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Posted January 2, 2012
A unique story and endearing main character
A well-written, engaging young-adult historical novel. Native American history, ghosts, mystery, 1890s teen angst -- this is an entertaining read. Though I don't read YA very often, I look forward to future books by this author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 21, 2011
Spooky, spectacular & romantic!
Mixing genres can be a risky business, but Sonia Gensler proves she is a master literary chef with her debut novel, The Revenant - a sweeping historic thriller, with elements of your classic ghost story and Victorian romance.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The Revenant tells the story of 17-year-old Willie, who runs away from a home she can't fit in with, and assumes a stolen identity to become a teacher at the Cherokee Female Seminary. But life in Indian Territory is not like anything Willie expected. She struggles to teach students who come from wealthier backgrounds than her own, while also fighting a growing attraction to one of the young men from the neighboring boys' school. Then there's the troubling matter of strange happenings that everyone else believes are linked to the ghost of a student who drowned in the river the year before. Willie's not so quick to believe in ghosts, but as more strange (and increasingly perilous) events begin to transpire, even she can't deny that something nefarious is at work.
What struck me so much about The Revenant is how Gensler stays so true to her characters and the time period in which the story is set. As a modern reader, it's tempting to want your characters to just "go for it," but in a book that takes place in 1896, there are societal expectations that just can't be ignored. Gensler brilliantly stays true to the historical aspects of her setting, while at the same time building complex and dynamic relationships between her characters. She is a master of the Victorian courtship, and every stolen whisper and light touch of the hand is imbued with as much chemistry and sexual tension as that infamous "leg hitch" scene in Eclipse - so much so that you forget how chaste the interaction really is.
Gensler also brilliantly weaves in the history of the Cherokee Seminary School without once sacrificing an element of the story. Little bits of fact are sewn into the text seamlessly, offering a world that is all the more vivid for her efforts. Willie's experiences simply wouldn't be the same without such a lush historic backdrop as the one Gensler provides.
What's more, her characters are multi-faceted and engaging. Not only does Willie have an intriguing story, but so does Eli - that mysterious young man from the boys' school; Dr. Stewart, the charming young widower; Olivia, Willie's fellow teacher and confidant; and even Fannie, the student who seems out to get her teacher at any cost. Not one character falls into the trappings of caricature or stereotype. In truth, Gensler could easily write a library of companion novels to The Revenant, each one chronicling the stories of these other interesting characters.