Review Blog

May 16 2013

Soonchild by Russell Hoban

cover image

Ill. by Alexis Deacon, Walker Books 2012. ISBN: 9781406329919.
Recommended. (Age 14+) Myths. Legends. Pregnancy. Shamanism. Regeneration. Renewal. Soonchild is a mythical, fantasy novel written for a young adult to adult audience. This novel is set somewhere north of the Arctic Circle and is underpinned with Inuit mythology and legends.
The protagonist Sixteen-Face John is a shaman, an angakoq who is consulted by villagers seeking the best hunting grounds or spells for falling in love. He comes from a long line of shamans who have taught him their skills. He lives in the cold north 'where the night wind blows and the voices of the lonesome dead wail'.
No Problem, his wife, is in the ninth month of her pregnancy and has called their baby Soonchild. She is concerned when the baby refuses to leave her womb.
Soonchild can't hear the 'World Songs' a unique kind of music needed for the world's existence and for her delivery. Sixteen-Face John is a fearful man who when confronted with his daughter's problem has to embark on a journey to find the World Songs. In his dream he enters the spirit world coming face-to-face with demons and animal spirits including Nanuk the giant polar bear, Old Man Raven and Ukpika the owl-woman.
Alexis Deacon's dark pencil illustrations add a frightening eerie dimension. The ghost wolves surrounding John, the four demons and the blackened pages with the raven in flight further the depth and understanding to Hoban's story. Birth, regeneration and a search for the meaning of life are the novel's central themes.
Rhyllis Bignell

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