Monday, 9 December 2013

Solstice Magic by Jean Stringam

Read about the magical world of cowboys, rabbits, and Ukrainian goddesses that unfolds when Zo’s gruff baba from Ukraine arrives with her savage Caucasian Ovchorka dog. The ensuing chaos of clashing cultures catapults the characters into the extreme sport of rodeo at the Calgary Stampede. There, Vince Lapin, bull-rider extraordinaire, meets up with Susie Lago, protégé of Zo, and the outcome for the other rodeo contestants as well as the animal athletes changes stampede history. Good thing Zo has a best friend with an attractive older brother to soften the trauma. Solstice Magic is magical realism for everybody who ever wished to be more than they are. You'll love this first-in-a-series tale of the Calgary Stampede.
Goodreads description

This is a book for young adults, and I would probably put it at the lower end of that age range. Zo is at senior school but, despite a bit of a crush on her friend's brother, is mostly interested in training her rabbit to compete in hopping courses. I also think  therefore that it is unlikely to appeal to boys. 

I suppose it should be said here that I am not a young adult and haven't been one for a very long time, so long in fact that my son isn't one either. But I do get the impression that this a book which isn't being properly targeted at its core readership. The cover (above) speaks of cowboy adventure to me, not of a tale predominantly about a girl, her magical rabbit, and a fierce Ukrainian grandmother. 

So laying aside these quibbles let me say this is an enjoyable read suited to the market I outline above. It opens with the arrival of a rodeo "clown" at the Calgary rodeo and then shifts back several months to give the build-up to that arrival. Most of the story concerns Zo's family and the arrival of a grandmother from the Ukraine who doesn't want to be there and who refuses to fit in. Grandmother Dolia arrives complete with enormous fierce dog and a hatred of rabbits, which she refers to as vermin. The point of view in the story is mostly that of Zo or of her rabbit. I would have liked more about why Dolia is the way she is. She does come over as rather two-dimensional, although that might be because she is seen through Zo's eyes. 

I am sure many of the book's young readers will enjoy the portrayal of animals in the book. There is rabbit training, sheepdog trials and of course the rodeo. As a Brit I am unfamiliar with the latter and found the descriptions fascinating. All the animals are presented as conversing with each other. 

But is the book magic realism? Well almost. The book is based around Ukrainian beliefs and mysticism. Zo's grandmother brings with her from the Ukraine fierce fundamentalist views on these and she clashes with the family over their more "modern" take on them. Personally I would have liked more about what the book is based on in some sort of postscript - after all the book comes with a glossary of Ukrainian terms. In some magic realist books it doesn't matter that you do not know, maybe because they are written from the point of view of someone who believes in the magic. But Zo is as at sea about what her grandmother believes as we are. Perhaps if Zo had learned more during the story, we could too. As this book is the first in a series, perhaps this will happen in the subsequent volumes.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for a fair review

No comments: