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Dirt Eaters

Dirt Eaters

4.7 6
by Dennis Foon, Gareth Williams (Illustrator)

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When Roan’s parents and the people of Longlight perish in a raid, Roan is filled with rage. Torn between his desire for revenge and the legacy of peace he has inherited, he is taken in by a sect of warriors. Here he learns he has exceptional talent as a fighter. But Roan is haunted by visions he can’t understand. When he commits his first act of


When Roan’s parents and the people of Longlight perish in a raid, Roan is filled with rage. Torn between his desire for revenge and the legacy of peace he has inherited, he is taken in by a sect of warriors. Here he learns he has exceptional talent as a fighter. But Roan is haunted by visions he can’t understand. When he commits his first act of violence, he flees in disgust into the most wasted lands of all, the Devastation. It is only when Roan meets the strange girl Alandra that he begins to understand his life’s purpose and why the village of Longlight was destroyed. Dennis Foon has created an immensely powerful and disturbing look at a wasted world. Through the character of Roan, hope and the promise of renewed life seem possible.

Editorial Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Roan is a believable adolescent whose grief fuels his desire for vengeance even as unavoidable violence makes him sick at heart... Readers with a taste for both fantasy and science fiction will relish this savory mélange.
Canadian Materials - Sylvia Pantaleo
Foon has created a believable and disturbing futuristic world where survivors struggle to subsist on post apocalyptic earth. However, through Roan and several other characters, there is hope for a renewed life. The multiple conflicts in the novel create energy and tension, and the characterization is strong throughout. Foon's writing is taut and powerful, and the fast paced, evocative and compelling tale is totally engaging. This reader anxiously awaits the sequel, Freewalker. Highly Recommended.
Publishers Weekly
Foon's (Skud) sprawling post-apocalypse fantasy, the first in the planned Longlight Legacy trilogy, opens years after the Abominations have poisoned the earth and turned the desert into the Devastation. Savage raiders destroy the peaceful city of Longlight, an enclave so secluded it has become mythical to those outside. One of the few survivors is teenage Roan, who feels torn between his father's pacifist teachings and his newfound desire for revenge. Roan is offered sanctuary by an odd cult of Brothers led by a motorcycle-riding Prophet, but it comes at a high price. On the verge of initiation, Roan attacks the Prophet and escapes, led by three spirit guides who come to him in dreams and tell him that his younger sister is still alive and needs his help. Countless subplots and incidental characters add to the elaborate set-up: peaceful angelic beings that live underground; death-inducing Mor-Ticks, bugs that dig into human skin to lay explosive larvae; and legendary Dirt Eaters, who use dirt as a drug to become lucid in their dreams. The most interesting story line involves the city of Fairview, whose Governor sells the town's children for laboratory experiments or so their organs can be harvested for use by the Masters of the City. Although the surfeit of ideas might cohere in the next two installments, this first suggests that the plotting may simply be too ambitious. Ages 13-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This book draws readers in and captures their attention quickly. At first the story is a little confusing, but as it goes along, it becomes clearer who is the enemy of Roan and the Dirt Eaters. This book did not have a satisfying ending, and it leaves the reader wanting the next book. Dirt Eaters is for fans of science fiction/fantasy. There is not really a specific age group that would enjoy this book; it is more for everyone. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Annick Press, 320p., and Trade pb. Ages 12 to 18.
—Patrick Darby, Teen Reviewer
Children's Literature
Roan has lived a peaceful life with his family in the village of Longlight until the entire community is destroyed by raiders. Roan is rescued by a man named Saint, who begins to initiate Roan into the ways of warriors called the Friends. After Roan discovers that the Friends follow a very dark path, he flees into the wilderness after wounding Saint in a battle. Rescued by a scarred boy known as Lumpy, Roan and Lumpy begin traveling throughout the wilderness, visiting various settlements of people. When Roan meets the healer Alandra, he finds out about the dirt eaters, people who can travel to the dreamfield. Alandra reveals that Roan's grandfather was the first dirt eater. When Saint finds Roan, it culminates in a battle that could determine if the legacy of Longlight will be lost forever. Foon's use of the present tense creates an intense read that will leave a reader eager for the next book. 2003, Annick, Ages 10 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-This outstanding first title in a trilogy should have readers eagerly anticipating the next installment. Foon lays the foundation for a compelling dystopian novel featuring Roan, a 15-year-old boy thrust into a hero's journey after his peace-loving village is destroyed. He and his younger sister, Stowe, are the only survivors. She is taken to the City and used for nefarious purposes that will presumably be explained in later books. Roan, at first, seems to have been saved by a man named Saint, the leader of a small band of warriors. When the teen uncovers the truth about Saint, he flees into the polluted, devastated wilderness. He is befriended by another teen who shows him how to survive. They journey into various villages, meeting people who will help them on their quest. There's a lot more going on in this well-written adventure. Readers will be reminded of Lois Lowry's The Giver (1993) and Gathering Blue (2000, both Houghton) (assigned jobs and isolated, barbaric civilizations post-disaster), Rodman Philbrick's The Last Book in the Universe (Scholastic, 2000) (pollution, disease, and illiteracy), and even Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (Turtleback, 1953) (aversion to books and independent thought). In addition, older readers will notice biblical references, Buddhist elements, Eastern ideas, and metaphysical concepts. All in all, an entertaining and promising start.-Laurie von Mehren, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Parma, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Annick Press, Limited
Publication date:
Longlight Legacy Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.25(h) x (d)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


