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Native Companions

The history of the early Australian Aborigines is given new life through a fictional narrative, taking bits and pieces of authoritative historical records and blending them into an extraordinary tale of aboriginal life as it may have been. A part-aboriginal anthropology student is searching for his indigenous ancestral history; lost during the British occupation of his people’s territory. Following his grandmother’s passing, she was interred under a sacred heritage tree affectionately referred to as Gran Yan, due to the face of a female aboriginal that had formed in the trunk many years past. After visiting her grave-site, intoxicated by the atmosphere of the bush, Rex fell asleep and experienced a series of unique dreams about his ancestral history.

Replete with magical elements and fantastic imagery, the story is couched in a unique setting as ancient tribal history is narrated while Rex sleeps. The description of the opening setting is refreshing and enlightening, while the tribal life described presents a community of general harmony and order. The rules and customs of the tribe are portrayed with keen detail, including their firm adherence to a higher power who continually hovered over and influenced every aspect of tribal life.

To add visual appeal, 24 illustrations created by the author are peppered throughout the book. The organization of the story is presented in six parts, with each book and chapter containing a glossary of names and explanatory material to help the reader keep logically connected with various events as they transpire. The entire novel is full of the twists and turns of daily and yearly struggles with the vagaries of weather and natural elements of fire and water as they impact on the necessities of human survival. Psychological elements are depicted as keeping pace with growth in mastery over natural elements and in learning to handle battles with negative adversaries. Surprise events and extraordinary descriptions unfold throughout the story.

 

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Reviews

Gabriella Tutino, Premium US Reviews

“Rex needed to know more about his unwritten history: something he could not learn from anyone else.”

Rex Graham is an Australian anthropology student working on his thesis about pre-European Aboriginal culture and history—his history. After the death of his beloved grandmother, Rex takes a walkabout to Yaraan Grove, searching for inspiration and knowledge. Resting under Gran Yan, a sacred Aboriginal tree, Rex enters his own Dreamtime as the ancient tree begins to recount the various legends of the Booran tribe.

Filled with rich imagery and detail, this novel takes readers on a journey through the history and myths of Aboriginal culture. The first in a trilogy, the book focuses on the Booran tribe and their encounters with nature, the supernatural, and other Australian native tribes. Each tale is interwoven with the next, starting with the tales of the priest Ooraawoo and his adopted sons, Brolga and Kaii, and ending with Wiliwanda’s time-travel journey, unlocking key information about the Mullian tribe. The author weaves these tales together not chronologically but according to relevance in natural prose.

With Gran Yan acting as the narrator, reading through this book feels like storytime, and with a glossary and a breakdown of characters, the stories are easy to follow along. The stories, in essence, capture the strong bond the Booran people have with nature—how they live off and with the land, communicating with it, respecting it, learning from it. Like any good collection of myths, there is also the educational aspect of these tales. Readers will learn about the spirits the Booran people believe in, manhood initiation ceremonies, and other cultural practices such as communication rules and skin signs with other tribes. Blending a fictional premise with well-researched legends, this book is a great starter read for those interesting in learning more about Aboriginal stories.

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Liz Konkel, Pacific Book Review

Native Companions: Dreamtime Mysteries is an epic tale broken into six books which explore various dreamtime stories which bring to life a fictional and stunning Australian Aboriginal history. After the loss of his Gran, anthropology student Rex Graham is determined to find the key to his Gran’s great-grandfather’s dreamtime mysteries. As he falls asleep underneath the tree of memories, he sees a stunning history unfold filled with endearing characters, magical moments, and heroic journeys.

Rex is passionate about history and learning about Aboriginal culture which is seen in what drives his own personal search for his own family history. Exploring Aboriginal history is at the root of the story with Rex’s journey into his own personal history helping to guide uncovering the mysteries of the past. His passion for anthropology is at the core of who he is which adds passion to the writing and drives the story forward as each new mystery is unlocked. The characters within the dreamtime mysteries have innocent and trusting natures, being truly good, which is seen through Wiliwanda who trusts strangers in a canoe. Several characters are the focus of various stories with significant ones being twins Brolga and Kaii, and hero Wiliwanda. Their journeys are the legends and hold answers which are slowly revealed while also exploring a fictional look at life during this time. One of the stories that stands out is the adventure of Wiliwanda who transforms into a bird and helps save people from a flood in this adventure filled with wonder and magic.

Rex’s Gran acts as a catalyst for an added push for Rex to seeking out the tree of memories which is where the dreamtime mysteries occur. The bond between Rex and his Gran is only briefly seen, but is a bond that is deeply felt and Gran remains a presence throughout which is reflected in the tree called Gran Yan. Rex’s connection to the tree is a poignant aspect of the story as it’s this tree that brings out the mysteries that Gran wants Rex to uncover. The stories from dreamtime include traditional legendary characters such as the bunyip and magic moments which often play into transitioning the characters into the next steps of their journeys. The style of the dreamtime stories is reminiscent to the style of epic legends of heroes with lovely descriptions with specific words that jump out with a meaningful visual. Phrases like”regenerating forest“ and „cluster of seedlings“ add a natural beauty to the storieswhich fits the history and memory of what Rex seeks.

