Tag: Ambelin Kwaymullina

The Disappearance of Ember Crow (Tribe #2)

Cover image for The Disappearance of Ember Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullinaby Ambelin Kwaymullina

ISBN 978-0-7636-7843-2

“I was sad for everything the girl would never be and for a society that drove people with abilities into horrible places and horrible choices. For all the lost chances, and all the lost people.”

After rescuing the detainees from Detention Centre Three, and exposing Chief Administrator Neville Rose’s violation of the Benign Technology Accords, Ashala and Connor escaped back to the Firstwood. But Ashala has been living with her wolves since their return, keeping herself apart from Connor and the Tribe. As a Sleepwalker, she can affect the real world through her dreams, and since the events of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, she has been suffering fierce nightmares that make her fear she will hurt someone she cares about. But the disappearance of Ember, one of the other leaders of the Tribe, pulls her back to her duty. Ashala doesn’t really believe that Ember would leave the Tribe of her own free will. But has she been taken, or has she been caught up in something so dangerous that she is staying away in order to protect them?

Along with Georgie, who can catch glimpses of the future, Ember is one of the Illegals who helps Ashala lead the Tribe. Her ability to alter memories was central to the Tribe’s plans to infiltrate the detention centre and expose Neville Rose’s plans to the world. Ashala remains the narrator of the book, but significant portions of the middle section are related from Ember’s point-of-view. The use of Ember’s ability is a less explosive twist because it is no longer as much of a narrative surprise, but Ambelin Kwaymullina still finds clever ways to incorporate it into the story.

In The Disappearance of Ember Crow, dissent against the Citizenship Accords that bind people with abilities is growing thanks to the work of the Tribe, and a change in the leadership of Gull City. However, the narrative centers on developing the backstory of Ashala’s world, and specifically how their society grew up out of the ashes of the old world. The Reckoning itself is not much discussed, nor do we learn the origin of Illegals’ abilities. It is mentioned that immediately after the Reckoning, only very few people had abilities, suggesting that they are either an artefact of the new world, or a very rare carry over from the old that has now become more common. Instead, Kwaymullina focuses on Alexander Hoffman, the near-prophetic figure who was instrumental to defining the principles of the new society. We also delve into the origin of the Citizenship Accords, the laws that prevent Illegals from using their abilities, or existing as full Citizens.

In the midst of all these revelations, Ashala and Connor track Ember to Spinifex City, where another old world spirit sleeps. Ashala realizes that as with many of the Tribe, she knows very little about Ember’s life before the Firstwood. Her father may be dead, but it turns out that he was not the only member of Ember’s family. Her living siblings are as unique as she is, and some of them are even more dangerous. The Disappearance of Ember Crow is a promising and revelatory addition to the Tribe series, leading into the final volume of the trilogy, due to be released in North America in May 2017.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

the-interrogation-of-ashala-wolfby Ambelin Kwaymullina

ISBN 978-0-7636-6988-1

“Inside his mind, where Neville kept the story of himself, I was certain he believed he was a good man who’d been forced to do a few bad things for the sake of the Balance.”

Ashala Wolf, leader of the Tribe, has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose after being betrayed by Justin Connor. Three hundred years after the Reckoning—an environmental disaster that ended the world as we know it—what remains of society is devoted to preserving the Balance so that such a disaster can never happen again. Unfortunately for Ashala, those who have developed supernatural powers have been deemed a threat to the Balance, and must surrender to the government to live out their lives in detention centres where their powers can be contained. Ashala leads the Tribe of runaways who live in the Firstwood, outside the reach of the government. But Chief Administrator Rose plans to eliminate the Tribe, and Ashala holds the key to his plans. Can she withstand interrogation at the hands of a machine that can invade her mind?

Some novels are simply better if you don’t know what you’re getting into, and I think that The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is one of those books. If you’re already planning to read it, stop here and just go do it! I will avoid major spoilers as usual, but the surprises will be that much more enjoyable the less you know what to expect from this book. But if you still need convincing, read on!

Diverse-SFF-book-clubThe Interrogation of Ashala Wolf begins with many of the trademarks of your usual dystopian novel. We have the Reckoning that ended the world, and the strange new society that rose up from the ashes, with rules shaped in reaction to the disaster. A ragtag band of kids stand in opposition to the government. While the Reckoning is long in the past, and not explicitly described, it has its roots in human destruction of the environment, making this an ecological dystopia. Racism has largely fallen by the wayside in this radically shifted world, but the word Illegals remains, coming to signify those who violate the Citizenship Accords by freely using their powers. Although race is not central, Ashala—like the book’s author—is descended from Australia’s aboriginal people, and their mythology plays a central role.

All of this feels comfortably dystopian in the usual fashion, albeit with Ambelin Kwaymullina’s own unique take on the genre. But about halfway through the book, certain details suddenly don’t seem to add up, and the story takes a big twist. If you are prepared to bear with being confused as the layers are slowly revealed, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf comes together in an explosive fashion. There is action aplenty, but also a journey through Ashala’s mind as the machine forces her to relive some of her worst memories.

It is hard to describe the plot of this book without getting too spoilery, but fortunately there is a plenty else going on. Kwaymullina’s world is also interesting because it features an essentially functional democratic government with which Ashala and the Tribe share most of their values. The exception is the Citizenship Accords, which dehumanize those who have a power, setting them outside of the Balance and posing them as a threat to it. But Citizens are beginning to ask the Question: “Does a person with an ability belong to the Balance?” Since the origin of the abilities is not revealed, society is being forced to consider that these abilities might actually be part of the natural order of the Balance.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is also full of interesting characters. The Tribe is led by an intriguing band of young women, including Ashala, whose ability is dream walking, and who shares an affinity with wolves. She is supported by Georgie and Ember, who also have powerful abilities that go beyond the usual skills such as manipulating the weather or running fast. Although they have useful abilities that help them lead and protect the Tribe, Ashala’s personal qualities are what set her apart, because she is a community-builder who brings out the best qualities in everyone. Her leadership-style poses a telling contrast to Neville Rose’s bid for power which he hopes to achieve by stirring up fear of Illegals. Georgie and Ember have key roles, and I hope to be seeing more of them in subsequent books. All three books are currently out in Australia, and the third will be released in North America in 2017.


Previously in the Diverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club:

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova