1. A book written in North America: Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
List Progress: 1/30
Sometimes in a book you can feel two genres at war with each other. If balanced well, these genres could coalesce into something great, but if thrown off, they work against each other. Son of a Trickster, Eden Robinson’s 2017 novel and the start of the Trickster trilogy, reads a bit like a slice-of-life novel that feels required to be a fantasy novel. Or a fantasy novel that devotes too much of its page space to slice-of-life. I am a fan of combining the mundane with the fantastical, but it is a delicate balancing act, one that Son of a Trickster doesn’t completely pull off. The individual parts are each compelling in their own way, but they haven’t quite gelled together.
Son of a Trickster follows Jared, a sixteen year old Native boy growing up in Kitimat, British Columbia, who navigates life with his unhinged mother and her rotating cast of boyfriends while also being drawn into the supernatural forces creeping around the edges of his life. The book does not shy away from the hardships of Jared’s life; it was certainly bracing at points to read a book with an alcoholic teenager at the helm. The plotting is very naturalistic about the ups and downs of small town life, almost to the book’s detriment. We spend a year with Jared and it ends up feeling very realistic but not like it has a lot of narrative momentum until right at the end. There are two more novels in the trilogy to spend on the fantasy elements, but I wish they had been more evenly threaded through the whole story here.
Robinson does have a real gift for characters. The upside of the naturalistic style is that you come to feel for, and love, Jared and his girlfriend Sarah, and his elderly neighbor Mrs. Jaks. And when his mother does reckless and hurtful things to Jared, you feel that hurt too. If I decide to pick up the next book, 2018’s Trickster Drift, it will be because I want to spend more time with these people, not necessarily because I want to solve the mysteries of this supernatural world. That being said, tt was really cool to dive into a mythology that is completely foreign to me: the eponymous Trickster and other spirits are figures from Haisla mythology, a native band in BC. Robinson is Haisla, as are most of the novel’s characters.
I will probably try the second book down the line, or at the very least watch the 2020 television adaptation Trickster, but there were enough odd dynamics to keep me from racing to the next chapter. The first installments of trilogies are often overstuffed, but this feels like one that is understuffed, or possibly just doesn’t have the right ratios of stuffing.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.