Discover A Series: The Misewa SagaBy: Shanleigh Klassen
“The stories we tell here aren’t fantasies.
They’re real, all of them.”
— The Great Bear, David A. Robertson
For the second installment of Discover A Series, we're revisiting books one and two of David A. Robertson's The Misewa Saga. Though we don't get too lost in the plot of either story, slight SPOILER WARNING for anyone who wants to head into these books completely blind. Already familar? Make sure to pre-order book three HERE.
The Misewa Saga is more than just a middle grade fantasy series; it’s a groundbreaking story that reflects the truth of our world. This is a story about courage, about family, about connection, and through these, finding out who you are. Billed as “Narnia meets traditional Cree stories of the sky and constellations,” we were thrilled to include the first book in this epic fantasy series in the OwlCrate Jr October 2022 box, EPIC QUESTS.
- - - - - - -
In The Barren Grounds, we meet Morgan and Eli, two Cree children who have been brought together in their new foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Thirteen-year-old Morgan has bounced around the foster care system her whole life, and that experience has made Morgan short-tempered and hesitant to trust anyone around her. She’d prefer to be on her own, but now she also has Eli, her twelve-year-old foster brother. Morgan and Eli don’t talk much initially, mainly because Eli was only recently brought into the system and still has strong connections to his Cree heritage, whereas Morgan has no memories of her family from before.
When Morgan and Eli are brought to stay with Katie and James, their new white foster parents, Morgan feels like she could burst at any time. On Morgan’s two-month anniversary of staying with Katie and James, they give her a well-meaning yet poorly thought out gift. As you would guess, Morgan blows up at them. The thing that Katie and James don’t understand is that while their gift came from a kind place, they forced Morgan to confront how isolated she feels about the culture she knows she belongs to, but can’t connect with. Considering her complicated upbringing, it’s no wonder anger is the emotion Morgan can most easily access.
Eli can reach Morgan in a way no one else can. Quiet and observant, Eli can see why Morgan acts the way she does, even if he can’t fully understand it himself. But Eli knows Morgan’s pain because his own pain at being taken from his community are still fresh. That night, the two bond in the unfinished attic of their foster home when suddenly, a cool wind seems to come from Eli’s sketchbook. Eli sketches stories from his community, and this particular drawing seems oddly familiar to both of them. As Morgan staples it to the wall, an avalanche of frozen air and snow storms into the room. From within the drawing, an animal being known as a fisher heads straight toward them.
Through this portal is the Barren Grounds, where Ochek, the fisher, brings Morgan and Eli to his village, Misewa — the last surviving community of the North Country in the world of Askī. Ochek tells them that his world is dying, due to the greed of one human from years back. Though this human was taken in by the villagers, he wanted more and more, eventually convincing Tahtakiw (Crane) to take the summer birds away. This has left Misewa to suffer at the mercy of the endless White Time.
It’s not long before Eli, Morgan, Ochek, and their new friend Arikwachas (or Arik for short) head out on a quest to find this man and bring summer back to the North Country. Throughout this journey, Eli thrives in Misewa as Morgan begins to connect with her heritage for the first time. Bonds are formed, their strength and resolve are tested, and their epic story has only just begun.
The Great Bear picks up shortly after the events of The Barren Grounds concludes. Morgan and Eli have mastered what they call “Misewa math”: eight hours in Misewa is approximately ten minutes on earth, allowing them to return to Askī every night for eight weeks at a time. Sure, it means Morgan and Eli are a little spacey each day, but if it means getting to return to their friends in Misewa, it’s worth it.
But on the last night of their latest-eight-week stay, Eli doesn’t want to return home. Both Morgan and Eli have grown so much since The Barren Grounds, but their first adventure also left some scars behind. Though Morgan is always tempted to stay behind too, she knows Eli is trying to avoid something. Eli reluctantly agrees to come back, comforted at the knowledge that they only need to get through a single day on Earth, but then Morgan soon realizes why Eli didn’t want to return: he’s being brutally bullied at school.
Meanwhile, Morgan has been given some information on her birth mother, and she’s struggling with the knowledge that speaking with the woman she’s only ever dreamed about could become reality. Morgan and Eli dream of returning to Askī, but this time, they wonder if they might be able to return to that world prior to the events of their first adventure. To see Misewa and their friends from before the endless White Time.
And wouldn’t you know it, they succeed.
The events that haunt Eli and Morgan from Earth don’t just vanish once they step into Askī of the past. Though the endless White Time has not yet come to pass, Misewa still has its own struggles and enemies. Morgan and Eli are up for the challenge, but they have no idea what, and who, lies in wait for them...
After the gutting ending of The Great Bear, you’ll be begging for The Stone Child — set to publish on August 2nd. I won’t say too much about this third installment but suffice to say, it’s one of my most anticipated upcoming reads.
- - - - - - -
It’s been such a privilege to see how this series has gone on to become a soon-to-be classic of the middle grade genre. The Barren Grounds and The Great Bear have both been bestsellers, with The Barren Grounds having been a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People's Literature. The film rights for the series have even been picked up by ABC Signature.
With The Stone Child releasing soon, now’s the perfect time to discover this magical series for yourself.