Douglas Smith's Spirit Dance

"I didn't want them to dance. I didn't want them to even exist. But spirits have their own views on these matters, and are very persistent when they feel it's time for a performance. These ghosts went back fifteen years. The prompting for tonight's tango was much more recent."

A student protest against clear cutting of old growth forests in Northern Ontario ends in tragedy and leads to an escalating series of events involving family secrets, a covert government agency and a powerful and ancient race of shape shifters in Douglas Smith's Spirit Dance.

Gwyn Blaidd is a man who has fought and won, loved and lost, and generally had enough of civilization and all of the complications it brings. So he's retreated to a hidden dwelling in Ontario's far north to live alone with the land. When a new trouble threatens his friends, however, Gwyn is forced to come out of seclusion to battle an old enemy he thought he had cowed into submission long ago. Gwyn's quest takes him back to familiar territory where he must face ghosts from his past as he fights in the present to save the future of his people.

Spirit Dance is a story which works on both intimate and epic levels. Gwyn is called in to do battle for his people -- and Spirit Dance includes a great, high adrenaline battle between armed humans, shape-shifters and forest animals -- but Gwyn is also very much fighting for his own soul. Douglas Smith's Herok'a are expertly realized and an interesting take on the shape-shifter mythos, and each individual character within the story is just as carefully and finely crafted. Relationships are complex and many-layered, as Doug is able to weave a rich back-story into the lives of his characters within the tight space of the short story, providing rich details which bring his characters and their interactions to life.

Love, sex, action, intrigue, humour, the complexities of life, tragedy of death, and wonder of rebirth are all packed into Spirit Dance.

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