In the shrouded valley, the people of LongLight evaded destruction. For seventy-five years they quietly thrived, isolated from the world, nurturing a small flame of hope. It took less than one hour for them to annihilated.
-- the book of LongLight

A snow cricket leaps between two smoldering buildings onto a collapsed stone wall. It sits for a moment, antennae probing, then jumps to a footprint in the snow. It vaults again and again, from footprint to footprint, moving past snow-covered boulders, until it stops at a thick patch of blue bramble and settles beneath the thorns, on a mound of snow speckled red.

The white cricket sings one sweet, resonant note. The mound shudders and, within it, a pair of eyes snaps open. The eyes belong to Roan.

Roan listens, afraid to move. In the distance, the sullen cawing of crows. Stiff, cold, he considers sitting up. But then -- crash! He stops breathing, terrified of being seen.

His father's anguished face.

-- Quick, quick, Roan, move, move, move!

Hands pulling him up, throwing clothes on him. His sister, Stowe, clutching her straw doll, shaking. His mother kissing him, hugging him, then pushing Roan and Stowe through the open window.

-- Go! Hide in the blue brush! Run! Run!

There's another crash, this one landing at Roan's feet. It's only melting snow falling from the bramble. Hearing no human sounds, he rises. Slowly. Staying invisible inside the mass of thorns. Roan's head pounds. He feels his temple. There's a crust on his hair. He scratches off a piece and groans as he examines it. Scab-matted blood.

Smoke rises from the other side of the hill. The village they called
Longlight is silent. No voices, no screams. Desperate to see, terrified of what he'll find, Roan breathes deeply to slow his pounding heart. Then, painstakingly untangling himself from the bramble, he crawls over the snow-spotted hill. His eyes catch something. He moves quietly through the brown whip-grass, staying low. A bit of purple cloth -- Stowe's doll, wrapped in its vivid shawl, the one she dyed herself. It's been ground by a horse's hoof into the half-frozen mud. Hands trembling, he lifts the precious object.

Shouts. Explosions. Crazed, skull-masked invaders on horseback, waving torches, slashing, burning. An eerie, rumbling sound pulsates from the villag4 like hundreds of voices humming in unison.

Scrambling, sliding on the icy whip -- grass, Roan and Stowe race, closer every step to the blue bramble to safety. A piercing scream. Stowe's fingernails rip Roan's palm as a hideous red skull leans down, lifts her. The masked rider kicks off Roan's bleeding hand. Stowe is reaching, reaching for Roan, but high in the air above her the rider's bone club swoops down.

Shivering, head throbbing, Roan gently places the ruined doll in his pocket. He inches close enough to see the smashed walls of Longlight. Beyond them, smoke rises from the shells of crumbled wood and clay houses. No sign of riders. No human sounds at all. Trembling, he edges closer, then rushes toward the broken gate and dives for cover. He is lifting his head for another look when a black shape whirls past him. He ducks, terror-struck, waiting for the death blow. It doesn't come. He waits, then peeks again. The ground past the gate is a mass of foraging crows, shattered pots, burned woven baskets.

How did they find us?


An acrid smell flares in Roan's nostrils. From the Community House. Burning plastic: the solar energy panels.
Years spent scavenging the parts to make one unit. Gone.

