The upwelling by Lystra Rose

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This is a fresh new novel combining Indigenous culture and fantasy adventure, in a way not seen before. Lystra Bisschop, winner of the black&write! fellowship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, 2018, for her YA fiction manuscript ‘The upwelling’ has now published as Lystra Rose, what seems likely to be the first in a series. Book 2 promises to be ‘The upwarping’.

Lystra Rose brings her knowledge as a surf writer to her fictional creation Kirra, a young surfing enthusiast. Kirra has been having dreams that predict the future, but nobody takes her seriously. So even though she senses that the world is going to come to an end at Jellurgal Point, she has no option but to follow through on participating in the surfing competition to be held there.

In the barrowing waves, her world does come to an end, and she finds herself in another time and space, with Indigenous groups, before the advent of white people. Her life becomes enmeshed with two other young people, Tarni, and Narn, also holders of special powers, N’gian gifts. The three of them have to face the evil Malung, intent on destroying them all.

The story, told from the three perspectives, is interspersed with words in Yugambeh language. Lystra Rose, descendant of the Guugu Yimidhirr people and Birri Gubba people, includes a note on her ties to community and her research with tradition custodians, knowledge-holders and cultural consultants. That is what gives her novel its greatest strength, in its depiction of traditional customs and beliefs.

However, in the process of reading the book, I admit to finding the mix of authenticity and fantasy rather disconcerting, never really sure when to trust what I was reading, not wanting to confuse concepts of Aboriginal Dreaming and magical mysticism. Other readers may thoroughly enjoy this original approach to fantasy adventure writing, combining an understanding of Aboriginal culture with the world of imagination. It’s a new venture in Young Adult fiction that is certain to have its followers.

Themes: Aboriginal culture, Fantasy, Magical powers, Trust, Self confidence.

Helen Eddy