Big Book,  YA

Ciaran and the Crystal Spheres

Kathleen Nelson

It will soon be winter in the northern lands and the people of the Five Clans must battle the harsh climate to hunt and fish for survival. With food stocks low, it seems as if only the Little People can help them. Ciaran is honoured to be chosen as an Exchanger and his contact with the Little People will change his life forever. Not everyone is pleased for Ciaran, however, and he encounters violent opposition from members of his own family. Beset by difficulties, Ciaran has to make decisions which will have far-reaching consequences for them all. This is the first book in the Trilogy of the Sleeping Child.


“Don’t look at them! You must never look at them!”

Everyone had told him this, but for some reason it was his mother’s voice that kept repeating in his head as he sat shivering through the long hours. Over and over again: “Don’t look at them, Ciaran. Whatever you may think you hear, don’t look up.”

It was his third time at the Exchanging Rock, and on the first two occasions nothing had happened. He had not expected anything to happen, and nor had the Elders it seemed. His mother, however, questioned him each time on his return:

“Are you sure there was no one around? Sometimes they creep up in silence, so you have to keep your head down just in case. I have had dreams, Ciaran, dreams about you at the Exchanging Rock. You did keep your eyes lowered, didn’t you? At all times?”

“It will seem as if nothing is happening,” one of the Elders had said. “They will be watching you, though, even if you are not aware of it. They will certainly be watching. You just have to make your offering on six occasions, that’s all. Do your best, then someone else will have a turn. That’s the custom. Keep your head down, boy, and be respectful, that’s all that is expected of you.”

His father had thanked the Elders: “It is an honour for my son to be asked to try, an honour for our family and for our Cave-clan. We’re the smallest of the Clans, but who knows?” He had then turned to Ciaran: “You might even get lucky, my boy! You could be the chosen one!” He had laughed after he said this. It was his father’s way to laugh at life. “I caught the most enormous walrus on the sea ice today!” he would say when he came back from a day’s hunting. Then he would laugh and his family would know that he had caught nothing at all. 

“And even if they don’t choose you,” his mother always had to add, “remember that we’re still proud of you. Very few end up being an actual Exchanger. You just have to try and fit into the Harmony of the occasion.” 

That was all the Elders had talked of too. It was Harmony, Harmony, Harmony all the time, ringing in his ears until he was sick of the word. 

“Of course I won’t look up!” he had snapped at last to his mother as he was setting off on this, his third journey. “And I’ll be respectful. You don’t need to keep telling me. And I know all about the Harmony between the Peoples.”

He was the seventh boy of the year to take a turn at waiting at the Rock, and the first for many years from his own Cave-clan. Perhaps it was all a lesson in patience. Everyone knew that young boys were impatient and not good at sitting quietly. There were some who didn’t believe the Little People were real and declared it was a ploy to get young hunters to behave with more respect. They were happy to believe in them when there was an Exchange, but would quickly forget and be ungrateful and grumbly when a number of full moons passed without anyone being chosen. Ciaran had never listened to such talk, however, and had trusted in the legends of the Five Clans and the Little People from his earliest childhood. There was plenty of evidence that the Little People were real. How else could one explain those marvellous artefacts that they made? They were generous when they chose to be. 

The problem was that no one ever knew what it was they were looking for. Even the Elders could not explain why so few were chosen to become Exchangers. 

He had spread the meat and furs all over the Exchanging Rock as instructed, just as he had done on the two previous occasions. There were some wolverine and rabbit furs, a pair of reindeer hides, some dried venison, a large quantity of smoked fish, a net that needed to be mended, and a pair of old walrus tusks that someone from another Clan had been hoarding for many moons. The Little People would surely be able to make some beautiful carvings from those. 

On the last two occasions he had lingered for hours by his offerings, but nothing had happened except that he grew cold and stiff from sitting with his head down in a crouched position. He was astonished at how hard it was to remain completely still. For some reason it was much harder than waiting by a seal hole, or waiting to spear a fish. There was a definite end to that, a sense of purpose, but here at the Exchanging Rock everything was strange and uncertain. It was like waiting for nothing. Perhaps because he had so much time to think and be aware of his surroundings, he was able to taste the first icy sting of winter in the air. Winter meant darkness and sometimes going hungry but it wasn’t all bad, as winter also meant that the sea would freeze over and there would be hunting for seals and walrus. It was exciting now that he was old enough to accompany the Hunters. There was always a frisson of danger in winter hunting: the terror of encountering a great white bear; the horror of being trapped on an ice floe which had broken off from the main sea ice; the death winds and blizzards of early winter where you could fall asleep and never wake up. There was much to think about and Ciaran looked forward to some winter adventures, some good hunting with his friends Andi and Taj. He just had to put in his six appearances at the Exchanging Rock first. He wondered if Andi or Taj would be next to try, or if it would be someone from another Cave-clan. It was always someone from another Cave-clan. 

Ciaran and the Crystal Spheres Banner1

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: 21st September 2021
Format: Paperback
Pages: 182
Genre: Adventure
Age: YA
Reviewer: N/A
Source: N/A

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