Strange Ride

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Anthony St.Clair, 2020, Rucksack Press

I reviewed this book for Reedsy Discovery, receiving an Advance Readers Copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

What a fascinating story. There are some missing pieces to the puzzle, but much like Soarsha’s pendant (where did that pendant come from anyway?), once those pieces are in place, the picture will be complete. Rucksack Universe is more than one novel though, and I will live with the not-knowing for now. I have not read any of the other books in this universe.

Ten-year-old Soarsha lives with her father in the walled city of Dedalo. She is an avid follower of the comic-book adventures of the fictional Wandering Heroes, a band of travelers with a Zen perspective on life and on wandering. In particular, Soarsha identifies with Jilly the Kid, one of the Heroes, who is Soarsha’s age and whom Soarsha uses as a moral compass (What Would Jilly Do?).

When Soarsha’s real-life world is turned upside down, she becomes the hero of her own adventure – an adventure that does not follow any fantasy formula I can think of. There is no Mrs. Whatsit or Mrs. Who, no Gandalf – no hologram of Princess Leia. In fact, just the opposite; instead of visitations from other worlds, people in Soarsha’s world start to disappear.

Althought there are elements of Greek mythology and metaphysics – and probably some other themes that I’m not recognizing, Mr. St. Clair has created a delightfully fresh saga of a world in which nothing is as it seems. Readers will love Soarsha, who impresses me as part Meg Murry and part Lyra Belacqua, but still brings her own unique qualities to the story.

The author stays away from labels so I won’t categorize the readership into a particular age group, but I will say that even though the protagonist is a child, there are some complex ideas presented.

I wanted the adventure to continue, and was sad when I reached the end of the last chapter. Always a fan of the unconventional, I give this book a wholehearted five stars. How could I not, considering the excellent imagery throughout, and the delightful idea of a bus pulling up at the aftermath of epic battle in the middle of nowhere and offering a ride to the lone survivor – no charge?

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