House after house, all smoldering, all empty. Drag marks scar the gravel walkways. Past the Worship Place, across the Forum, to the Fire Hole. Roan hesitates, dreading his next few steps. Every year his father spoke where Roan stood now.

We stand for the Remembering. Fire Holes like this one opened when the Madness began. Earth, sickened by the Abominations inflicted on its surface, spewed its insides in an attempt to purify what was fouled in the world. Many died. When the scorched lands cooled, the First Ones arrived. Many holes had been filled, but this one was left untouched, its fiery waters unquenched. The First Ones constructed their village around it, the shrine at our center. So we would not forget what we were. Once a yeas during the Remembering, this stone gate is opened and a day is spent fasting and praying to remind us of why we set ourselves apart. This is the most sacred place in Longlight.

The most sacred place in Longlight. It didn't matter what we remembered. They still came to find us.

There's a foul smell. Pieces of scattered clothing in the wind. A woman's blouse, a man's torn shirt. A worn leather shoe, covered in patches. Roan, collapsing, clutches it, this shoe his father constantly mended. His father must be here. He must be close. Roan's eyes dart around the stones. Crows hover over the Fire Hole. Roan scrambles past the stone wall that surrounds the sacred site.

First he sees a mass of brown hair caught on the edge. A bit of flesh connects it to a white skull. Bobbing on the steaming surface, bones. Human bones. Rolling one over the other, hundreds of human bones. Roan's legs go weak. His vision blurs. Everyone he knew, everyone he loved. Roan staggers away from the pit, throat thick, eyes burning.

His legs buckle. He kneels, his face in the hard clay, trying to say the words his father taught him, the prayer of passing, the utterance of safe journey. His lips move but he can't speak, there are too many, he can't find air to make sound. There are too many, so many souls.

He cannot lift his face from the dirt, and the smoke hangs over him.


A sound draws Roan out, bringing him back to the world. He lifts his head and breathes. There, on his shoulder, a white cricket.

Time to go home.

Dazed, still gripping his father's shoe, Roan makes his way past the broken walls, down the gravel path, past the ruined houses of his friends and relatives. He knew every single dwelling, had eaten or played or visited inside them all. Now they were empty husks.

Unlike the others, his own house still stands, its walls intact. But the front door, so carefully crafted by his mother, has been smashed into jagged splinters. He'd taken so much pride in her artistry. It's difficult not to let grief overtake him as he cautiously steps through the defiled threshold. His grandmother's table and chairs, his great-uncle's fire-glazed bowls, all shattered. His father's bookcases upended, books strewn everywhere.

Roan slips into his bedroom. His bed's been thrown over, his belongings shredded, ripped, ruined. He reaches down and grips the bed frame. It's solid. His mother made it strong. He rights the bed, tugs the woolen mattress back onto it, picks up the crumpled blankets. He lowers himself onto the only bed he's ever slept on, pulls his knees to his chest, and stares at the wall.

His people had planted gardens to heal the earth, nurtured and loved one another, shared all that they had. There was nothing to rake, but the raiders had come anyway, and now everything was lost. Everything. Everything.



Roan jolts up, startled awake by the strange vision. It was unlike any dream he'd ever had. Still, his mother taught him to always pay them heed. This dream said to go. He can still feel its urgency. He has to move, now.

He pulls up a floorboard, His stash box is still there. Inside are his great-grandfather's five silver coins, each more than two hundred years old. And in its sheath is the gleaming knife his father gave him last month for his fifteenth birthday. Roan straps it around his shin with a leather thong. W

Meet the Author

Dennis Foon is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, director, and author. He has written extensively for TV dramas, including Eerie, Indiana, Deepwater Black, and Cold Squad. His books for young people include Double or Nothing and Skud.

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Dirt Eaters (Longlight Legacy Series #1) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She moaned with pleasure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
i first read this book in the red maple program in grade 7 or 8. i eagerly got the second one, and have waited 3 years for the third- our library finally has it! i really enjoyed it and it's unusual quirks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book had some interesting ideas about the future it held my attention until the very end, and i couldnt wait to read the sequels
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from the start to the ending. It also has an interesting time setting, its as good as the Pendragon series!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book grabs you instantly! Thuogh a little heart renching at times, this book should be given a chance. This book is for anyone who enjoys action and epic battles between good and evil.