Monsters. (The Reckoner Trilogy, Book 2)
Monsters. (The Reckoner Trilogy, Book 2)
On his hands and knees, trying desperately to catch his breath, to gather strength, Cole looked up. Reynold’s house was surrounded by security, a guard at the front door, at the side door, and probably at the back door, too. A roaming guard paced back and forth from one end of the house to the other. All the guards were dressed in black, and all of them had handguns on their belts. He had come this far for nothing.
“Shit.” Even if he weren’t in the state he was in right now, he didn’t think he could get inside, close enough to confront Reynold, or to tear through the place to see what he could find, anything that would connect Reynold to Donald and Vikki’s murder. He’d be asking for a gunshot wound, an end to everything. And while that may have been a relief for Cole, dying so foolishly would be making a decision for everyone else in Wounded Sky.
“I’m not like you,” Cole said to an absent Donald. He wasn’t selfish like Donald, to do what he’d done, to impact his son’s life, his family’s, in exchange for Vikki. How was she worth giving up so much? His life? No, he wasn’t like Donald in any way.
Cole stood up, and managed to stay up. Shaking knees. Trembling body. Racing heart. He took out his pills and put two in his mouth. Tonight wasn’t the night. But the guards would be there tomorrow, too, and the next day. Cole had to find another way in. He scanned the area, as though the answer was there, as though it would walk right past him. And then he looked at the house, at the one light that was on: a room on the second floor. A silhouette crossed the window, behind the curtains. It wasn’t Reynold. It wasn’t round enough.
And the idea came to him, came right through his mind, like a silhouette moving behind a light curtain.
Cole Harper is still living at Wounded Sky, but life there isn’t easy for him. There are creatures lurking in the Forest, the local medical clinic is mysteriously closed to any visitors and Cole is dealing with unanswered questions about his own family. Added to this, there are fires on the reserve, and Cole is blamed for setting them, earning him the anger and disdain of his fellow schoolmates as well as the local adults. And, to top it off, Cole suffers from major anxiety issues so the stress of his situation makes it nearly impossible to deal with what’s happening all around him. He has been praised as a hero after stopping a serial killer in the past, but now Cole seems to be disliked by all but his closest friends.
Cole, 17, is an interesting main character caught in a web of deception and surrounded by threatening people and circumstances. One of the main themes of the book is Cole’s mental health and his need to deal with sometimes crippling anxiety. There are times he can talk himself down, times he needs medication and times that the support from his friends help him cope. Robertson speaks from personal experience, and so his portrayal of Cole is filled with realism as well as understanding and empathy.
There are numerous secondary characters in the novel. Readers of the first volume, Strangers (Vol. XXIV, No. 12, November 24, 2017) will recall Cole’s grandmother and his aunt as well as good friends Eva and Brady. The supernatural characters are also back. Jayne the ghost and Choch the spirit add interest and humour to the story as well as helping Cole in some of the more precarious situations in the book. Another apparently supernatural entity is the threatening creature in Blackwood Forest. Cole needs to confront this being and solve the question once and for all: who or what is it and what does it want?
Monsters is also a suspense-filled thriller. Cole is trying to find the answer to some questions from the past, such as what truly happened when his dad died. He is also engrossed in finding out what is happening in the present. For example, why is the medical clinic off-limits to visitors, and why have some staff members been told not to come to work? Why do patients who have supposedly improved fall sick again?
The title of the book, Monsters, is apt because Cole deals with monsters of all kinds in the story. There is the supernatural monster in the Forest. There are the monsters all around him who feel free to attack on social media, and, when fires occur in Wounded Sky, these people think nothing of assuming Cole is the culprit and essentially convict him without any kind of trial. And lastly, there is Cole’s personal monster, the crippling anxiety that threatens to make it almost impossible for him to complete even simple daily tasks, much less find the answers to the many problems in Wounded Sky.
David Robertson is a member of Norway House Cree Nation, and so his second book of “The Reckoner Trilogy” is again filled with language and customs which will appeal to both indigenous and non-indigenous readers alike. While Monsters could stand on its own, there are many references to the first volume, Strangers, and so readers without that background may find themselves somewhat lost, particularly at the beginning of the novel. Since Robertson does not answer all of the mysteries faced by Cole, fans of the trilogy will have to wait until the third book to put all of the pieces together. No doubt many readers will be impatient until Cole and the rest of the cast return and eventually solve the many mysteries of Wounded Sky.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired high school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, Ontario.