The Dirt Eaters

Description

313 pages
$19.95
ISBN 1-55037-807-4
DDC C813'.54

Author

Publisher

Year

2003

Contributor

Nikki Tate-Stratton writes children’s picture books and novels for
preteens. Her most recent novels are Jo’s Triumph, Raven’s Revenge,
and Tarragon Island. Her latest picture book is Grandparents’ Day.

Review

The first in a fantasy series set in a post-apocalyptic world, The Dirt
Eaters is the compelling story of Roan of Longlight, a boy who survives
the brutal annihilation of his entire village.

Roan, an intelligent and resourceful protagonist, is hampered by a lack
of understanding of his own powers and the role he (and his missing
sister) is meant to play in the new world order. For reasons that remain
unclear in this volume, Roan is wooed by a mysterious group of
survivalist monks who are not the beneficent saviours they first appear.
After learning as much as he can about hand-to-hand combat, battle
theory, and sly manipulation of others (all fundamentally opposed by the
pacifist philosophy of his own gentle upbringing), he escapes from the
enclave of Brothers and sets out on a journey replete with treachery and
danger.

Plenty of heady philosophical questions underlie this intriguing tale
of deception, action, and mystery. What is the genesis of violence? Is
the idea of a truly peaceful society merely utopian ideology? What is
the nature of faith? Truth? Integrity?

Weaving visions (Roan is plagued with dreams and visions he does not
understand) and mythology throughout this page-turning narrative, Foon
keeps adding layers of complexity, hooking the reader as new details of
his fully realized world are revealed. With the many tribes, factions,
geographic regions, otherworldly creatures, and various versions of
history, there is plenty of fodder here for a number of additional
novels: the end of The Dirt Eaters feels like the beginning of an epic.

Though the genre is very different to Foon’s earlier, realistic
novels for teens (Double or Nothing and Skud), the author continues to
explore tensions central to the process of growing up, particularly with
regard to teenage boys. Violence, integrity, saving face, conflicts
between family ideals and societal pressures, and the need to discover
one’s own truth all influence this book.

The main character is male, but there is much to appeal to female
readers who enjoy a good fantasy adventure. A few more moments of
humour, grace, and contentment would have provided a bit of relief from
the brooding intensity and darkness so pervasive throughout the story,
but otherwise, this is a gripping tale told by an accomplished writer.
Highly recommended.

Citation

Foon, Dennis., “The Dirt Eaters,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/23959.