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Review: Tarin Of The Mammoths: The Exile by Jo Sandhu

on March 13, 2017

Tarin Of The Mammoths: The Exile
Jo Sandhu
Puffin Books
2017, 288p
Copy courtesy of Penguin Random House AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Tarin longs to be a hunter, but his twisted leg means he is feared and bullied. After a disastrous mishap, Tarin is forced to leave his family and travel alone across wild, unknown land to save the Mammoth Clan. Battling the hostile and savage Boar Clan, a deadly illness and treacherous terrain with twins Kaija and Luuka and their wolf cubs, Tarin realises that if they are all to survive he must conquer his greatest fear – his true self – and embrace the magic that is hiding within him.

I have to admit, I have never read a lot of middle grade fiction. I skipped a lot of it growing up, moving on to Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams romances when I was probably about 7 or 8. However now that I have kids and that both of them are strong readers for their age, it’s something I want to encourage and I want to have a bit of an idea of what they might be reading, or what books might be good for them. My 8yo well exceeds the maximum level of readers they can bring home so he is given free rein to choose his own books and books like this would probably be about his level.

This is the first in a series and introduces the reader to Tarin, a young boy born with a twisted leg that means that he cannot do what the others of his clan do. Men are supposed to grow up to be strong hunters, to provide meat for the clan but Tarin’s leg means that he cannot be fast, or stealthy as he is often clumsy. He is mostly made tend gardens with the women or left to his own devices. His clan tend to fear what is different and when a hunt goes wrong because of Tarin, they declare him bad luck and want him banished. Tarin sees a chance to redeem himself by taking a gift from the various families in his clan to the Earth Mother, in order to appease her and hopefully change the clan’s luck. The journey will be very difficult and it’s quite likely that Tarin will never see his family again – indeed most in the clan expect him to fail and perish.

To me, Tarin is still very young but to his clan he’s on the cusp of manhood and about the age where boys should be joining their first hunt and making their first important kill to provide food. Tarin, with his disability, has always struggled to fit in, to really discover his place within the clan and he cannot really see a role for him. The ways seem to be quite clearly defined and as a young male and the son of the leader of the clan, Tarin’s place should be secure with a bright future ahead of him. But anyone who cannot play a role is a liability, a weakness that the clan can ill afford during a tough winter. A mouth to feed that doesn’t contribute in return is one more mouth than they need.

And so Tarin, desperate to prove himself as useful in some way, any way, volunteers to carry a gift to the Earth Mother. I think he perhaps fears that he has brought shame on his family, that they are embarrassed and he’s desperate to do something to make them proud, even if it might take his life. On his journey he meets a girl named Kaija, who has fled her clan with her brother Luuka and they are forced to make alliances and rely upon each other for survival and it is with them that Tarin perhaps discovers what his true path will be in life.

I enjoyed the setting and the characters – Tarin is smart and thoughtful and has many abilities that could be appreciated but the conditions under which the clan live mean that had he stayed with them, he might never have been able to explore them. I liked the resourcefulness of Kaija as well, she’s a girl who can take care of herself but she also values the importance of family and was willing to put herself in danger in order to save her brother. The three of them make up a very interesting trio and I think this had the beginnings of a fun series. I do have admit a lot of the spirit stuff wasn’t my sort of thing but seems consistent with the setting and the beliefs of the clans.

I’ve passed this onto my oldest son and I’m really curious to see what he thinks of it.


Book #46 of 2017

Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile is book #15 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

2 responses to “Review: Tarin Of The Mammoths: The Exile by Jo Sandhu

  1. Lily Malone says:

    I saw this and I wondered about similarities to the Earth Children’s series by Jean M Auel – which is not middle grade – but set in that same time period. I loved those books and still have them – all very weathered now.

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