Nature is a key component in the stories and in Rex’s own journey which uses Gran Yan as his guide to see bring forth these memories. Rex loves nature, even choosing to spend time under his favorite tree instead of attending a party and his connection to the tree is what springs the stories forward. The characters in the dreamtime stories are also deeply connected to nature as each connects with nature in some way, whether through a trek or a literal transformation. Twins Brolga and Kaii go on a survival trek which is reflective of Rex’s walkabout, giving both a modern and historical perspective. Wiliwanda’s connection is the strongest, not because of his transformation, but his bond with Merri, his dog, who is his confidant. Their bond also explores the relationship between human and animal as Barnett captures perfectly this dynamic and the loyalty between them. Native Companions: Dreamtime Mysteries explores a fictional history of Aboriginal culture with stunning characters, magical elements, and legends which come to life to explore the mysteries of the past through Rex’s desire for knowledge.

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Author Spotlight: Jenni Barnett

Synopsis
This is a fictitious fantasy story set in ancient times at unspecified locations of Australia and does not relate to any persons either living or deceased. The dreamtime creations are not drawn from traditional indigenous legends, historical records, or scientific resources. However, I have referenced some indigenous language as well as their fascinating way of life to keep the reader in touch with the unique culture of the remarkable original people of this country. Many Aboriginal languages and customs vary across the great continent with even more having disappeared completely quite recently. Consistent with the nature of fiction, I have polished a number of aspects of aboriginal culture to better enable the reader to relate to the human aspect of life as it may have been. However, I have tried to capture their innocence, character, wisdom, and spirituality that was so important to the survival of tribal communities coexisting with nature in a remote region of the world for thousands of years prior to European settlement.

 


Along the Waterways

Along the Waterways is book 2 of the Dreamtime Mysteries by Jenni Barnett. Student anthropologist, Rex Graham, continues his search for missing links in his indigenous history. His previous spiritual encounter in his traditional tribal land opened the door to many dreamtime mysteries. When he revisits the site, he hopes to learn the meaning of historical artwork bequeathed to him by his deceased aboriginal grandmother.

Following his second dreaming, he identifies with a young warrior, portrayed as gifted beyond the understanding of his people. The story encompasses many adventurous journeys, interesting people and surprising discoveries. Unsolved mysteries unfold at clan gatherings, where gifted spiritual mediums commune with ancestral spirits, sharing adventure, romance and conspiracy from a bygone era. The story is organised into seven parts and is a unique and philosophical portrayal of a humane and gifted race of human beings.

As a non-indigenous writer, the author portrays a poorly understood people as no less human than western civilisation, choosing nature and respect for the planet over progress and interference with the ecosystem. Their adherence to a higher power, tribal laws and social justice plus strict kinship lores of socialization were mandatory to their survival.  To add visual appeal to the story, illustrations are peppered throughout the book created by the author, along with the front cover painting.

 

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Reviews

Michael Radon, Premium US Reviews

“‘Thank you, my land, for beckoning me here. I will honour you if you care for me!'”

Rex’s interest in anthropology, combined with his aboriginal ancestry, leads him to search for clues about his heritage in the wilderness. Believing his deceased grandmother’s spirit resides inside of an ancient tree known as Gran Yan, he takes the opportunity before the camping season gets underway to spend time sleeping underneath the tree. When he sleeps in this fashion, Rex is able to communicate with his grandmother and have the history of his people relayed to him. This time, Rex learns about the Booran clan and the peculiar genius of Mullawanda, a future elder fascinated by the potential for flight. Following the history of the clan for generations and its interactions with other tribes of the area, Rex (and the reader) will learn about the lifestyles and mysteries of these intriguing people.

Immediately upon starting this book, the reader will be blown away by the sheer amount of love and detail that goes into capturing the lives of these aboriginal Australian tribes. The author has gone to great lengths to be as accurate as possible while also telling a complete story and having to fill in historical and linguistic gaps where no information exists. The finished product will fascinate with its history and information and delight with the imaginative dialogue and events of days long past. At the end of the book is a glossary of aboriginal terms and a genealogical listing of the characters of the book, their tribes, and their roles within said tribes. Now two books in, the Dreamtime Mysteries series will captivate its readers and give them a greater perspective on the varying cultures and development of human history.

Reviewed December 2018

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Jennifer Weiss, Pacific Book Reviews

The prologue sets the stage for the tale, where readers get a small portion of the legend surrounding  the spiritual narrations, with illustrative imagery. Readers are given a taste of what’s to come within this novel. Each part includes a short list is ancestors, to keep the reader logically connected to the characters involved within each section and how they might relate to one another, simplifying the shifts in storytelling, or change of characters.

Barnett has a lyrical way of writing her stories to compel her readers, drawing them into the tale from the first chapter. The reader relishes in the histories of each clan, and will be attracted to their legends like a moth to a flame. Hand-drawn images are interspersed throughout, adding imagery for each adventure as it transpires. It is enjoyable to read how each clan learns from one another, building strong kinships.

The author’s words inspire a feeling of truism about legends, passed down between generations. She does a wonderful of job bringing the land of Yaraan Grove and the Booran clan to life, breathing life into her characters, while making them relatable, interesting, and full of depth and personality. Although it is hard to put this novel down: separated into seven parts enables you to return to it later without getting lost. Along the Waterways is the perfect book for someone who enjoys legends, mythology, folklore, and tribal history. Honestly, anyone who enjoys a good strong story with enjoyable characters and easy to follow plot would enjoy this novel. It is one that deserves to be read: well written, enjoyable, interesting and creative.

Reviewed November 2018

Jenni Barnett

Jenni Barnett