Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zan-Gah: The Beautiful Country by Allan Richard Shickman

Title: Zan-Gah: The Beautiful Country
Author: Allan Richard Shickman
Publisher: Earthshaker Books
Paperback, 151 pages
Date Published: September 26, 2009

Description (Taken from Goodreads)
The prehistoric saga continues in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, the sequel to the award winning Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure. In this story, Zan s troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. His obsession is the destruction of the wasp men, his first captors, who dwell in the Beautiful Country. When he, Zan-Gah, and a band of adventurers trek to their bountiful home, they find that all of the wasp people have died in war or of disease. The Beautiful Country is empty for the taking, and Zan s people, the Ba-Coro, decide to migrate and resettle there. But the Noi, Dael s cruelest enemies and former tormentors, make the same migration from their desert home, and the possibility develops of contention and war over this rich and lovely new land. 
Zan-Gah is no longer the fearful boy who slew a lion. He is now a man, with a wife, the respect of his tribe, and a very troubled brother. After rescuing his twin brother Dael from the clutches of a rival tribe, Zan must cope and try to quell the anger and hate that now burns in Dael’s heart. The twins are no longer the best of friends that they once were and Dael often lashes out and keeps his tribe at a distance. After a move to the Beautiful Country (the same land that the twins barely escaped years ago), Dael’s demons begin to take over and Zan-Gah’s brother will never be the same.

Much like its predecessor, Zan-Gah: The Beautiful Country explores the hostile world where war is second nature and suffering comes often. Dael continues to deteriorate and Shickman does an exceptional job delving into the young man’s psyche and displaying his most disturbing and painful thoughts. Dael has changed quite a bit from the first time we met him, as has Zan. But it is Dael who engages the audience and will force the reader to pay attention to him. Shickman is perfectly clear in describing Dael as a dangerous and rash person, but he is also clear in declaring the allure that Dael holds:
Yet there was something terribly attractive about Dael’s animal aggressiveness. ~ pg. 69
Zan remains the voice of reason and a character that is both easily to relate to and difficult to not care for. His calm, quiet, introverted personality explodes off the page in a way that is uncommon for such a docile character. Zan is able to command attention with his intelligence and his prestige, where Dael does the same through very different means. The minor characters that we were introduced to in the previous novel continue to make appearances in this story. Shickman’s prose cannot be rivaled here and I feel lucky to have read such a beautifully woven tale. He is able to take the barest of lines, and layer it with such complexity and emotion. Chul, the often-dubbed ‘stupid’ member of the tribe, has the wisdom of a thousand men. Rydl, Zan’s young friend and former wasp tribe member, is often laughed at for his oddities and incorrect speech, but his intelligence rivals that of all the members of his tribe. Shickman brings these outsider characters to life and gives them a place in the world, and that place holds a certain authority.

Fraught with tension and a looming darkness, Zan-Gah: The Beautiful Country delivers another spectacular chapter in Zan-Gah’s moving story. The battle cries that were introduced in the previous novel can once again be heard, but some drama, a good deal of love, family, and hope also take a much larger role in this follow up. Shickman once again brings a remarkably simple, yet passionate tale, set in a primitive land, to a startlingly vivid reality.

Opening line: When Lissa-Na died, Dael wept real tears. ~pg. 1

Favorite line: Dael was like a force of nature now – a wild storm, a raging river, or a trapped animal that gnaws off its own leg. He was too dangerous to befriend, and too unyielding to advise or guide. ~ pg. 70
*While this book was provided to me by Earthshaker Books, this review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.


earthshakerbooks said...

The third book of the Zan-Gah series, Dael and the Painted People, is nearly finished. Watch for it this summer at the new web address:

I hope you will pay us a visit.

Allan R. Shickman

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