The Young Chieftain by Ken Howard

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The Young Chieftain by Ken Howard

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Unusual story about an American boy who finds himself on a remote Scottish island in the middle of a clan conflict. Easy-to-read, but with several layers to peel back, an interesting mix of modernity and tradition, and a very appealing central character.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 298 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Tamarind
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1848530331

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One minute, Jamie Doran is playing basketball with his friends in downtown LA, the next he's en route to the island of Doran in Scotland to bury his father. James Doran, you see, had been Doran's clan chieftain. The island proves a culture shock for cosmpolitan Jamie. It's remote and dilapidated, there's no internet or mobile phone access, and the only TV is in the community centre. Jamie's grandmother isn't welcoming either - in fact, she barely bothers to hide her distate for her black daughter-in-law and mixed race grandson.

There's a great deal of conflict amongst the islanders too - the clan needs a new chieftain and Jamie's name isn't in the frame. Duncan Wylie, a suave multi-millionaire, wants to bring the island into the modern day. Jamie's grandmother wants to preserve the old ways. Even Jamie can see there's something tricksy going on, and he decides to stay and see how things pan out...

The Young Chieftain is at heart an adventure mystery story. And a successful one, too. There's some double-dealing going on in the clan and a villain to be unmasked by a reluctant hero, and Howard obliges with a page-turning book in which the action moves along at a rollicking pace. I was quite breathless by the end! Jamie is a very strong central character - he starts out as the usual reluctant hero, uninterested in his father's obscure clan obsession, but ends up stepping right up to the plate, and then some. And there's a super-bad villain to boo and hiss at to boot.

But the book has a little more about it than simple boy's own adventure. There's a fascinating conflict between tradition and modernity underlying the action and Howard also deals with racism, bereavement, personal identity, and puts forward some quite sophisticated socio-political thoughts about what makes a leader and how power corrupts.

Best of all, it's an unusual story, outside of the piles of genre fodder making its way into Bookbag's review stack, and we commend it for this. The dialogue grates a little bit from time to time - but this is the only hole I can think of to pick. The Young Chieftain comes recommended by Bookbag.

My thanks to the good people at Tamarind for sending the book.

Bookinterviews.jpg Ken Howard was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

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Buy The Young Chieftain by Ken Howard at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Young Chieftain by Ken Howard at


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