A school holiday jaunt just confirms Hannah’s poor opinion of her school and the teachers in the city. She thinks the whole idea is a stupid waste of time – a treasure hunt with untrained dogs having to track and find their owners. Nothing like the real tracking she was taught out on the cattle station that she misses so much now her parents are dead and she has to live in the city.
The plot thickens as new characters are introduced who, strangely, have also lost their parents: Taylor, a boy from school who is attracted to Hannah, and his friend Charlie, an illustrator and would-be cartoonist. JL Higgs adds a further twist when the characters being drawn by Charlie take up the narrative by coming to life on the page and directing the action, providing information and clues to help the kids find their friend.
I am quite prepared to enter in to another world and suspend my disbelief when reading science fiction, provided that the other world is well-crafted. Higgs has said she found her ‘voice’ when she began writing humorous stories and it is mildly amusing when the drawings come to life. The author draws in too many characters however, both real and cartoon. It seems that Higgs wants it both ways: firstly, with characters from, and events happening in the real Northern Territory of today, with due acknowledgement to the Indigenous peoples’ connection to country and Dreamtime legends. At the same time, school kids are given roles as Special Investigators looking into multiple disappearances, a very unlikely scenario.
I was also disappointed by the dialogue which seemed very stilted for teenagers and the action didn’t hold my attention. In the early part of the book, the friendships are believable and the characters, especially Hannah, are strong and independent. The further I read, the less I cared about what happened to the characters and the less I cared about the revelations concerning the Earth’s Guardians, who represent a stereotypical patriarchal society where conformity, not freedom, is valued.
We can only hope that Volume 2 of the series is an improvement on this edition.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 6