"There are more than two worlds between them.... When would they see that they were two parts of a whole?" Norwegian author Mette Newth's third novel is the exquisitely written story of a Christian and a pagan who battle the elements, conflicting beliefs, and each other before realizing that the Great Mother (or Father) had always meant for them to be together. Brendan is a young Irish monk who has been charged to convert the heathen souls of 15th century Greenland. But his zealous heart has been no match for the freezing environment, and he is the last one left alive in his small Christian outpost. Enter Navarana, an Inuit shaman in training who is searching for food for her starving tribe. She happens upon the unconscious Brendan and against her better judgment, saves his life. The two are bound together and at the advice of a village elder, go on a mission to seek the missing sun, which has not shone with any regularity for three long seasons. On this journey, they share mental and physical trials that transform them from argumentative loners into soul mates believing in the same vision.
Newth's young adult novels are simply remarkable. Her writing transports readers to a world beyond imagination, where she makes them feel every joy and pain of her deftly drawn characters. The Transformation illustrates the principle of ethnic and religious tolerance in a way that is neither preachy nor sappy, and many teens will be stunned to realize that this contemporary problem has such a long past. This is an unforgettable tale from an amazingly gifted author. (Ages 13 and older) --Jennifer Hubert
From Publishers Weekly
Set during a severe cold spell in Greenland in the mid-1400s, Norwegian author Newth's (The Dark Light) novel competently raises issues of faith and beliefs as it chronicles the coming together of an Inuit woman and a Christian monk. However, an unconvincing love story and a rushed conclusion make for an uneven read. The story alternates between the perspectives of Navarana, the young Inuit woman, and Brendan, a monk whom she discovers dying of starvation in an abandoned church and nurses back to health. He feels conflicted: these people do not look or act like the heathens he has imagined. Readers will be transfixed by descriptions of Navarana's desperate polar bear hunt (the sow becomes her spirit guide), and by the Old One's teachings (he explains that there is no food, for example, due to the Sea Mother, who was angry "because Her long hair was always filthy and tangled from the sins of Human Beings"). Brendan and Navarana's transition from friends to lovers unfortunately lacks this energy ("When they melted together, they were both aware that it was this they had longed for") and the conclusion is equally bland. The elders tell Navarana she must travel to the edge of the world and win back the sun from the trickster Raven. But their showdown is brief and rather uneventful. All in all, despite this novel's fascinating premise, something gets lost in translation. Ages 14-up. (Oct.)
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