Background and nurture often have an impact on personality, which is extremely difficult to overcome. In life though, challenges and continual change often have an impact little imagined by others. In Dael and the Painted People, Allan Richard Shickman has given us an intensely satisfying story that does an amazing job of rounding out his Zan-Gah series.
Dael is a tortured individual, the brother of Zan-Gah, kidnapped at youth and both tortured and abused by his captors the Noi. Having killed an elderly woman, a Shaman of the tribe, his entire is life turned upside down. Anger rules him and has finally set him on a course to leave his family and his beloved brother. The anger makes Dael a different man; his dreams and visions make him Shaman to a large group of followers and yet a pariah to his own family. After an egregious fight Dael chooses to leave his own tribe and move on.
Followed from his home by another who did not fit he finds the young woman Sparrow has become his companion. Not capable of speech she is quiet and shy and yet determined. While she does not care for Dael, she too must make her way to a different life. Held together by danger and cold they have no choice but to interact, and thereby form a sort of bond. When they reach their final destination, Dael has found his anger has begun to burn away. They are both accepted readily by the Children of the Earth and indoctrinated into their group. Here begins the story of the rehabilitation of a man and woman, both outcasts and the amazing journey that remakes their lives.
Dael is such an interesting character, so like his well respected brother in many ways and yet so set apart by his experiences. You can see the good simmer below the surface and in some of his interactions, but it is so hidden by the anger and the seizures that it becomes difficult to like him. Following his story is so uplifting and his life becomes so remarkable you find yourself cheering as each change occurs and his life moves into mysterious paths. There is a great deal to learn from such a character and his development.
Sparrow is finally in a place where she can excel. She has evinced a great deal of courage in following a man she does not really know, and does not care for. Yet she understands her life must change. Just the very fact that she made this decision to move from a caring family into the unknown gives you an alternate view of this young woman. She is strong and brave and is willing to face grueling challenges to become whole. Unaware of how or where she will end up, her life become a testament to that courage and she reaps the rewards with joy.
Shickman has given us a story set at a time of great upheaval; the time of the caveman, and through his precise writing he has built a world of both danger and beauty. The time and place is believable and you can picture the both beauty and savagery through the insightful prose.
I would recommend this for the young adult reader, as well as those young at heart. The adventure is strong and the background interesting. The challenges can certainly be related to the very same encountered today, at least those requiring decisions and courage. The dangers are different and yet we know dangers still exist. This would be a great book for your child’s library