The Droughtlanders [Triskelia Book 1]

by Carrie Mac
347 pages,
ISBN: 0670065455

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Review of The Droughtlanders [Triskelia Book 1]
by M. Wayne Cunningham

The Maddox family¨of Vancouver author Carrie Mac's adrenalin-pumping futuristic novel, The Droughtlanders¨brings heightened meaning to being dysfunctional. Edmund, the father and Chief Regent of the water-rich East Keylanders, never did take to his French-speaking wife, Lisette, a former Droughtlander. He despises one twin son, Eli, as a wimp and tolerates the other twin, Seth, as a suck-up who promises to join the Keyland Guards when he turns sixteen in a few months. They are to leave on a search-and-destroy mission against the rebellious Droughtlanders. Taking the cue from their power-mad father, the boys hate each other with a passion, with Seth at every opportunity berating and physically beating "Eliza", Eli. Seth, like his father, also dislikes his maman, whom Eli adores, even as he avoids his father at every turn. The world they live in, where water has replaced oil as the source of power and control, isn't a kind one. Now the Keylanders manipulate the weather by seeding the rain clouds over their city. Meanwhile, lacking water, the poverty stricken Droughtlanders are driven farther and farther away to a rumoured land called Triskelia.
The divisiveness in the family increases when Eli discovers that his mother is head of a Droughtlanders cell that is plotting a rebellion, using the city's garden centre where she works as their underground headquarters. But he's not the only one to have discovered their location, and Chief Regent Edmund becomes involved in bombing the site with Lisette in it, and in blaming the explosion on a Triskelian terrorist plot. Eli, refusing to believe his mother is dead, decides to leave and search for her among her far-off family, but not before enduring a frightening confrontation with Seth in which Eli faces a gun and wets himself in fear. With Eli gone, his father must cover up the probable death of his wife, the cause of the bombing, and the disappearance of his son. Eager to help, Seth promises to find Eli and kill him, especially since he has stolen his dog Bullet, and his horse, Saber.
Eli's quest¨for his maman, her family, and the fabled Triskelia¨is filled with drama and tension. A once-pampered momma's boy, Eli soon learns to avoid card games of Seduce, and discovers that not every Droughtlander is to be trusted, especially when his horse is stolen with all of his goods in the saddlebags, including his mother's jewellery and the water drops he needs to purify the sludge the Droughtlanders are forced to drink (that gives them the Sick that the herbminders and lifeminders try to cure). In alternating sections featuring the twins, Seth learns some hard lessons as well, such as who to bribe and how much it takes to get ahead in the Keylanders army. He also learns that rape, murder and pillage are the norm, and that insubordination is one line that's never crossed. When he disobeys the Commander, he's left behind in a Droughtlander village, where he catches a near-fatal dose of the Skineaters disease. Eli, on the other hand, learns about his mother's family, the Droughtlanders' ineptitude in mounting a revolution, and the dangers and difficulties of being a Keylander in the Droughtlanders' domain where homosexuality is accepted. And all the while Mac relentlessly moves the story ahead, driving the twins closer and closer to a confrontation with one another wherein one is wounded and both come to grips with the fact that there is another family member neither of them knew existed.
Bolstering the intrigue of the plot land its futuristic setting of a world fighting over water, is Mac's ability to portray characters and their motivations. Governor Edmund remains callous and manipulative, Lisette is constantly loving and caring, Eli uncertain, sensitive and open to learning, Seth hard-hearted, egocentric, and insensitive. Supporting characters are also skillfully etched: there's Nappo, the reformed drug-sniffing horse thief, and Teal his five-year-old brother; Rosa a lifeminder who ministers to Seth; Pierre and Celeste, the twins' grandparents; and Trace, the orphanfinder and Droughtlander leader who guides Eli past "The Colony of the Sicks" that guards Triskelia and appears as "a sprawling disorganized mass of wretched shacks and huts dappled with thousands of lanterns and candles illuminating windows."
And even though Triskelia eventually gets bombed into oblivion by the Keylander Guardys, enough survivors, including the twins and their newly found relative, escape to live another day and take on more exciting adventures in Book 2 of the highly recommended Triskelian series. ˛

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