a general idea of the relationships. Even then, I had to ask my friend to explain them to me. Another vast problem I encountered was the bland characters. Whenever a character died in “Strangers”, rather than feeling shocked, or grief, I would be wondering who this character even was. Robertson would kill off many irrelevants, that were barely introduced. I could not enjoy the book because I was too busy trying to comprehend all the information. Still, there were some parts that I enjoyed from the book, like how Robertson incorporated the indigenous culture and practices.
A common trend with almost all of the reviews on the book “Strangers” was that many people, along with myself, believed that it was not well written. Many pointed out various grammatical errors as well as poor editing. On the other hand, the opinions on the plot were mixed. While some believe that it was very engaging, others found it underdeveloped, with many unanswered questions even at the end of the book.
Although there were many flaws in the book, Robertson still shot me in the heart with his intriguing creativity, just like Ashley.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
In almost a decade Cole Harper hasn't visited Wounded Sky First Nation. Cole , a Winnipeg high school senior with a part-time job and a university plan left the community as a child in the aftermath of something horrible. The novel is vague on the details of the events that drove Cole from his home, there was a fire, and several children died. These events were linked to the school and possibly to the mystery research center on the outskirts of town. We hear very little from Cole, who has little desire in going back in time – even when he begins to get increasingly frantic text messages from his childhood friend Ashley, who is still living at Wounded Sky and badly wants Cole to come back. Harper's return home is met with scepticism and derision when he finally gives in to the pressure. Eva, Harper's childhood friend, is so furious with her that she can barely speak, ignoring the fact that she still wears the sweetgrass ring he made for her on the night of the tragedy. "You shouldn't be here," Ashley says, despite the fact that he did not send the text messages summoning Harper's Cole's return. You shouldn't have come here in the first place." Ashley is shot and dies before he can explain why. Then things get even worse. Wounded Sky is ravaged by a terrible sickness, and more killings follow. In the forest, there are ghosts and secrets, as well as dark people. Then there's the Coyote, who goes by the name Choch as he plays with Harper, driving him forward and pulling him back, sliding between human and animal forms and never offering a straight response. But then, what would you expect from Coyote? It is in his nature for him to be a trickster. At the beginning of the book it was really hard to read as it is very slow and not much happens but once you get into the book it gets much more interesting and faster which makes it easier to read. Personally, I loved the book. It was very well written and thought out for the most part except the ending I did not like because it kind of ruined the whole book for me and did not make me want to read the next book but I am still interested in reading the next books as the author developed the characters really well and I am interested in seeing what else they can do. I would recommend this book for someone to read who is into mystery and murder and tragedy. It can be very emotional so please be aware of that. The cover of the book is also very captivating and it drags you right in. If you love mystery, murder, thrillers, sappy, relationships, friendships, this is definetly the book for you to read as all of that is in it!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I wanted to like this more than I did. Mystery set in Canada with Cree protagonists and a paranormal angle? But it didn't quite work for me. First, it took awhile for me to get into the story. We know Cole's aunt and grandmother moved him away to the city because of the Tragedy that happened when he was 7 years old, but it's unclear why they seem to have cut all ties to home, even after details of the Tragedy are revealed. With everyone keeping their secrets so close, it was hard to get to know most of the characters. And when Cole returned to the community, it rang extremely odd to me the way so many people hated him so much for something that happened when he was SEVEN. S E V E N ! A few who were around his age at the time, maybe, and dumbass bullies who are, after all, dumbass bullies; but so many people, including adults, and no-one rolling their eyes and telling them to shut up and grow up? I can believe the pattern of small-towners looking down on someone who left for years as an outsider or traitor (it's dumb, but I've seen that kind of thing irl), but the added bit of holding a massive grudge against a *seven-year-old* not for a bad thing he did but for a bad thing that *happened to him* was not believable to me on such a wide scale. It turned me off the whole community. Maybe it would have worked better if he had been a teen when it happened (bigger, stronger, with more agency) and returned as an adult. The paranormal angle was up and down for me - I found the ghost girl well done, but Choch, the trickster spirit sort of driving events, can be funny but also annoying (which I guess is his character, but his intrusions into the narration could be so much more annoying than charmingly tricksterly). The mystery is not fully resolved by the end of this volume, which was frustrating; hopefully the second book will reveal more. Actually, there are several interconnected mysteries wandering around, only the least of which was 'solved' here; we know who did X, but not who they're working for, and the larger conspiracy hanging over everyone and everything isn't any clearer. So there's a lot that the second volume needs to deal with to salvage the story from this fairly rough beginning. I may give the second book a chance later, but I need a breather before I do.