To the Bright Edge of the World
1 journaler for this copy...
I like epistolary novels in general, and this one, unfolding via journal entries, letters, news items and such, makes use of the format both to provide information and to heighten suspense - not least when the narrative shifts between the 19th-century entries and the modern-day communication of the donor of the historic papers and the curator of a small museum based in a town that's part of the historic narrative.
The story includes descriptions of artifacts that survived the events - sometimes in a misleading fashion - and also has a running theme of the raven-as-magical-creature: the young wife sees a lame raven with a knowing eye, and her husband has his trek aided (and sometimes threatened) by the appearance of an ancient native man who's called Man Who Flies on Black Wings - and who does seem to be able to fly at times. While the story leaves room for people to have misinterpreted things, had fever-dreams, or otherwise made it up, it does strongly suggest that the man in question really is a powerful magician and shapeshifter with motives of his own.
There's a lot going on here, from the wilderness-trek adventures to the trials of the young wife left behind. Her growing interest in photography includes some lovely passages about her attempts to capture images of birds, specifically a hummingbird on her nest, and this helps her get through some very difficult times while she awaits news of her husband. Meanwhile he has some very odd encounters, from the discovery of a baby that seems to have been born from the root of a tree to an attack by a gigantic lake predator. The more mystical elements aside, the descriptions of the journey feel very accurate indeed, and the author notes at the end of the book that they were inspired in large part by the historical journey of Lt. Henry T. Allen.
I also enjoyed the growing friendship between the modern-day characters, the gruff old great-nephew of the explorer and the young museum curator (who has had his own challenges living as a gay man in a remote Alaskan village). Between them they provide for the surviving documents and artifacts to be put on display, so the explorer and his wife won't be forgotten...
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