The Rift by Rachael Craw
Finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2019.
For generations, the rangers of Black Water Island have guarded the old herd against horrors released by the rift. Cal West, an apprentice ranger with a rare scar and even rarer gifts, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. After nine years away, Meg Archer returns to her childhood home only to find the island is facing a new threat that not even the rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal can’t ignore their attraction, but can they face their darkest fears to save the Island from disaster?
Be prepared to feel incredibly frustrated for the first 100-odd pages of The Rift. Author Rachael Craw drops readers straight into a mystical world and setting with little support. It is confusing, bewildering and will make you want to put the book to one side, if not discard it forever.
However, persevere with it for the first few uncomfortable moments and you will be rewarded immensely.
Zombie deer and mutant space dogs may seem far fetched and a bit ridiculous, but Black Water Island and all its magic makes for an incredibly unique read.
The characters, especially Cal and Meg, are superbly written – as is Reeva the bird. The tensions and bonds between the pair were fun and, while magical, also relatable. Each character in the book has distinct personalities and traits, they all feel really well developed regardless of whether they are the main character or a mere bit player.
There are plenty of differences in the book, with characters not afraid to tell it like it is. This is not always the case in young adult fiction, where everyone plays happy families. This honesty added to the authenticity.
Black Water Island also ‘counts’ as a character. The setting is so vivid after the first uncomfortable moments. It is so clearly inspired by New Zealand and mythology. Craw makes the island come alive.
Meg and her mother live off the island, while Meg’s father leads the rangers. This split family, combined with a largely absent father, makes for interesting dynamics within the story. This too is where a lot of the humour comes in. The close relationship between Meg and her mother was at times laugh out loud funny.
Another interesting dynamic is of that of the rangers and their reluctant agreement with Nutris Pharmaceuticals. The stranglehold the corporation places on the island’s inhabitants, thereby creating a reliance on the company, holds a strong statement for our world and society. Craw makes some strong statements in a powerful way, prompting some thought-provoking moments for the reader.
Full of magic, tension and adventure, this is a book unlike any I have read before. The Rift will suck you in to its magic and hold you captive until the very end.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
Walker Books, RRP $22.99