Author: Ben Goodridge
Word Count: 100,708
Page Count: 288
Size: 6" x 9"
Cover Artist: Sidian
Publication Date: February 2019
This title was the winner of a 2019 Leo Literary Award.
Legend has it that when the first humans evolved, the Ambimorphs were already there, first as our protectors, and then our teachers. Over the centuries we've created separate worlds on the same planet. Every once in a while, those worlds collide.
Akela is a leader among the Ambimorphs, a great teacher of their songs, and the keeper of a prophecy that foretells the sunset of the human race. When a deal with the wrong side goes bad, he wakes up in the desert to find that he's lost three years of his life, his family has been taken by humans, and his community has scattered. With his people on the brink, Akela is offered a fatal choice: he can reclaim his family and save his people, but only at the cost of his heritage and history.
It's Akela's job to protect them, whether they want him to or not.
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Akela is a novel set at the intersection of societies, but the world Goodridge has created feels much, much larger than even this. The Animorphs - even more so than the Aborigines and First Peoples - have developed an intimate relationship with the land we’ve colonised and claimed as our own. They have seen civilizations come and go and their songs will forever remind them of the transient nature of life.
The California Consortium follows the narrative that Animorphs should be domesticated for the survival of modern man. This is alarmingly reminiscent of the Aborigional Integration policies applied in Australia, not too long ago. This and other issues provoke thought without resorting to excessive violence or sentimentality. Intentions are blurred and one cannot help but wonder. Akela feels relevant to our world - even without the presence of Animorphs.
An overarching theme is the resilience of native peoples to find their own way of survival and integration - at their own pace and on their own terms - to the toxic world we have created around them.
The only criticism of this piece is that readers who want to dive right into the action might find the pace in the first half of the book a bit slow. There is a lot of necessary world-building and character exploration. It is, however, done in an interesting manner so it is never boring and the investment is worth it in the end.
Whereas ”The White Crusade” left me wanting, Goodridge is right back on form with this offering. Akela is an amazing book and comes highly recommended. The world is larger than life, the characters are relatable and the issues it raises are topical without being preachy. It is a world that begs further exploration.