The Flintstones and the Rubbles were among my favorite cartoon characters as a child. I grew up watching The Flintstones, but other than watching that lovable cartoon set in the Stone Age, my interest in prehistoric times was quite limited. I'd never read any prehistoric fiction, and truthfully, the idea of prehistoric young adult literature didn't hold any great appeal for me. Initially, I was reluctant to read the Zan-Gah books, Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure, published in 2007, and Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, published in 2009. I decided to give this genre and these books a chance, though, because the first book in this series won The Eric Hoffer Award, and the series won a Mom's Choice Gold Award.
"Luxury was unknown, and strangers could be envious of a scrap of fur or a bit of food. Tools and weapons, crude as they were, were valued and guarded. A stone blade, which took a week's labor to make, might induce an uncouth ruffian to take a life in order to possess it. It is hard to imagine how much simple things were prized and coveted in that frightful time. Darkness was indeed darker to them then, coldness colder, and the cruelest passions somehow crueler and more deeply passionate."
~Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure, Allan Richard Shickman
Instantly, magically, I was drawn into this darker, colder, crueler world. Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure, is the coming-of-age story of Zan, a young man who becomes a leader by using his intellect and intuition as well as his physical strength. Zan, distraught over the long absence of his twin, Dael, blames himself at least in part for his brother's disappearance, and ventures out into hostile territory to find him, risking his own life.
Author Allan Richard Shickman creates a primeval world that's savage, vivid, believable, and deeply moving. I'd never encountered prehistoric characters in fiction before, and quickly, I genuinely cared about them, especially Zan, the protagonist, as well as Dael, Lissa-Na, Pax, Rydl, Sparrow, Chul, and many others, who truly come to life. I could visualize the various clans, the Ba-Coro, the Noi, and the wasp people (who emulated the ways of this stinging insect and used poison-tipped spears). The author is a master storyteller, and the adventures are exciting and unlike any I've ever read before. Early in Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure, there's a hunt for a lion who has killed a child, and the tribesmen form a huge circle, nearly 15 miles around, in order to surround and capture their prey. Descriptions of how people would huddle together in caves for warmth during sleep (still holding their weapons), or chew animal skins in order to soften them for use, illustrate how difficult and comfortless life was back then, and how life was often a mere struggle for survival. In spite of all the hazards and hardship, though, which were a part of daily life, there's still love and friendship between people, which helps to mitigate the brutality of this world.
After I read the first book, I couldn't wait to read the sequel, Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country (in which Zan takes a different journey), which is as gripping as the first. These books cover many topics and themes--survival, coming of age, war, violence, friendship, love, roles of men and women, the need for order, and more. Although these books are for young adults, older readers will also enjoy them. I highly recommend Zan-Gah.
Exciting news! The publisher is generously offering a set of these two books to one winner as a giveaway. This Zan-Gah giveaway is open worldwide!
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Special thanks to Bonnie from Earthshaker Books for sending me these books.