Review Blog

Apr 27 2020

The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller

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Text Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781922268044.
(Age: Primary school students) Olga and her family have been exiled to an inhospitable outpost due to her father's inability to successfully complete the Sky Metro transport system in the capital city. The move is labelled a promotion, but it is all too clear that their father has been punished and moved to cold and dangerous lands, where he needs to deal with the growing tension between humans and birds.
Olga's younger sister Mira is the darling of the family and her dancing delights and entertains everyone. Their actress stepmother is suffering by being away from the social life of the city and her audiences.
Olga displays jealously and annoyance towards her sister, but it is only when Mira is kidnapped by the large birds that she realises her love for Mira and knows she alone must complete her rescue.
This journey for Olga becomes one of self-discovery as she uncovers her real abilities, becomes involved with the magical yagas and understands why she has a deep attachment to cartography and explorers.
There are aspects of this novel I really enjoyed, Olga's developing magical skills, the descriptions of the yagas and their chicken legged homes and the meeting with her personal hero, a long-lost explorer but there were parts of this story that I felt were not developed fully.
Olga's visit to the Bleak Steppe Finishing School for Girls of Unusual Ability seemed to be rushed and didn't provide the depth of learning and skill that Olga needed to complete her quest. The journey from ordinary to magical was hurried and I felt unconvinced that Olga had the talents to complete her adventure.
More time was needed to develop Olga's character and her quest which would have made the story more exciting and believable.
This novel, inspired by Russian folklore, would be suitable for primary students who enjoy fantasy stories. Teacher's notes are available.
Jane Moore

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